AVON SHOOTING FOR THE HIP
Byline: Laura Klepacki
NEW YORK — Image-conscious Avon is reaching out to the young and hip with a new value-priced color cosmetics line called Color Trend.
The introduction of a collection for teenagers — the color palette will change periodically to reflect the sway of fashion and there will be holiday shade promotions — is nothing new in the mass market, where trendy youth lines have burgeoned in the past two years.
However, Avon, which has been struggling to shed an antiquated image and lure younger shoppers, is using Color Trend to make a statement.
“This lets the world know, particularly younger customers, that Avon is on trend with what is going on in the fashion world,” said Joseph Bierman, vice president of U.S. beauty marketing. The cosmetics and an accompanying fragrance, Scent Trend, will be launched globally in August.
Avon wants to be a part of “what is really happening out there,” said Bierman. “We have taken the color message and the youth message, and merged it into Color Trend.”
Avon’s color cosmetics sales have been on the rise in the past few years, and Color Trend could help the firm continue on that path, according to Andrew Shore, an analyst for PaineWebber.
Avon executives declined to comment on first-year sales expectations for Color Trend, but Shore said Color Trend could easily achieve first-year sales of $50 million. “But because it is appealing to a niche market and is a lower-priced line, it probably would not become one of Avon’s largest brands.”
Avon had global color cosmetics sales of $463 million last year, up from $344 million in 1996. Sales for this year are projected at $549 million.
Shore said Avon’s move into teen cosmetics is wise, considering the fast growth of the teenage market. “I think it would be strategically a wrong move for them not to address that,” he said.
Avon also hopes Color Trend will encourage existing Avon shoppers to buy in more Avon categories, and buttress Avon’s reputation as a multigenerational brand, said Bierman. “We have been hearing from our sales representatives that we needed something more for younger customers.” Currently, most of Avon’s customers are 35 and older, he noted.
Promotional materials for Color Trend feature teenage models, but Bierman said, “The line is for everyone. This line is for the hip, trendy, on-the-move, price-point savvy and color-oriented women.”
Scent Trend has a Sixties flower-power theme. Its box is black with fluorescent-colored flowers and tiny atomizers, and the bottle is clear glass with the same graphics as the box. Described as a clear, fruity floral, Scent Trend features cucumber and melon notes. It will be available in one size — a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray — at $9.99.
To set Color Trend apart from other Avon cosmetics, its sleek black and silver packaging practically eliminates the Avon name, which only appears in tiny print on the back of boxes and containers.
The Color Trend line includes lipstick in several colors — Ice Princess, Rendezvous, Tease, Smoldering, Metallic Vapor and Frothy — for $2.99 each. A 12-item nail collection comes in shades with names such as Foil, Voltage, Girlie Girl and Cosmic. The bottles are $1.99 each. Color Trend also includes powder eye shadow in 12 colors for $3.99 each, liner in six colors for $2.99 apiece, mascara in three shades for $2.99 a tube and powder blush in Pinched and Cashmere for $3.99 each. A $6.99 hair mascara available in Blue Electric, Purple Panic, Go-Go Gold and Aqua Flash rounds out the line.
Avon already has planned a holiday Color Trends lipstick promotion that will feature the shades Chill, Smooch, Scream, Cafe au Lait, Chocoholic and Sci-Fi.
And the company intends to bring promotional items in and out for other holidays such as Valentine’s Day, when it will offer pink and red tones. During the fourth quarter, Scent Trend will be offered in a 0.33-oz. glitter fragrance roll-on for $4.50.
When it is introduced this summer, the nail polish will be specially priced at 99 cents and lipsticks will be $1.99 each. Scent Trend also will be discounted, from $9.99 to $6.99. All other items will launch at regular prices.
Bierman said Avon has offered products in the past that were value-priced and youth-oriented, but did not tie them together for a comprehensive statement.
To build its youth business, Avon recently repackaged its Clear Skin skin care line and added an oil-free lotion and a clay mask. It is promoting the Clear Skin line at 30 percent off during the Color Trend launch.
On the cover of the brochure introducing Scent Trend, the line is described as offering “over-the-edge color!”
Inside pages showcasing Color Trend items have edgy messages such as, “Snap out of it! [get a grip on what’s hot]” to promote nail color, and “Give ’em lots of lip [mouth off…without saying a word]” for the lipsticks.
With the abundance of teenage products on the market, even optimistic Avon executives don’t expect the line to perform miracles. “We don’t expect every junior high school student to be banging on the door,” said Bierman.
“Just because they are late getting into the market, they might not be at a disadvantage because they are going through a different distribution outlet,” said Shore. “If you were the ninth brand at mass, you would be at a disadvantage, but they are one of the first in the direct-selling channel.”
In the past few years, Avon has made an effort to overhaul its image. Last year its advertising campaign theme, “Dare to Change Your Mind About Avon,” challenged women to reevaluate the company. In November, its first retail store will open on Fifth Avenue in New York. It is designed as an “image center” to showcase the firm’s global brands.
“This company has a rough base of 400,000 or so sales representatives and that is barely going to grow over time. And it is in everyone’s best interest to try to do something different,” said Shore.