Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — The Fred Meyer fashion, hardware and food retail chain is diving into the private label bath and body care market with boutique-type sections called Splash.
With this move, the Oregon-based retailer joins a growing list of premium-priced private label HBA lines in the mass marketplace that includes American Stores’ Daily Rituals and Sears’ Circle of Beauty. The latter brand reportedly brings in $125 million in annual sales.
Until recently, the rule of thumb for most retailers was to stick with everyday staples when developing private label lines and provide shoppers with value. Then retailers, in the never-ending quest for bigger profits, learned that to be better marketers of their own brands, they had to add some excitement and in the case of beauty categories, a little glamour.
Explaining Fred Meyer’s new foray, Maryann Carlo, bath, fragrance and cosmetics accessories buyer, said: “We saw that bath is a really explosive category, so we decided to go and capitalize. People have become more aware of bathing. It’s not just getting into the shower anymore, it’s an overall experience.”
The boutiques’ four bath and body lines and one accessories line are part of a strategy to reallocate space to improve non-foods business, said Robert Boley, assistant vice president. Sarah Michaels, Naturistics and Yardley all lost shelf space to accommodate the move.
Private label has become a bigger part of Fred Meyer’s retail mix in its 109 stores in recent years, even as its advertising continues to emphasize the image of a national brand store. Food, apparel and home improvement are among the many departments that carry private label lines in stores that average 150,000 square feet and 250,000 stockkeeping units.
Splash sections range in size from 30 feet to 94 feet of running shelf space. The sections can be found near fragrance departments in 27 stores and will soon be in another five stores that are opening in Washington and Idaho this year. Overhead signs bearing the Splash logo direct shoppers to their location.
In stores without enough space for full-size boutiques, a minimum of 15 feet of shelf space in cosmetics departments is allocated for the lines and signs are smaller. Fred Meyer executives say they plan to make room for the larger sections in all stores within three years.
One of the four private label lines, Bath & Body Therapies, was introduced last September and is the most successful entry to date, said Carlo. Its vanilla, kiwi, papaya, peach, strawberry and grapefruit scents were designed to appeal to a young woman. Products include bath salts, body lotion, after-bath splash, moisturizing foam bath, loofah body scrub, bath gel and glycerin soap. The price for products in all four lines is $5.99.
A more mature woman should enjoy Flora Botanique’s floral fragrances — sunflower, rose, lilac and freesia — said Carlo. Products include a bath gel, loofah polishing scrub and body silk lotion.
Several items in the more sporty Splash line come in a sport water bottle container. Milder scents such as aloe vera, chamomile, musk and vanilla are meant to appeal to a man as well as a woman. It was introduced last in November and includes a body scrub, body moisturizer and massage oil.
The Fred Bear Bath Buddies line for children consists of bubble gum, watermelon and grape-scented hand wash and bubble bath and animal-shaped sponges.
The sections also boast a 28-sku line of body care accessories that includes a wood-handled back scrub brush, pumice stick, body sponge and an exfoliating hydro towel.
“Foot care is a rapidly expanding portion of the bath area,” said Carlo. A foot lotion is in development and will be added to an array of foot care items already in the line. They include pumice stones, pedicure files and nail brushes.
Other additions planned for the line include a body wash and the Aromatherapies line, consisting of candles, potpourri and room sprays. Both will be introduced in March, and prices haven’t been determined yet.
During the holiday season, Splash gift sets were offered and sold well, said Carlo. The concept will be repeated for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and again during the December holiday period.
A Fred Meyer’s hat box filled with a selection of items was one type of offering, with two sizes priced at $14.99 and $19.99.
A gift bag, called Spa, containing a lotion, gel, soap and body sponge — in trial-size for $6.99 or full-size for $14.99 — now has a permanent spot in the line since it proved so popular, Carlo said.