Byline: Faye Brookman

TOTOWA, N.J. — Finding a place for niche players in already-crowded mass cosmetics departments is a challenge. But retailers want to squeeze in lines such as Nat Robbins and Prestige.
One retailer, Harmon Discount Stores, based in Cedar Grove, N.J., has found a solution in a new store here. By enlarging the peg wall and cutting back on showcase space, Harmon has carved out an area devoted entirely to the “small guys.” The entire niche department spans about 10 feet, plus promotional space.
Shoppers first encounter promotions from niche players at the front of the department. Among the current deals are Palladio’s rice makeup, Lissee lip products, Bar-Lor’s Danger Zone nail colors and Fran Wilson’s Craz Coffez color promotion in brown shades.
The next area shoppers see is the niche department, headed by Pavion’s The Lipstick Factory — knockoffs of designer lipsticks. Next is two feet of Pavion’s Wet ‘n’ Wild. The wall space includes two feet of Renaissance’s Nat Robbins, one foot of Prestige and two feet of Lord & Berry. Two other niche players, Cabot and Physicians Formula, are farther down the peg wall.
Putting all niche players together in one area is a new approach for the industry. Most chains merely slot smaller brands into whatever space is available on the peg wall, and many mass retailers don’t put niche brands on the wall at all, choosing instead to put them on tables or end-of-aisle displays.
What Harmon has done is create an area in the store where shoppers can easily find the more cutting-edge makeup-inspired lines such as Prestige, Nat Robbins and Lord & Berry.
Buyer Naomi Germano said she put the niche players up front to attract traffic.
“These brands are what is stopping our customers,” she said. “We’ve even worn out the floor in front of it, and it is a new store.”
Germano said the specialty lines give shoppers an extra reason to come to Harmon, since they won’t be finding the same items at competing drugstores.
She also said the footage is easy to remerchandise in the event a new niche brand takes off.
“Right now, I’m in pretty good shape with what I carry,” she said. “What I need are brands that bring something new to the business. We don’t need another pencil line.”
Niche brands have been growing at a fast clip in many drugstores, leaving buyers wondering where to pare back national brands to find room. Besides Prestige, Nat Robbins and Lord & Berry, other niche players are Palladio, Sweet Georgia Brown, Beauty Finds, Fran Wilson, Fun Cosmetics, Lissee, Danger Zone and Jordana.
Leading manufacturers, such as Revlon, are countering with their own trendy product launches, such as StreetWear, in hopes that chains will bypass the small fry.
But Germano doesn’t see that happening. She concluded, “The little companies are where the growth and excitement is.”

Nearly 150 cosmetics, publishing and retail industry executives met at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan Wednesday evening to raise $100,000 for The Retreat, a nonprofit agency based in East Hampton, N.Y. It provides support for victims of domestic violence and their children. The event was co-hosted by Dan Wassong, chairman and chief executive officer of Del Laboratories, and Dan Rattiner, editor and publisher of Dan’s Papers in Long Island.
The high point of the evening was a speech by former heavyweight boxing champion Gerry Cooney, who is the Retreat spokesman. He said the proceeds would fund his program, Heroes Don’t Hit, which delivers a message of antiviolence to school children.

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