THE UNUSUAL PIQUES SOUTHWEST INTEREST

Byline: Rusty Williamson

DALLAS — Southwest drugstores continue to diversify their beauty counters with a spectrum of offerings from the mainstream to the offbeat — with growing success.
These merchants report overall gains of up to 10 percent ahead of last year’s sales volume, with the skin care category leading the charge.
Many retailers couldn’t stop praising the current efficacy of treatment products at the cash register, followed closely by bath and body, color cosmetics, fragrance and hair care.
Many major cosmetics houses won’t do business with independent drugstores. But the indies are fighting back, playing up unusual and often international vendors that they reason will spark consumer interest and develop fast and loyal followings.
“We used to do a tremendous business with Lancome, Christian Dior and other major color and skin care lines,” reflected Lynn Spence, an owner at The Post Oak Pharmacy in Houston. “But those companies pulled their offerings from drugstores.”
To counter the loss, the store began accenting unusual and often medically based lines that are lassoing new business, such as Dermage color, MD Formulation, Physician’s Formula and NeoStrata treatment.
Post Oak also carries an impressive array of fragrances and aromatherapies from across the world.
The store’s beauty counters are staffed with three cosmeticians, explained Spence, with the goal of imparting knowledge to customers about beauty and proper skin care while making a sale.
The tactic is resulting in lots of repeat business.
“And established cosmetics customers often phone in their orders, which we deliver to their homes usually the same day — just like we would a medical prescription,” noted Spence, who is also a pharmacist.
Home delivery is also a customer service tactic at The Village Pharmacy in Dallas, said Wilhelmina Von Heflick, cosmetics buyer.
“More personalized service is certainly a way to differentiate from the department stores,” reasoned Von Heflick.
“That also includes knowledgeable cosmeticians that can give honest guidance to customers,” she said. “Knowing a product’s ingredients, what it’s supposed to do and how properly to use it are extremely important to everyone.
“Especially vulnerable when first buying things such as treatment products are teenagers and men,” continued Von Heflick, “who won’t typically hang around to buy anything unless you give them lots of attention and instruction.”
Men and teenagers have helped push skin care to the forefront of the store’s beauty business, with treatment sales ahead about 8 to 10 percent for the year. Overall, the drugstore’s beauty business is up 5 to 6 percent.
Skin care bestsellers include Ahava, Elizabeth Arden, Aida Gray, Mustella, MD Formulation and Heidi’s Hand Solutions and Nail Solutions.
“Taking good care of the skin is so important to everyone these days — women, men and teenagers,” said Von Heflick. “They don’t scrimp when it comes to their complexions.”
Bath and body collections are also hot at the drugstore, located in Highland Park Village here. Viewing the bath as a retreat, customers are snapping up soaps, shower gels, soaks, bath oils and all kinds of aromatherapies from a variety of vendors, including Kneipp and Camille Beckman.
When it comes to color, Dallas women aren’t straying from soft, neutral palettes, noted Von Heflick.
“They’re not into dark shadows,” she said “But they do like interesting and sometimes more forward colors on their nails — from white to jelly and jam colors to shimmering metallic glazes.”
Top nail color resources include Essie, Forsythe and OPI.
The Village Pharmacy has a panoply of open-sell beauty products, including hair color and shampoos.
Makers include L’Oreal, Revlon, Clairol, John Freida, Sebastian, Paul Mitchell and Le Mast, a new offering with products that retail from $9 to $20.
At McIntosh Pharmacy, Longview, Tex., skin care is leading the beauty business, said Tobie Downs, beauty buyer.
“More women are concerned about looking younger, and they pay more attention to skin care,” said Downs. “They’ll pay the money for treatment products that work.” Best-selling skin care lines at the store include Elizabeth Arden and Ahava.
The store also has a following for its bath and body lines, including Ben Rickert and Ahava; fragrance offerings such as White Diamonds and Arden’s Fifth Avenue; color from Arden, and hair care from a medley of manufacturers.
Downs, who has undergone sales and beauty training from Elizabeth Arden, said knowledgeable sales associates make all the difference in the world.
“It helps to know your customer — and your products,” she concluded.

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