Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Christian Dior’s Mascara Flash and the legion of hair mascaras following in its wake apparently won’t be just a flash in the pan, judging from the number of mass manufacturers jumping onto the trend.
In May, Christian Dior introduced Mascara Flash, seven shades of temporary hair color that consumers can brush in with a mascara wand. The shades are priced at $18.50 apiece. By all accounts, the line has been blowing out of department stores.
According to executives at Dior’s U.S. subsidiary, Mascara Flash has been the company’s biggest launch, outselling Dior Svelte in units.
Now, many other manufacturers are looking for a piece of the action with their own hair mascaras.
Entries from a few mass market manufacturers are already in beauty supply stores, independent clothing stores and drugstores. L’Oreal and Revlon are scheduled to introduce versions before Christmas, and several other companies have variations pegged for early 1998.
Meanwhile, in the prestige market, Lancome will venture forth with a promotional line of hair mascaras for department stores in October. It will be available through the holiday selling period.
No one expected Mascara Flash to be the instant success that it was. This included Christian Dior, which was caught off guard by the strong demand and has been plagued by out-of-stocks for several months. Buyers and executives at Dior said the company has now taken the necessary steps to keep the distribution pipeline filled.
The industry underestimated the consumer’s desire for hair mascaras because when L’Oreal and Clairol introduced similar lines 10 years ago, they disappeared quickly from the scene.
What a difference a decade makes. Dior has already indicated it will make Mascara Flash a permanent addition to its cosmetics collection, with the addition of new shades every season.
Executives at other companies said they anticipate hair mascaras will become a year-round category. Carol Hamilton, senior vice president of marketing at L’Oreal, predicted that hair mascaras have the potential to turn 20 million units a year for at least a couple of years.
Hair mascaras are finding a warmer reception their second time around because hair coloring has a much broader appeal today than it did 10 years ago, according to marketing executives.
Another reason for the current success of hair mascaras is the craze for color cosmetics, which has resulted in skyrocketing nail color sales. Women are also more willing to experiment with their makeup and hair styling than ever before, beauty executives say.
Still another reason the latest versions of hair mascaras are faring better is that they come in shades such as bronzes, golds and platinums, which can be used to create realistic highlights in most women’s hair. A few really wild colors such as blue, orange and pink, are being picked up mainly by young women 18 to 24 years old, according to retailers and manufacturers.
Deborah Walters, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances at Saks Fifth Avenue, said Mascara Flash was an instant success, and she believes the trend could endure. “Hair mascara appeals to all ages, mothers, daughters, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest,” said Walters, adding that the more companies that come out with this product, the bigger the category will become.
Sally Beauty Supply stores of Denton, Tex., which sells salon hair care and beauty products to professional stylists on a wholesale basis and to consumers at retail prices, has been offering a line of hair mascaras under the chain’s house brand for the past month, said John Lenz, director of merchandising.
Claudia Stevens Hair Highlighters come in six shades that sell for $5.99 apiece. The chain sold approximately 10,000 units in the first two weeks it was available.
Hair mascaras have staying power, said Lenz, although the category will never be more than an incremental business for Sally. “The trend will run at least into sometime next year,” said Lenz. “Hair color in general has grown, and the category is becoming broader and broader in the types of product that are available.”
Cosmetics Centers, based in Savage, Md., also reacted quickly to Dior’s success with hair mascaras. Hair Flair from Ardell and Chic Streaks by Biocosmetics “have been in the stores since the end of August, and the customer takeaway has been good,” said Allan Goldman, senior vice president of marketing at the chain. “We expect this trend will last into the spring.”
Manufacturers are just as optimistic about the hair mascara trend.
L’Oreal’s Hamilton is predicting that L’Oreal’s Hair Mascara, which will hit retail shelves in December, will find its way into approximately 20,000 mass market doors. The line will consist of six shades for $8 each: Bronzed, Gold Plated, Blondie, Mediterranean, Hot Flash and Chilled.
“As we near the end of the century, consumers are looking for new ways to express themselves,” said Hamilton. “This is slightly more cosmetic than a hair product, but it’s critical to understand hair to make a product that performs.”
L’Oreal executives think the line belongs in cosmetics sections as opposed to hair-coloring sections, although it is possible to display hair mascaras near hair styling aids and hair-coloring products, said Hamilton.
L’Oreal will draw on the expertise it gained in this category 10 years ago when it introduced Zazu. The line was on mass market shelves for about three years, said Hamilton.
She is more optimistic about the potential for hair mascaras today because “women a decade ago were less experimental with color and fashion.”
Revlon’s Streetwear brand will introduce Streetlights hair highlights in November in four shades: Frosty Top, Blondie, Brass Roots and Copper Locks. Each will carry a $5 price. Four “trendier” shades will be added in early 1998, said Tanya Mandor, executive vice president of marketing at Revlon.
The first two shade breaks are available as prepacked displays, said Mandor, and will be in approximately 10,000 doors. It is Revlon’s intention to have the line added to drugstores’ cosmetics merchandising walls next year.
Hair mascaras will last “as long as the consumer is interested in color,” said Mandor. “The trend is about having color without the commitment. We’ve just entered this cycle, and they usually last between five and 10 years.”
Prestige Cosmetics was one of the earlier manufacturers to respond to hair mascaras. Its version, Head Trip, started shipping at the beginning of September and is due on mass market shelves in October. Each of the line’s six shades are priced at $4.95.
The line was available in Europe since the beginning of the summer, said Tom Winarick, executive vice president of Prestige, and based on its success there, Prestige decided to bring Head Trip to the U.S.
How long the trend will last is “the $64,000 question,” said Winarick. “My anticipation is that it will run through the first quarter.”
Industry sources predict Prestige’s line will bring in $1 million in wholesale revenue in its first 12 months.
Fiske Industries was also a pioneer of hair mascaras in the mass market with Hair Highlighters. The line, which comes in seven shades, has been on store shelves since the middle of August, said Ira Adler, vice president of sales at the company, and three additional shades will be added in November. Each is priced $6.
The line, which is in 1,500 doors, has found a lot of success in independent clothing stores, said Adler. “Everybody wants a piece of this, there’s no avenue that’s too wacky for it.”
Hair mascara “is a concept that is here to stay,” said Adler. “We are really pushing it as a business and trying to build on it. Hair is becoming an extension of the face; its like makeup for the hair.
Del Laboratories and Cosmar are among several companies that will be introducing hair mascaras in early 1998.
Mass market discounters and drugstores have been slower to dive into this category than other retailers, according to a number of executives. This is because the chains are waiting to gauge the strength of the trend.
“The bigger accounts seem to be more conservative in their approach to this category,” said Winarick. “One of the challenges has been that they don’t know how to classify it or how to decide which buyer should handle it.”
He expects the large-volume mass merchandisers and drugstore chains will have spotty coverage in this category for the holidays, the period when most manufacturers expect the trend will reach its pinnacle.
The New York-based Duane Reade has ordered hair mascaras from five vendors, and the product is currently being shipped. Several other drugstore chains said product will be arriving any day. A Kmart representative said the discounter is still taking a look at the category and hasn’t decided if it will stock the product.

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