AFTER YEARS OF PALE SALES, NAIL CARE IS A BRIGHT SPOT

Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — Retailers hope they never see red again in the nail category.
The chain-store executives aren’t referring to the enamel. What they have in mind is the red ink signifying drastic declines in nail category sales.
From 1992 until 1996, chain drugstore buyers experienced losses in nail color as well as dramatic drops in sales of artificial nails.
With the advent of funky colors and glitters, buyers are reporting double-digit gains in nail polish sales. In fact, nail color sales soared 17.3 percent in 1996 over 1995, according to Information Resources Inc. — the largest increase of any color cosmetics category sold in mass market doors.
Sales in the category totaled $342.7 million at retail for 1996, according to IRI.
The biggest surprise to date in 1997, buyers said, is that sales show no signs of abating — even as retailers and manufacturers scramble to find new looks to feed the demand.
“I don’t think we’ll see women stop using nail color,” said Karen Durham, merchandise manager for cosmetics at Duane Reade in Manhattan. “We’re going to see a resurgence of red, and people are mixing colors for tone on tone.”
Myriam Clifford, president of Orly International, a nail enamel pacesetter from Chatsworth, Calif., agreed: “There has been a complete mind-set, and nail color is now an accessory. Blues and new colors will continue to sell well, but we are seeing red coming back.”
Even with the unavoidable return to red, leading suppliers of nail enamel are not shunning edgy colors, such as blue, and the ubiquitous glitter. Vibrant colors and sparkles were on display at the recent Efficient Category Management Sessions held last month in Palm Beach, Fla. Manufacturers attempted to outdo each other with new takes on glitter and color.
With even Gap jumping onto the nail color bandwagon, mass market buyers said they are stepping up their selections to keep customers flocking to them for the latest shades.
“Many of the current color trends, such as the blues and greens, got started in drugstores,” said Durham.
Blue nail polishes have been extremely popular in drug and discount stores, and buyers are putting their faith in blue for next spring.
“Blue has become so accepted that you see executive women wearing blue to work,” noted Beth Kaplan, executive vice president of marketing for Rite Aid Corp., Camp Hill, Pa.
Sally Yanke, director of cosmetics for Medic Drug in Cleveland, cast her vote for blue.
“We continue to see so many denim influences in clothing, so we think denim blue will be good for nail color,” she said.
Suppliers are responding with a wide array of blues — mostly those shades that are toned down from the one that emerged in 1996.
“We have blue for spring,” said Thomas Winarick, executive vice president for Prestige Cosmetics in Deerfield Beach, Fla. “But the look is now a [matched] duotone.”
Winarick said his firm only recently extended its selection into nail color. “It is a crowded market, but our acceptance has been great. There may start to be a shakeout, but there is room in the market for those with the right colors.”
The Jane Cosmetics division of Sassaby also thinks it has the right prescription for nail colors. Jane also only recently put its spin on nail colors into mass market distribution. In just two months, its Hot Tips already comprises more than 20 percent of total Jane sales, or roughly $6 million of Jane’s estimated $30 million total. One account sold about 8,000 pieces in four weeks of Hot Tips.
“Retailers told us we should be in nail,” said Howard Katkov, Sassaby’s president and chief executive officer. “Nail has been hot for the last two years, and we stayed out until we could establish brand loyalty with Jane, which we now have.”
Although Jane is zeroing in on young shoppers — who are leading the nail color revolution — the company isn’t alone in its quest.
Sel-Leb, Cosmar, Cosmo, Townley, Sinful by Mirage and Blue Cross Beauty Products are all manufacturers serving up enough glitter products to illuminate teenagers’ nights.
Now manufacturers are trying to take glitter to the next step. Blue Cross, for example, has two new takes on glitter — Mardi Gras and Meteorites. Instead of sparkles, the enamels have what appears to be confetti suspended in the polish.
“These are the hottest things out there,” said Ken Lane, buyer for Texas Drug Warehouse in Garland, Tex.
Kristin Penta, vice president of marketing and product development for Pentech/Fun cosmetics in Edison, N.J., thinks the glowing days of glitter could be subsiding.
“I’m not showing as much glitter. Every company has glitter, so I’m trying to do something else to be different,” said Penta of Fun’s new lineup of fashion-forward colors.
Cosmo, which markets the Ferity Brand, tries to stand out in the market with fruit-scented minicolors in pencil-shaped bottles.
The interest in nail color has had a positive impact on sales of nail care and artificial nail products. Nail treatment volume jumped 11.6 percent from 1995 to 1996. Artificial nail product sales declined 0.2 percent, but appear to be rebounding in 1997, buyers said.
Fueling the growth of fake nails are product breakthroughs such as Kiss Products’ Broadway Nails and a new item from Cosmar called QuikNails. Set for a launch in the first quarter of 1998, QuikNails consists of a liquid-and-powder combination that, when brushed on, activates the chemical bond — thus reducing the time it takes to apply acrylic nails.
Artificial-nail companies also have come up with innovative packaging designs that make it easier for consumers to envision how false nails will look on their own fingers.
Pacific World’s Nailene has new packaging with a sample nail attached to the side, allowing shoppers to slip their fingernail under it. Helen of Troy also has a sample nail on its packaging for the new Revlon-brand nail license. The company has a point-of-purchase display with sample nails of the entire gamut, including shorter, sport lengths.
Fing’rs is extending its popular Ring Around the Toesies, which consists of a toe ring and color for toenails, to include a matching fingernail color.
The nail color explosion has also created more of a demand for enamel remover. Cosmar is introducing an unusual five-finger container that facilitates removal of polish and artificial nails. Sel-Leb has introduced a glitter polish remover called Glitter Buster.
Finally, retailers are adding more nail art to their merchandise selection. Fing’rs is going beyond the traditional sticker art to feature charms that can be glued on.
“Nail-art sales are up 180 percent,” said Sean Bittles, vice president of sales for the Camarillo, Calif.-based firm.
Nailene is targeting its nail art at women with natural nails, as well as the artificial version.
“We have research to show who is wearing nail art, and it isn’t only those with artificial nails; it is growing in popularity,” said Debi Kadilak, national sales director for Pacific World. “More people wear nail art than you think.”

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