Byline: Faye Brookman

SUMMIT, N.J. — Pam Field, a nail technician in a salon here, previously purchased most of her supplies from a salon wholesaler. Now she drives 15 minutes to a Genovese Drug Store where she can buy some of the same items.
The nation’s drugstore chains see professionals such as Field as a prime target for helping them expand their nail care business.
Several chains, such as Walgreen Co. of Deerfield, Ill., and Genovese Drug in Melville, N.Y., have created special professional nail care merchandising plans to appeal to technicians as well as to consumers who apply their own fake nails at home.
“Drugstores have really improved their offerings of acrylic kits and it is easy to buy them at retail,” Field said.
Like almost 80 percent of nail technicians, Field obtains her own supplies. She estimates she spends $200 per month on nail supplies and is always looking to save money and time.
Judy Wray, senior buyer for Revco D.S. in Twinsburg, Ohio, was one of the first mass retailers to see the potential of reaching out to professionals.
Wray said she has plans for advertising to professionals as well as creating a club for technicians. Wray also sees business continuing to climb with nonprofessionals who want to have long nails without paying costly salon prices.
“The technology has improved; more people are using nail kits and treatments,” she said.
Revco’s nail selection includes Kiss, Sally Hansen and Orly. Marcia Springer, buyer for Taylor Drug Stores Inc. in Louisville, Ky., said she can’t track which products are sold to professionals. But she has noticed increased requests for professional products.
“We’ve had more customers asking for products like Pro-10,” she said, referring to a Cosmar Corp. brand.
Other drugstore chains have also enlarged the shelving footage in nail care devoted to salon lines. “Walgreens has over 80 stockkeeping units of professional nail care,” said Larry Kapfer Jr., vice president of sales and marketing for Kiss Products Inc. of New York.
Nail care is just the latest battleground in the race for sales between professional salon outlets like Sally Beauty Supply and retail doors such as Ulta 3 and drugstore chains.
In addition to building a following with nail technicians, retailers report a growth spurt of artificial nails driven by improved product offerings. “We see this as a growth area because usage is low and products are getting better,” said Wray.
“Only 15 percent of the population use them (artificial nails) so there is opportunity,” said Kapfer, who sells acrylic kits called Lightning Nails.
Sales of false nails were estimated at $260 million for 1995, up about 4 percent over 1994.
Buyers think 1996 could be a year of high single-digit growth, thanks to improved product offerings. A product that has made application easier is Cosmar Corp.’s UltraGel, a kit that features a colored gel activator that is brushed on like nail polish. UltraGel comes in 16 shades with a suggested retail price of $9.99.
First year retail sales are expected to hit $20 million. Retailers think Cosmar’s product eliminates one of the obstacles of applying fake nails at home — time.
“You can do both hands in about 30 minutes, including color,” said Marc Rovner, Cosmar Corp.’s general manager.
A more natural-looking nail also helps attract consumers who don’t want the world to know they have fake nails. “This is a big business — it isn’t only women with big hair,” said Thomas Bonoma, chairman of Renaissance Cosmetics, which owns Cosmar Corp.
Another new fake nail kit garnering retail interest is Del Laboratories Suddenly Nails and Suddenly French Nails, brush-on gel acrylic systems combining acrylic and gel techniques.
The products are additions to the Sally Hansen Professional brand, which was launched in 1994. According to Bill McMenemy, executive vice president of marketing for Del, branching into false nails was a logical move for Del and its Sally Hansen franchise.
With sales of $19.5 million in 1995, Sally Hansen has almost a 27 percent share of the nail care treatment category.
“Sally Hansen needed a presence in professional nail care,” said McMenemy. “The Sally Hansen name has great consumer recognition so people are willing to try it versus no-name brands, which have dominated the category.”
The approach behind the line has paid off with Sally Hansen Professional now in about 15,000 drugstore and discount doors. Industry estimates put sales at $15 million wholesale.
The growth of fake nails is also spurring sales of decorative nail art kits, according to Kapfer.
“There’s an amazing business to be done in nail art,” he said.
Jay Kessler, president of Ark Drug in Mount Vernon, N.Y., confirmed that there is demand for not only professional fake nail kits but also nail art.
“We’ve doubled our space to the category and it helps keep customers coming here instead of the competition,” he said.

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