The Monoprix and Prisunic variety store chains in France are revamping their merchandising and product assortments — with the beauty department appearing to be a top priority. After conducting market research, the 240-door Monoprix chain is cutting back its product assortment by 10 percent to increase profitability. Meanwhile, the 173-door Prisunic is remodeling its stores, targeting the new layout directly at its customer base: women aged 18 to 50. For example, when the Prisunic unit on the Avenue des Ternes in Paris got a facelift last summer, all the women’s departments — cosmetics and toiletries, fashion, accessories, hosiery and lingerie — were grouped on the ground floor. The men’s department was relegated to a corner and streamlined considerably. “We only stock men’s products that women purchase, like underwear, socks, ties and so forth,” explained store manager Jean-Philippe Dudon. The floor was designed with wide aisles for easy circulation and soft, indirect lighting. Prisunic also makes finding products easier for customers by clearly labeling categories with colored signs. Fragrances at the Ternes store are grouped on one wall, with makeup mainly stocked in islands, and the back of the store houses a special area with its own register called the parapharmacie.
Previously, many skin care brands in France were sold only in pharmacies, but several years ago new regulations allowed these pharmacy brands to be sold in other stores as long as trained pharmacists were on hand to advise customers.
At the Ternes store, the parapharmacie now represents about 20 percent of cosmetics and toiletries sales, according to pharmacist Valerie Julien. Skin care brands stocked there include L’Oreal’s Vichy, the top seller in both volume and unit sales, Johnson & Johnson’s Roc, and Pierre Fabre’s Galenic. The merchandising is particularly eye-catching, with the names of all the treatment brands displayed on mirrors at the same height. As for regular mass market skin care, Prisunic’s shelves are stocked with brands like L’Oreal’s Plenitude Excell A3, Nivea Vital, Diadermine’s Reactivance and Fruitosome, and Pond’s Soin Suractif Anti-Age.
The chain also sells skin care from its private label brand, Flora, and L’Oreal’s revamped Vittel skin care line. While fruit acid products are still all the rage in France, judging from the product selection here, brands targeted to women 50-and-over are a hot trend as well.
Both Nivea Vital and the recently launched RAactivance are targeted to seniors, and both had prominent placement. L’Oreal has also jumped on the senior bandwagon, adding two Revitalift products last spring to its Plenitude range, while Proctor & Gamble aimed its Oil of Olay Pro-Vital at the same audience. Nivea made no bones about identifying its target customer: the brand was the first to use a gray-haired model in its advertising for Nivea Vital.
Senior skin care also sells well at the Monoprix chain, and buyer Francoise Poulias is even considering creating a special area to merchandise it. “The senior creams have opened up a new market for us,” said Poulias. “Those customers have strong buying power and time to spend in the aisles.”
In addition to streamlining the product assortment, Monoprix is testing new types of promotions. In February, Monoprix ran a new multibrand skin care promotion over 10 days in seven Paris stores. Computers with interactive software were installed, and customers answered questions about their skin type and then received product recommendations. Coupons for the participating brands — Nivea, L’Oreal Parfumerie, Garnier, Diadermine and Barbara Gould — were inserted in the Monoprix magazine, and some of the brands also distributed samples. Poulias projected a sales increase of 10 percent for those brands during the promotion. She added that if results were on target, the promotion would be rolled out and extended to other product categories like hair color.

To judge by a recent store visit, service doesn’t seem to be the hallmark of the mass market in Britain — or at least not at Boots, the UK’s largest beauty retailer. The 1,100-store-chain’s Piccadilly Circus unit is one of its largest and carries a large selection of both prestige and mass-market beauty products. Boots has one of the heaviest levels of customer traffic of any UK retailer, and the Piccadilly Circus store is one of its busiest because of its location in the center of London’s main tourist and shopping area. But the attraction seems to be its convenience and accessibility, rather than its attention to the customer. The front of the store is open to the street, and just inside are predominant glass islands featuring prestige cosmetic and skin care lines like Lancaster, LancOme, Elizabeth Arden and Christian Dior. Just behind these are a second group of islands, carrying such lines as Almay, Roc and Boots’ own No. 7, which is one of the largest makeup brands in the UK.
Both of these counters are manned by three or four sales assistants who are employed by the individual beauty houses. The Dior representative was helpful and knew her products well. She was able to clearly explain the differences between each skin care product, inquired about my skin before offering her recommendations on the best day moisturizer and a body lotion, and sampled them on my hand.
The greatest disappointment was the Boots No. 7 representative, who made little effort to serve me at all. The Boots range is displayed on a counter with a large number of testers, and I asked the assistant for advice and then searched among the rows of bottles for her recommendations. Despite clearly having trouble finding the recommended products, the assistant didn’t bother to reach over and point out the specific bottles to me. Instead, she kept up a steady flow of instructions. “No, the one behind that one, the one in the green bottle, no behind the one with the gold top.”
I finally found the product she’d suggested, and she watched silently as I fumbled with the top and rubbed some lotion onto my hands. She didn’t use this time to tell me more about the product or suggest alternatives. Boots also offers two private-label ranges of bath and body products called Global Collection and Natural Collection. The lines — which retail for $1.53 (99 pence) for a soap to $4.17 (2.69 pounds) for a facial scrub — have annual sales in Britain of more than $100.75 million (65 million pounds) and together generate the second-highest volume in the UK in the natural beauty products market, after The Body Shop. The Global and Natural collections are displayed behind the No. 7 counter, right in the midst of the shelving units that display the mass market skin care and bath lines. Among the mass market lines the store carries are Nivea Visage, Revlon, Vaseline and Oil of Ulay — the European name for Oil of Olay. Boots also carries several hypoallergenic lines, including Simple, Synergie and its own line called Boots Botanics. Most of these products are simply stacked on the shelves, although some lines such as Nivea Visage and Boots Botanics have on-shelf display units with booklets describing the collections. — RUTH GUREVITCH

The skin care and fragrance departments of the Standa variety stores, which belong to Berlusconi’s Fininvest Group, have undergone recent renovations. Committed to what it claims is a more sophisticated yet functional look, Standa foresees room for growth in the mass beauty sector. In line with these changes, “Profumeria” signs adorn the department.At the Corso Buenos Aires store in Milan, Standa has also replaced dated lighting and product displays with more modern fixtures. Wood-look shelfing with built-in fluorescent lighting holds most skin treatment and bath and body lines. Various shades of light green are used for other category displays, which are enhanced and illuminated by decorative halogen lamps.
The Via Torino store identifies beauty companies with illuminated signage at the top of displays, while the Corso Buenos Aires store is in the process of affixing brand names to its displays.
Regarding product assortment, Standa has begun to extend certain lines and add more sophisticated brands, such as Atkinsons’ I Coloniali and Perlier’s bath lines. The store has extended its product assortment for skin care lines, such as Venus by Kelemata and Cupra by Ciccarelli, which is being repackaged to spruce up its image. Paglietti notes that customers increasingly request specific products for specific needs — for example, eye creams and other facial items for sensitive skin.
Previously, the store had displayed facial skin care and body care together, but each category is now in a separate and distinct area. Price points for skin care are much lower than those typical of perfumeries, although many perfumeries also offer such mass market lines as L’Oreal’s Plenitude. Marked by a 20 percent special discount offer, Clinians Swiss skin treatment, produced by the Turin-based Medint, has products ranging from a 15-ml. antiwrinkle eye cream at $10.12 (16,000 lire) to a 50-ml. alpha-hydroxy treatment cream for $13.60 (21,500 lire). During a visit to the store, Clinians was offering a special 20-ml. trial size of the alpha-hydroxy treatment at $2.50 (3,900 lire). A division of L’Oreal, Garnier, offers the Synergie hypoallergenic line, which at Standa ranges from a 50-ml. daily face cream for normal and mixed skin at $5.40 (8,500 lire) to a 15-ml. eye gel at $8.60 (13,600 lire). At the Standa store on Via Torino in Milan, a saleswoman who was approached for advice on a treatment brand for sensitive skin said to check out Unilever’s Pond’s line. Pond’s has gained popularity in Italy as a higher-end mass brand. At Standa, its skin-smoothing capsules retail for $17.72 (28,000 lire), the 50-ml. age-defying complex for normal and delicate skin sells for $14.90 (23,500 lire), and the 100-ml. nourishing moisturizer fluid retails for $6.45 (10,200 lire).
Kelemata of Turin produces and distributes the Venus brand, which was prominently displayed at Standa’s Via Torino door. The line features lower price points than most foreign brands; for example, a 50-ml. night cream retails for $3.35 (5,300 lire). Compared with the Via Torino store, the Corso Buenos Aires store offered fewer selections and less complete lines. However, on esthetic terms, it more closely resembles a department store and features a more informed and accessible sales staff.
At the Via Torino unit, the majority of body and bath care products line a large wall, with brands including Neutro Roberts, Neutro Med by Henkel, Nidra by Colgate Palmolive and Nivea. Felce Azzurra, a bath and toiletries brand from the 100-year-old Paglieri company, offers a wide assortment of products. Standaj also stocks its own private label line called Miss Helen, which includes complete bath and body care lines. A 300-ml. shower gel is priced at $2.15 (3,400 lire).
Standa regularly holds promotions that include special offers, reduced prices within a line and three-for-the-price-of-two specials. Most specials within the regular product lines are marked by an illustrated “star of convenience” tag. Regarding skin care promotions, a L’Oreal representative is frequently on hand to offer advice to clients. The store also regularly sends salespeople to beauty companies for updates on new products and skin care techniques.

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to the drugstore to buy skin care, hair care or cosmetics only to have my choices yield less than desirable results. I have even resorted to going to department stores to buy makeup and moisturizers that turned to be not only as bad or worse than the drugstore brands, but twice as expensive.
I decided to take one more shot at drugstore products and wandered into Longs Drugs one afternoon, figuring I didn’t have anything to lose — it was only a couple of blocks from my apartment.
Unlike other drugstores I had encountered on my quest for the perfect skin and hair products, Longs was extremely clean and orderly, with the aisles well marked and signed. I picked up a basket by the entrance and headed toward the cosmetics aisle, where I found a woman named Bobbi, sporting a green Longs jacket. She seemed friendly and eager to help me.
I first asked her what skin products I could use to heal my dry skin. She led me to the Neutrogena items, which were neatly stacked on one shelf. She suggested I try the fragrance-free body oil after soaking in a lukewarm bath.
“Make sure you massage it in while your skin is still wet,” she said. “This way the oil is absorbed with the excess water.”
Then it was back to the cosmetics aisle, where she pointed to the Almay moisturizer, SPF 15 and oil free, for fair and sensitive skin. Bobbi ran behind the register to hand me an Almay coupon for 25 percent off the regular price. She also advised me against purchasing the Almay body lotion, because she said the Lubriderm lotion available in aisle four was a better product, and with the lower price tag, I would get more for my money.
Now that my skin was taken care of, it was time to address my long, dry hair. Bobbi sympathized, saying she had a similar situation. She knew about almost every product on the shelf, which was organized by brand name, and picked out those best for dry or damaged hair. We finally decided that an Infusium conditioner for everyday use and Hydravive by L’Oreal for weekly conditioning would be best. “A light daily conditioner in addition to a heavy one used only once a week to avoid build-up is definitely the way to go,” she explained. “My husband swears by it.”
I left the store through the quick and efficient checkout line clutching the bath oil, lotion and the conditioners — along with a few other fun trinkets I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure that I would have avoided another disastrous experience without the strong sales assistance I received at this drugstore. She was right about every one of the products I bought. My skin and hair are both a great deal healthier, as she had promised. —

Just after Christmas, Walgreens opened a new around-the-clock store up on the north side at Broadway and Belmont. The neighborhood is a mix of club kids, yuppies and the condo crowd from nearby Lake Shore Drive.
Skin care is obviously a priority at the store. It is literally the first merchandise one encounters upon entering and takes up about 20 feet of space along the right wall.
The store’s heavy hitters — judging from the amount of space they occupy as well their placement at eye level — are Oil of Olay, Neutrogena, Pond’s and L’Oreal’s Plenitude. All but L’Oreal have special fixtures and signage that instantly draw the eye.
The brand with the most space is Neutrogena (four shelves), followed by Oil of Olay (three shelves) and L’Oreal and Pond’s (two shelves each). All of these sections are very well stocked. If there’s a product that Neutrogena or Oil of Olay makes that Walgreens doesn’t have, I didn’t notice it. The Oil of Olay fixture also includes two bins for product brochures, and both were full.
The various products of all four of the main brands were for the most part under $10, and all fell into easily recognizable categories — day creams, night creams, toners and cleansers.
In terms of price points, the top was Elizabeth Arden, which had half a shelf just below eye level. A box of 60 Ceramide time complex capsules was marked $34.99, easily the top price for a skin care product in the store. Walgreens also does a substantial private label business and isn’t shy about calling attention to these products. Most are merchandised alongside of their branded equivalents with signs that urge customers to “compare and save.”
The bottom two or three shelves of the department resemble the land of forgotten brands — Jergens, Swiss Formula, Kheri and a number of others. The store also carries some true oddities. I can deal with Cornhuskers Lotion (this is the Midwest, after all), but there were also two different “udder creams” — products that, as best as I could tell from the labels, are actually aimed at cows — or, at least, the people who take care of cows. Walgreens also carries Almay skin care products, but for some reason. these are merchandised with Almay cosmetics in a different department. Almay is the only brand treated this way.
Bath and Body is obviously a far less important business. The department is located at the back of the store and has a rather disinterested look. The key lines are Jean NatA, Elizabeth Arden, Yardley Bath Shoppe and soap-and-body-wash combination packages by Dove, Caress, Aveeno and Oil of Olay. Again, Arden is the top price point, with products that range from $9.49 up to $18.99. Most of the rest are well under $10.
The bottom shelves are occupied by a number of well-known soap brands — Safeguard, Irish Spring, Coast, Ivory, Zest — and several bubble bath products, including Mr. Bubble.
There were also a number of gaps and empty slots in the Bath and Body area, suggesting that stocking has been a problem.
Overall, the store seems to know what it’s doing with skin care, but could use a few pointers with bath and body. There are a lot of overlapping price points in both areas, which seems to be inevitable at the mass market level. The store has been careful, though, to identify key brands and make substantial commitments to them.
Now if they can just do something about that udder cream.

Asking a woman to research drugstores is like asking a child to evaluate candy stores. At first it is an overwhelming exploration of goody-packed shelves, and slowly turns into a true comparison. The first stop was Big B drugstore on the corner of Ponce de Leon and Highland Avenue — your typical drugstore, with rows of standard white shelving packed with old familiar necessities.
The Big B bath and body section consisted of an eight-foot-long unit, half of which contained 10 or so various soaps in bins. The other half featured a small variety — three or four kinds — of bath powders, bubble baths and bath gels of both name brand and generic nature.
There were 10 different alluring Freeman’s products and a whole section of Neutrogena. As I turned to look at the skin care section, there was not a salesperson to be found. I did see a wandering police officer, though, but thought better of asking him about the Oil of Olay selection.
The skin care section in Big B was a bit more elaborate than the bath display. At least 12 different kinds of body lotion lined the shelves along with five different scrubs, mud masks and a huge selection of Freeman’s products. Swiss Formula had eight different kinds based on scent, and there were also specialty lotions like Yardley of London and Aveda. I priced some standard items, such as Noxzema Original Pump for $3.99; Liquid Neutrogena Facial Cleansing soap, 8 ounces for $8.49 and Jergens Lotion, 6 ounces for $2.59. Next stop was King’s Drugstore off Peachtree Street.
When I walked in, the atmosphere surprised me by not seeming like a drugstore at all. Carpet was on the floors and special promotional displays were everywhere. The bath and body section consisted of three freestanding displays and a shelved section. The freestanding cases were brimming with an array of unique and price body products from such companies as Klorance, Vitabath and Roger & Gallet.
Most of the products were accompanied by testers, and I was able to try out numerous lotions as I walked around the displays. The majority of the bath items also came in gift packs or sets, and a selection of sponges and scrubs was coordinated with the products.
A woman approached as I was sniffing my now overly moisturized hand, and asked if I needed any help finding something. I told her I was just browsing and enjoying all of the products.
She smiled and recommended the Blue Hyacinth Lotion from Caswell-Massey, and let me continue to shop. I later overheard her chatting with another customer, and she was very casual, comfortable and knowledgeable.
I was also interested to see that the store sold body lotions from high- priced department store brands such as Chanel, Christian Dior and Guerlain.
Although it had more of a selection of bath and body products, the skin care section in King’s was not quite as impressive, and actually seemed sparse compared with Big B. There was a freestanding promotional Neutrogena display, but the variety of treatment products was lacking.
But a price check proved that King’s was more expensive than Big B: the Noxzema Original pump was $4.33, Neutrogena Facial Wash was $9.85 and the Jergens 6-oz. lotion was $2.99.
Still, all in all I enjoyed shopping in King’s much more because of the variety of products and the fancy and original assortment. King’s products and displays portrayed pampering, while Big B focused on necessity and practicality. —

The PayLess Drug Store in Seattle was quiet on a midmorning Monday. Not one employee was stirring on the sales floor as I walked into the spacious facial/skin care, bath and body area. “There’s never anybody here to help you,” an exasperated woman customer mentioned to me. “You have to know what you want, know where it is, and get it yourself.”
Indeed, other than an industrious cashier who was justifiably too busy with customers to help out on the floor, the place was bereft of sales help.
On the positive side, both the facial/skin care department and the bath and body department featured long, extensive displays of merchandise from a wide variety of vendors. The facial/skin care area included such products as Stridex Pads, Clearasil, Buff Puff singles, Johnson’s Clear and Clean, Seabreeze Astringent, Oil of Olay moisture replenishment lotion, Oil of Olay bath bars, L’Oreal’s Plenitude, and an extensive range of products from Nivea, Revlon, Neutrogena, Cabot, St. Ives and the company’s own Thrifty PayLess private label.
The PayLess prices live up to their name. For example, the store offered Oil of Olay for Sensitive Skin for $5.99 for a 4-oz. bottle; Pond’s Cold Creame was $4.39 for 10.4 ounces; Suave’s Skin Therapy Lotion, fragrance free, was $1.89 for 10 ounces; Nivea Skin Therapy was $7.49 for 12 ounces, and Esoterica Skin Discoloration Cream with moisturizers went for $8.59 for a 3-oz. container.
Among other selections: Coty Chronology hydrating cream makeup, 0.75 ounces for $8; Revlon Age Defying Makeup Therablush, 1.25 fluid ounces for $10.75, and Curel Therapeutic Moisturizing Lotion, 6 ounces for $3.99.
The store is typical in the mass market in that its three primary cosmetics vendors appear to be Revlon, Almay and Maybelline.
The adjoining bath and body sections were also comprehensive. Selections included San Francisco Soap Company body scrubs, in a variety of fragrances such as natural grapefruit and yarrow, for $3.79; Oil of Olay Moisture and Body Wash two-in-one-cleanser, plus moisturizer with cleansing puff, for $8.99; Vaseline Intensive Care moisturizing bath beads, 15 oz. for $1.99, and Thrifty PayLess Foam Bath, a jumbo 32 oz. for 2.49. Other vendors included Calgon, Vaseline, Jergens Actibath and body shampoo, Aveeno bath treatment, Olay body wash, Bodycology Purifying Mineral Mud, including after-bath lotion, and Freeman Beautiful Bath.
Virtually all of the displays were workmanlike and without any particular flair. The only display that was at all interesting was an end-of-aisle display of Sarah Michaels products, including bath mitts, bath sponges and an array of other bath accessories.

At Wal-Mart, beauty is bright, tight and open all night.
Such was the case in the beauty department at the chain’s 24-hour Supercenter in Irving, Tex., just down Highway 183 from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Wedged between the pharmacy and the pet supply section near the front of the store, the department included bath and body, skin care, color cosmetics and hair items, as well as designer fragrances locked behind a glass case.
Like a high-rise building on a small tract of land, Wal-Mart knows how to pack a lot of punch in a little space.
That’s because the beauty department here was deceptively small, encompassing only a few short aisles and a back wall.
A visit early one morning not long ago found a lone but cheerful sales associate helping a woman search for aloe vera face wash, while several customers perused various niches.
The facial and skin care section shared a row with bath and body goods. Small black and white signs denoted the sections, and the shelves were packed full and neatly fronted with merchandise.
Bath and body must surely be a cash register winner at this store because of the deep selection. Nearly everything was $10 or less, and more than half averaged about $6 or less.
Sarah Michaels led the charge with a vast array of bath and body items in several flavors. Yardley also got lots of play, as did a line called Village Naturals, which included some aromatherapy products and candles.
Many lines were offered in gift boxes, including a collection called Nature’s Accent. Especially appealing were the wooden crate gift boxes, holding a variety of products and costing about $10.
Other vendors included Calgon and Alpha Hydrox, as well as four or six tiers of children’s bath and body items.
The skin care section was merchandised in a very trendy, almost department-store style.
L’Oreal’s Plenitude, Oil of Olay and Pond’s Institute were the big stars. Though aligned on the same aisle, the brands were segmented by reflective chrome dividers topped by vendor signage.
The sales associate, unable to find the aloe vera face wash sought by the customer, returned to her enclosed post near the skin care and bath and body sections.
“Do you need any help with health and beauty aids?” asked the petite young woman. “If you do let me know.”
To test her knowledge, I inquired about PlAnitude.
“Is this line very effective?” I asked. “I’ve heard so much about it.”
“We sell the lotion and the face cream quite a bit,” she answered. “I don’t personally use any of that stuff, though.”
Nivea and Neutrogena were among other brands carried in depth, along with a medley of lesser-known offerings, and the range of prices reflected the diversity.

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