NEW RITE AID GIVES BEAUTY STARRING ROLE
Byline: Faye Brookman
PERRY HALL, Md. — Rite Aid Corp. is out to give beauty a boost by setting it apart.
To give its cosmetics category a store-within-a-store feeling, Rite Aid literally has built a wall around the department in a prototype in this Baltimore suburb. The arrangement is part of the drugstore chain’s plan over the past three years to emphasize beauty — in part, to offset declines in pharmacy profits caused by handling third-party prescription plans, a costly proposition.
The prototype opened in February, and industry experts think it could push beauty sales to as much as 8 percent of store volume — or about $200,000 annually, according to sources. Three years ago, it was estimated beauty represented less than 4 percent of sales.
With more than 13,000 square feet of selling space, this prototype is almost twice the size of older Rite Aid stores. The beauty area — the first department the customer encounters when entering the store — is roughly 800 square feet, about double the older standard.
Beauty has been given a more glamorous treatment, too, with glass displays for promotions, lighted signs over the pegged cosmetics area and a blue-and-fuchsia decor.
According to Kevin Mann, executive vice president of marketing for the 2,700-unit Rite Aid, based in Camp Hill, Pa., the store was designed after extensive market research on the chain’s core customers: women age 25 to 54. A large glass case of upscale fragrances is at the front of the beauty department. The selection includes such women’s prestige scents as Lancaster’s Joop, Ralph Lauren’s Safari and EstAe Lauder’s Knowing. Although a beauty clerk is assigned to the department, the glass fragrance case has a bell so customers can summon help.
This upgraded service in beauty is new for Rite Aid, according to company officials. The clerk in this new store said she had worked at the discount beauty chain Cosmetic Center.
The fragrance department is rounded out by mass offerings like Dana’s Chantilly and Coty’s Ghost Myst and Ici, and an array of alternative designer scents from Parfums de Coeur and Lady In Red. According to Rite Aid officials, a great deal of the mix in beauty, especially the fragrances, is supplied by Rita, a Baltimore-based wholesaler. The pegged cosmetics wall includes L’Oreal, Max Factor, Almay, Maybelline, Cover Girl and Revlon. In aisles across from the wall are more niche-oriented brands, such as Aziza and Physicians Formula.
Many brands get twice as much space in the prototype as they do in traditional Rite Aids. In older stores, for example, Revlon often has as little as 2 linear feet; here, it has 8 feet, including a full presentation of ColorStay. The extra space has given Rite Aid room to experiment with such lines as Physicians Formula, said store executives. Kiosks in the center of the beauty department house promotional displays such as color launches or other new products. The ends of the aisles are home to lines new to Rite Aid, like Jane Cosmetics. One entire aisle is devoted to nail care; notable brands are Sally Hansen professional, Jonel and Cosmar. Even nail care is generating alternative brands in the mass markets; Rite Aid stocks a new item from Jean Philippe Fragrances and Cosmetics called Manitique, a knockoff of Nailtique. The brand’s promotional materials read, “If you like Nailtiques, look at Manitique.” Next to the color cosmetics area is an 8-foot bath care section, which Rite Aid buyers have carefully edited. Instead of offering many of the brands, such as Yardley, found in competing drugstores, Rite Aid has gone upscale with a selection from Luzier USA of Kansas City and offerings from the Paris-based Kneipp.
Rite Aid executives admitted they have been playing catch-up with drug chains that several years ago realized the importance of upgrading the cosmetics department. “But [Rite Aid has] caught up fast, and this store is really beautiful and reflects what customers want,” said Deborah Richman, president of Lady in Red Ltd. of East Norwich, N.Y. The new Rite Aid has an enlarged convenience-food section including cooler cases, a one-hour mini photo-processing lab, public restrooms and a service counter where customers can buy stamps or ship packages.
Other categories that have been added or enlarged are herbal vitamins, diagnostic equipment, consumer electronics and homeopathic remedies.
The pharmacy has been redesigned to include a special drop-off area separate from the pickup and consultation spot. The store, designed by Miller Zell, an Atlanta firm, has a traffic pattern that leads customers from cosmetics into a center area management has dubbed “Main and Main.” From that junction, customers can proceed directly to the pharmacy or to any other area in the store. The space between the aisles has been expanded, from 5 feet to 5 1/2 feet, because customers want more room to navigate shopping carts or baby strollers, store officials said. Shelving is a neutral color to make products stand out. The checkout area has been redesigned; lines are staggered to reduce clutter. “The consumer reaction has been very positive,” said Linda Conway, the store’s category manager. “We have tried to make the shopping experience in these stores more enjoyable, and that is boosting sales.”
Rite Aid is expected to open as many as 400 new stores by 1997, all of which will have the expanded beauty department. Rite Aid’s new look also will be incorporated in the remodeling of existing locations.
In another matter, Rite Aid has extended to April 9 its offer to purchase rival drug chain Revco, raising some industry concern that the $4.8 billion merger could be in jeopardy.
The offer, for all of Revco’s 35.1 million shares, had been scheduled to expire March 26. This is the fourth delay since the takeover offer was first made in November. The Securities and Exchange Commission has put several obstacles in the way, including the decree Rite Aid has to close or sell more than 300 units.
The outcome will be of particular interest to Judy Wray, Revco’s senior cosmetics buyer. Wray had been named category manager for Rite Aid, pending completion of the acquisition.
Revlon will launch a new women’s fragrance called Cherish in August. The floral scent, which will have fruity notes of peach and apple, will range in price from $15 to $25. Trial-size .05-oz. bottles will be launched in July at $1.99 apiece.
The imagery in print advertising and in-store displays will emphasize family values and a woman’s caring nature, according to the company.
Sassaby has sold its teen-oriented cosmetic organizer business to Cosmepak, the leader in the $200 million organizer market. After explosive growth in the Eighties, the organizer business has quieted down, and most retailers carry only one major supplier.