FIXTURES MOVE TO MARKETING FOREFRONT
NEW YORK — Fixtures no longer have a fixed purpose in the mass market beauty world.
Once merely necessary as a place to hang merchandise, fixtures have developed into multipurpose selling vehicles in the crowded mass cosmetics category. To that end, retailers and manufacturers alike are devoting an unprecedented amount of time to devising unusual displays that are intended to lure hard-to-catch shoppers to their merchandise.
Although industry experts agree that advertising is essential in directing shoppers off the streets and into stores for a specific product, most actual buying decisions aren’t made outside.
Roughly two-thirds of purchasing decisions are made right in the aisles, according to research from the Point of Purchasing Advertising Institute, noted Randy Riley, president of HMG Worldwide, a New York-based in-store marketing firm. And beauty, according to Riley, is a category where enticing displays are more critical than many other areas within the mass market environment. “You have a lot of products, and a need — especially in skin care — to provide information,” he said.
Most major beauty firms have been scurrying to upgrade their displays and meet the demands of retailers, who more and more need to make beauty departments more productive. “Retailers are measuring down to the square inch now,” said Paul Kolenik, assistant vice president of merchandising for L’Oreal. L’Oreal kept that in mind when designing the newest version of System 2000, the in-store merchandising vehicle for the company’s cosmetics. The new System 2000, which includes updated graphics — featuring both product and model photographs — along with the flexibility to incorporate new product launches, is now in about 18,000 doors, according to Kolenik. Marketing literature is being used by many firms to augment in-store help; System 2000, for example, has extensive space for information that directs shoppers to new L’OrAal merchandise.
Revlon’s latest cabinets have a home for the Revlon Report, a brochure with beauty tips and news on makeup trends; Cabot Laboratories recently carved out space among its fixtures for its own informational literature, and Cover Girl’s fixture helps shoppers identify the colors to buy that match their skin tones. “An effective display is like a built-in beauty expert,” said Linda Maiocco, president of Cabot Laboratories Inc. in New York. Even though Cabot’s display occupies only a tiny portion of shelf space in most chains, Maiocco believes it is worth yielding selling space for more informational material.
Riley at HMG said the dissemination of information in the store is essential in closing the deal with many consumers.
“Shoppers have different levels of needs for information. Some want to just dash to the wall and get what they need. But many others want to study the graphics to help them find what is right for them,” he said.
A perfect example, said Riley, is hair color, where HMG worked with Clairol to create the Color Choice System — a merchandising display that also features a computer affixed to the shelf. Patrons can input their hair type into the computer to receive specific product recommendations. Riley said the Color Choice System has worked to take the mystery out of hair color for many consumers because it helps shoppers understand whether they want a temporary, permanent or semi-permanent color. Retailers who have installed Color Choice said it has had a big impact on hair color sales. “We’ve seen some double-digit gains,” said a buyer for a West Coast drug chain that has had the fixture in place for about a year.
HMG is taking the information delivery process to the next step with sophisticated computers — the idea being to play interactive CD-ROMs that address shoppers’ questions. Although Riley did not divulge any specific examples, he said adding some type of information to a display can boost sales on average about 10 percent to 15 percent. “When you consider that most categories aren’t growing, that’s a big jump,” he added. “It may take space from the selling area, but it is well worth it.”
Chain drug buyers admitted a need to add more information within the store because they are not able to provide as much service as they’d like.
“We’re experimenting with service, but it isn’t always [economically] feasible in all stores,” said Tom Ryan, president of CVS, based in Woonsocket, R.I.
Fixturing and store displays are also being used to create a more upscale shopping environment, retailers said, or to enable a store to show its strength in a particular category. Revlon’s strategy is to use its fixtures to try and create more of a department store feel. “Revlon’s positioning is premium at mass and as such, our goal is to bring the department store and direct channel shopper into the mass environment,” said Kathy Dwyer, president of Revlon North America. “To do that, we try to create a customer-friendly environment that includes product sampling and testing. For example, for ColorStay and Age Defying we built testers into the permanent merchandising units.”
Dwyer claimed that strong sales of both those brands is attributable to a surge of crossover shoppers from department stores. When Mark Kaplan, president of Sarah Michaels in Stoughton, Mass., created his new bath boutique, he also wanted to duplicate a prestige presentation at the mass level. “Since mass retailers weren’t really in [the bath] business, they needed an easy way to make a major statement that only a fixture could do,” said Kaplan. Many retailers are doing their part to support upgraded fixtures and displays. A prime example: Wal-Mart, which has decided to make a major statement in the beauty category.
In those of its units with the highest cosmetics volume, Wal-Mart has redesigned the beauty department to include a large glass fragrance display, as well as the latest fixtures from sources such as Maybelline, Chesebrough-Pond’s and L’Oreal’s Plenitude.
The new department is also larger and has wider aisles than in older Wal-Marts in what store executives have described as an effort to show shoppers that the discounter is serious about the cosmetics business.
Clover, another discounter, has also turned to manufacturers to help spruce up its image with sophisticated fixtures.
“Our newest store is our showcase, and we thought it was important to have all of the new fixtures,” said Clover cosmetics buyer Anne Markward, following the opening last August of a unit in downtown Philadelphia. “We feel the fixtures help customers find what they want and keep the department exciting.”
In many cases, the new presentations at the mass level are a joint venture between vendors and retailers and are an outgrowth of the current trend toward category management. One of the doctrines of category management is for merchants to work in tandem with one supplier — the so-called “category captain.” “Many retailers are looking around and seeing new competitors like Ulta 3 come in and they need a way to compete,” said Riley. “In many cases, they are looking to manufacturers to help them create a special look that makes them stand out.”