COSMETICS AT FOREFRONT OF WOOLWORTH’S REVIVAL
Byline: Faye Brookman
NEW YORK — Beauty is grabbing center stage at Woolworth Corp. as the 117-year-old chain tries to remake itself.
Once relegated to just a few rows of cosmetics from Cover Girl and Maybelline, beauty has moved to the front of Woolworth’s newest format, which made its debut in three stores in the Wilmington, Del., market in late September.
“We did some pretty extensive research in November 1995,” said Paul Davies, president and chief executive officer of the chain, based here. “We found that two categories were very important to our stores — cosmetics and intimate apparel.”
In addition to the prominent location, the merchandise assortment has been expanded to include Revlon and L’OrAal. Space has also been created — by the elimination of categories such as apparel and footwear — for niche lines such as Lord & Berry, Jane, Sweet Georgia Brown and Bonne Bell.
According to Ginny Harris, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Woolworth, Revlon is receiving major play in the new format as well as existing units: “We’ve been adding Revlon to more doors in 1996 and it will be the core brand for us.”
Mass market fragrances are also given more space in the new setup, whereas before Woolworth generally sold scents only on a seasonal basis.
In total, the space devoted to beauty has been increased by 30 to 50 percent. Including skin care, cosmetics, and bath and beauty aids, departments range from 1,600 square feet to 2,000 square feet.
The new look is part of Woolworth’s quest for resuscitation. Over the years, the chain, which posted an operating loss of $58 million in the fiscal year ended in January, has lost many shoppers to discounters like Wal-Mart and Kmart.
“It’s hard to answer who we will compete with in cosmetics,” said Davies, “but we think we have a great selection and fair pricing and should get our share of the business.”
By putting a bigger emphasis on cosmetics, Davies believes Woolworth can retain loyal shoppers while courting new and younger consumers.
The three stores in the Wilmington area are serving as experimental units; elements from these stores will soon be implemented in Woolworth’s 400-plus units across the country, he said.
The stores range in size from a 16,000-square-foot unit in downtown Wilmington, Del., a to 35,000-square-foot store in the nearby suburbs. Woolworth officials hope to have elements of the new prototype in 65 percent of its stores within the next two years.
Although he would not cite specific figures, Davies said he hopes the bigger emphasis on cosmetics and fragrances will double sales of beauty items.
Industry experts estimate that beauty currently accounts for less than 3 percent of Woolworth’s sales.
The new stores, sources said, could produce annual sales of $5 million to $10 million — meaning beauty, if sales double, could add up to $300,000 to $600,000 per door.
The new cosmetics department has been given a very different design treatment than the rest of the store.
“They have repositioned the department and brought it forward to make it a quick stop for a busy woman,” said Susan Menk, senior designer for FRCH Design Worldwide in New York, which created the new look and also designed the interior of new Sears stores.
Seafoam green was used to make the department more feminine, Menk said, adding that “even the flooring is different in cosmetics to create a department store feel, but with open sell.”
Cosmetics and health and beauty aids have been brought into one area to form a shop-within-a-store atmosphere, said Menk.
Skin care has been enlarged to include more treatment lines such as PlAnitude, Oil of Olay and Nivea Visage, said Harris, who sees skin care as a major growth area.
“Bath is another area we are beginning to develop for 1997. We already have Sarah Michaels and Naturistics, and they are doing well,” she added.
She also singled out nail care as a category with tremendous potential for Woolworth.
“We’ll be adding a nail bar in the spring with more nail treatment and color,” she said, noting that the prototype features nail care brands such as Orly and Sally Hansen Professional.
According to Davies, another goal was to make sure there was ample room for promotional displays to show shoppers that Woolworth is in the fashionable end of the cosmetics business.
Special cabinetry and fixtures were also designed with the intention of giving Woolworth a more upscale look in beauty than other mass retailers.
Glass shelving is used to house the fragrances, another first for Woolworth.
The store has taken another big step in positioning sales specialists in the department. Although their major duty is to keep the department clean and in stock, Davies said, they are also available to answer shoppers’ questions.
“We’re also hoping to have more in-store demonstrations,” added Harris.
Woolworth’s fresh look also features an aisle that loops around the entire store so that shoppers can see all the departments without much trouble.
Other key departments receiving an intensified emphasis are accessories and candy.
As reported, the Renaissance Cosmetics acquisition train keeps on rolling with the news that the New York-based firm’s Dana division has acquired Procter & Gamble’s fragrances for $41.5 million.
The fragrances include Navy, Navy White, Navy for Men, Insignia, Le Jardin, California, California for Men, Toujours Moi, Incognito, Mandate, Rapport and Ensign. P&G is retaining Old Spice and Henry M. Betrix, as well as a few other regional brands. Renaissance chairman and chief executive officer Thomas Bonoma said the fragrances have sales of about $50 million. Roughly $20 million of that is produced by the Navy portfolio.
“The fact Renaissance picked them up is good news. They’ve done well with other acquisitions,” said Jackie Millon, buyer for K&B Inc. in New Orleans.
Renaissance has built up an impressive fragrance stable by buying Parfums Parquet, Dana and Mem.
Bonoma’s strategy has been to pump money behind what he calls “neglected” scents. In addition to rebuilding the brand, Renaissance launches line extensions such as a White Chantilly for Chantilly.
Under Renaissance, sales of the mature scents have soared anywhere from 20 to 100 percent. “We expect to do the same with P&G’s fragrances,” said Bonoma.
He conceded that some fragrances may be terminated.
“We’ll be assessing them all,” Bonoma said. “What they lacked was critical mass and a corporate focus. We know that many of them have a viable future.”
Buyers said they expect Renaissance will first direct its attention to the Navy grouping, particularly Navy for Men.