Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — It is not unusual for teenagers shopping in Longs Drug Stores to be greeted with a sales pitch from one of their peers.
That’s because Longs has teamed up with Bonne Bell Inc. to create a program called the Teen Team. Participating girls, who are employed by Bonne Bell, are trained to give makeovers, dish out samples and communicate Bonne Bell’s marketing program to prospective young customers.
And when the teens are put in place, according to John Farr, senior vice president for Bonne Bell, sales of Bonne Bell products jump “significantly” at the Longs chain, which is based in Walnut Creek, Calif.
The Teen Team is just one example of efforts being made by mass market retailers and manufacturers to entice younger customers to buy mass cosmetics and fragrances.
Although much effort over the last two years has been devoted to meeting the demands of middle-aged women, retailers and manufacturers are discovering the power of teens, as well as women in their early 20s.
“Teens have tremendous spending power and it is all disposable dollars — they don’t have to worry about mortgages,” said Farr.
It has been estimated that teens make total expenditures in the neighborhood of $20 billion a year. Mass cosmetics marketers want more of those dollars spent at their own stores and are stocking up on lines designed to lure younger shoppers.
Paramount is the fact that younger customers want products that are designed specifically for their age group and tailored to fit their needs.
“This isn’t your mother’s fragrance,” said Karen Freeman, vice president of marketing for Fragrance Impressions Limited of Bridgeport, Conn., about the firm’s new line of Designer Mists.
The Designer Mists brand is an entirely new line of alternative designer scents created to attract women age 14 to 29, according to Freeman. She claimed the population of female teens will soar 13 percent between 1995 and 2005.
“We see a gap in the market,” Freeman said. “These kids know the fragrances from seeing them in the malls where they hang out, but they can’t afford $30 for originals.”
To that end, the Designer Mists range includes new versions of prestige scents such as Liz Claiborne and Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, along with an imitation of Calvin Klein’s CK One that is scheduled to ship in August.
Suggested retail prices are $8.50 for a 1-oz. spray cologne and $3.50 for a 2-oz. body spray.
Many buyers have also praised Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers — a brand secured by mass market retailers via secondary sources — as a fragrance that is wooing young consumers.
“It has a fresh scent and marketing that reaches younger customers,” said Steele Balkunas, buyer for Ike’s in Memphis, Tenn. CK One and the imitation products it has inspired also appeal to younger shoppers, buyers noted.
Don Pettit, president of Sassaby Cosmetics of Cardiff, Calif., which markets the Jane brand to teens, equated the move toward the younger market with the efforts made in the recent past to target mature customers.
“Now there’s a void of shoppers whose needs are unaddressed. The teen population bottomed out in 1992 and is now on the upswing because of the echo baby boom,” he said, referring to the offspring of baby boomers.
Pettit said Jane offers the kind of products teens are attracted to in the prestige market, such as the MAC line of makeup.
Some buyers acknowledged the irony of being interested in adding lines that will attract younger shoppers — customers they used to fear were often in the store primarily to sharpen their shoplifting skills.
“We used to hide the stuff from them, and now we’re doing everything we can to get them,” said one merchant.