NEW YORK — Iman the model and actress is now Iman the cosmetics entrepreneur.
Her widely touted cosmetics and skin care line for women of color made its debut on QVC last weekend, and the stock sold out in the first three of four 20-minute shows. With Iman pitching before the camera, the QVC telephone banks took orders for 4,400 eight-item kits, priced at $53.94 each, for a weekend haul of $237,336.
The results were similar Tuesday, when Iman made appearances on Long Island in the Bay Shore and Valley Stream, N.Y., stores of J.C. Penney Co., which is exclusively launching the line in 200 of its stores across the country.
In each store, sales outstripped expectations, according to Ann Gravseth, cosmetics merchandise manager for Penney’s. She would not discuss dollar figures, but according to Byron Donics, chairman and chief executive officer of Khepra Beauty Group LP, which manages the business, sales totaled $2,000 for the day at Bay Shore, where 400 people turned out. At Valley Stream, the crowd swelled to 650 and sales hit $3,500.
On Thursday, Iman was in New Jersey, making appearances in the Jersey City and Woodbridge stores. Sales hit $2,500 in two hours at Woodbridge and $2,200 during the first hour in Jersey City, where the crowd mushroomed to 1,500.
Iman is scheduled to visit 30 Penney’s stores in 15 markets, winding up in Dallas Aug. 13.
“Iman has the potential of becoming our third biggest line,” said Sarah Swanson, color and treatment buyer for Penney’s. The top two vendors are Revlon’s Ultima II and Charles of the Ritz.
Penney’s executives declined to project sales but estimated that the Iman line could easily do more than $7 million at the chain for the rest of the year. The Iman group is expected to spend $2.5 million to $3 million in advertising and sales promotion to drive the Penney’s business.
The Penney’s buyer praised Iman’s line for its product quality, wearability and the depth and expansiveness of its shade range.
“I’m Swedish and I can wear it,” Swanson said.
The QVC results also exceeded expectations. James G. Held, executive vice president of merchandising, sales and product planning at QVC, said he was impressed on two counts.
“We’ve never sold a cosmetics line for women of color with such a high quality,” Held said. He also was startled to find that 15 percent of last weekend’s purchasers had never before bought merchandise from QVC.
“Five or 6 percent is good,” Held noted. “Fifteen percent is great. I was happy with the results.”
He said the line appealed to the ethnic market, “a customer we had not been serving.”
Held said QVC is negotiating with Iman’s beauty firm to bring the model back for a one-hour show in early September. There is also talk of regular appearances as new products are added.
Lester Gribetz, a partner in Iman’s cosmetics group and a former vice chairman in charge of cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s, said Iman also will appear in an infomercial. Although it has not been produced yet, the show will probably appear in November. The infomercial also will feature a cosmetics kit, but it will be priced at more than $100, Gribetz said.
Gribetz, Donics and Peter Zegras, president of Khepra, are among a number of partners in the Cosmetic Marketing Group, which holds Iman’s cosmetics and fragrance license. Other partners include former Bloomingdale’s chairman Marvin S. Traub, who now heads his own consulting firm; marketing consultant Susan M. Rafaj; industry consultant Ken Lazar, and William L. Zysblat, who is the business manager for Iman’s husband, the performer David Bowie.
The partners were at a Manhattan reception with Iman Wednesday night. She said she was happy not only about the QVC results, but because the task was over. Although she is internationally known, Iman admitted to being “so nervous” when she was on stage, primarily because there was no feedback on the set.
“It’s a different animal,” she said. “I was putting myself on the line before the consuming public.”
Iman said she decided to work with an entrepreneurial group rather than a large cosmetics company, “because with the big boys you lose creative control.”
Iman, who was born in Somalia, sees a large future in ethnic cosmetics. Non-Caucasian groups might be minorities, she said, but there is strength in numbers.
“We don’t want to be an afterthought of the cosmetics companies,” said Iman, who cited government projections indicating that half the U.S. population will be of ethnic extraction by 2050.
The line will be expanded, and one of the items will be a fragrance.
“I really want to take my time developing a fragrance,” she said, ruling out next year as a target launch date. In the meantime, she will continue to wear her favorite scent, Thierry Mugler’s Angel. “I’m hooked on it,” she said. “I’m very jealous of him.”
The Iman line consists of 132 stockkeeping units, ranging in price from $7.50 for a bottle of nail enamel to $10 for a tube of lipstick to $35 for an ounce of an alpha-hydroxy moisturizing lotion.
There are 12 treatment products in the line and two specialty products designed for dark-skinned women. One is an Undercover Oil Control Lotion, priced at $15 for 1 ounce. According to Amy Reiner, vice president of Susan M. Rafaj Marketing Services, the lotion is designed to give the skin a matte finish while preventing oil from coming through.
Donics noted that botanical ingredients are used, with certain extracts contained in specific products, depending on the need. For example, grapefruit, which has astringent properties, is in a cleanser.
The eight-product kit sold on QVC for $53.94 contains regular items from the line that would cost $120 at retail, Donics said.
“The entire line has been priced at the entry department store position,” Donics said. Clinique also occupies that level with a slightly cheaper nail polish at $7 and a slightly more expensive lipstick at $10.50.
Donics said the line is being marketed from the outset for different groups of women of color — blacks, Hispanics, native Americans and Asians.
Iman also is being selectively targeted at retail. The initial 200 Penney’s doors, which will be serviced by a separate Iman sales force, were chosen because of their strong ethnic demographics.
Zegras said distribution will be expanded to 250 to 300 doors.

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