RITE AID ADDS MAGIC WITH SPA SWAMI

Byline: Andrea M. Grossman

NEW YORK — “Abracadabra” may be the magic word, but for Rite Aid executives, its “Spa Swami” that could open doors.
No, Rite Aid’s plunge into wizardry isn’t part of a magic act, but rather the theme for a new bath and body collection. Spa Swami, a 16-stockkeeping-unit private label bath line targeting tweens, is Rite Aid’s latest effort to further grow its private label bath business, arguably the most successful in the drugstore industry. While Rite Aid would not comment on its annual private label bath sales, industry sources estimate the entire business could generate approximately $5 million annually.
Some competitors’ bath lines have not fared as well. Recently, Eckerd Drug Stores discontinued its private label bath line, Comfy, one that targeted mom’s with kids.
Others, such as CVS’ Essence of Beauty, are generating healthy performances. Essence of Beauty even began a hair care offering last year. Longs Drug Stores, according to a company spokesperson, has achieved modest success with Spa Essence, its private label bath line. Walgreens jumped aboard the private label bath trend last month with Secrets of Paradise, a line too new to gauge.
One aspect separating Rite Aid’s private label bath business from the pack is that it’s defined with specific brands to appeal to different demographics. Pure Spring targets the trendier shopper, Elsewhere appeals to the more traditional bath buyer and Soaked in Tickles is designed for children.
Enter Spa Swami.
With four different lines and flavors that follow a mysticism theme, Spa Swami is designed to appeal to kids between the ages of seven and 12 years old. Spa Swami includes Enlightenment Body Lotion, Supernatural Scentsations Body Mist, Viva La Diva Bubble Bath and Astral Shower Body Wash. Fragrances range from Luna Wave, a mixture of tangerine, orange blossom and citrus zest, to Planet Love, a bubble gum mixture of watermelon, apricot and grapefruit, to Moon Beam, a berry and fruit formula with raspberry, pear blossom and white grape, to Jet Star, a melon and berry scent with dew melon, strawberry and honeydew.
To create uniformity, each sku bears a logo featuring a girl wearing a top hat and peering into a crystal ball. Some containers resemble beakers, others take the shape of a Halston perfume bottle. Black bottle caps are impregnated with glitter, as are Spa Swami’s formulas. Products are line-priced at $5.99 and launch in Rite Aid stores in mid-May.
Rite Aid discontinued its relationship with Mana Products, its former private label supplier, in September and is now using the services of Private Perfumery, a firm based in Chicago. According to Judy Wray, Rite Aid’s category manager for cosmetics and skin care, Perfumery best followed Wray’s list of criteria for the new line. Among her requests was that all bidders should follow a mystical, magical, supernatural theme that was fun for the tween audience, and one that would be attractive to parents so that they can play an integral part in teaching kids good grooming habits. Bidders were also instructed to keep a value price point in mind, but one that would allow for a high-quality product.
Several factors led Wray to choose such themes, namely the success of the Harry Potter novels and the subsequent hit movie. A trend report in the Dec. 24 issue of Home Furnishing News, a trade magazine published by Fairchild Publications, also listed mysticism as the number-two trend to influence 2002, Wray noted.
Spa Swami will be merchandised in the bath section of the beauty quadrant in Rite Aid, alongside Pure Spring. Point of purchase and on-counter displays will advertise the line, as will appearances in the chain’s 14 million circulars this June.
Wray edited down the number of Calgon and Sarah Michaels products to make room on crowded bath shelves for Spa Swami. “We found that we had a better share of market,” Wray said.
In response to the question of why Rite Aid chose to develop a private label bath line before a private label cosmetics line, Wray said, “I have seen what our peer group has done with cosmetics…and I thought the opportunity is better and bigger in bath than it was in cosmetics. At the end of the day, you have to look at the cost, and I saw myself being able to satisfy fashion and unique needs better with bath and body than with cosmetics.”
Wray also cited the success of Pure Spring and Soaked in Tickles as two additional reasons why bath continues to be a focus for Rite Aid’s private label business. To emphasize her point, Wray discussed some planned line extensions this May. Under Pure Spring, a Soy line and a Honey line are scheduled to bow. Under Soaked, Soaked in Giggles and Soaked in Cuddles will follow suit.

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