Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — Almay’s inner spirit is working its way out.
After several years of double-digit growth, Almay lost its steam in the late Nineties. Neutrogena and Olay cosmetics claimed some of the brand’s retail space and sales, and its parent, Revlon, was too mired in debt and inventory overloads to do much about it. Last year Almay’s retail sales fell 7.9 percent to $168.8 million, according to Information Resources Inc. [IRI numbers no longer include sales at Wal-Mart, which, on average, accounts for one-third of the mass beauty business.]
Vanessa Solomon, executive vice president of the Almay and Ultima II brands at Revlon, is trying to put some fire back into the hypoallergenic line by turning it into a brand that represents inner and outer beauty, and not simply a collection of “good for you” products. “Almay has a new personality,” said Solomon. “Almay will help you look beautiful, but also help you feel beautiful.” And that will include the shopping experience, she said.
Thus Almay’s latest move will take place in drugstores this spring when the brand unveils a new fixture that is intended to draw women in with its soft colors and loads of product information. Describing the look as having “feminine elements,” Solomon said they took a “21st-century approach” with the design. Barbara Stoebel, vice president of retail merchandising systems at Revlon, who helped guide the project, said “the wall has found her [the Almay consumer’s] personality.”
The update was a long time coming. It’s been 15 years since Almay introduced a new display.
The new look adds color to the Almay presentation, with headings color coded by product category. Eye products are under a purple header, face items under a beige header and lipsticks are under a red header. The display is not lighted, but has been designed to capture and filter overhead store lighting to softly shade products. A noticeable feature are the three-inch-wide graphic panels that run the length of the display and identify the adjacent products. The panels separate product categories and curve out at the top and bottom, making it easy for shoppers to find products at both ends without struggling. The display also uses “gravity” hooks where products slide to the front when one is removed, an improvement over standard peg hooks, where products remain where they are hung. If not on hooks, products are housed in clear shelving, so the total package shows through.
The Almay wall requires a minimum five-foot space to allow for four one-foot product sections and the four three-inch graphic panels. [Larger versions are also available.] “I want to prove what five feet can do to their business,” said Solomon. Duane Reade, for one, is enthusiastic about the new look and has agreed to expand space for Almay to get it in.
Meanwhile, Almay has been adding new items. Its biggest push over the past year has been the launch of Kinetin skin care and lately Kinetin Skin Smoothing Foundation, which includes the plant-based anti-age ingredient. The new foundation is expected to restore Almay’s lost foundation sales, which dipped 7.2 percent to $49.9 million for the year ended Feb. 24, according to Information Resources Inc. According to IRI data, Almay has more recouping to do. In eye makeup, Almay’s largest category, sales are down 8.1 percent to $54.4 million. New ads are running for Almay’s One Coat mascara to refocus attention on the brand.
To reclaim lip color sales, which have plummeted 30.7 percent to $25.9 million, Almay has introduced Pure Tints, a lip treatment item priced at $4.95 and has lowered the price of its Almay One Coat lip color to $6.95, from $8.95. In July, replacing One Coat as the line’s premium lip color will be Almay Lip Vitality Smoothing Lipcolor with Kinetin. It is priced $8.75. Lip Vitality is said to add definition and make lips appear plumper and fuller. The moisturizing formula provides UVA/UVB protection. It also contains vitamins A, C and E and aloe. Its silver/white case has a pearlized sheen, and the base of each tube has been color-matched to the shade. Otherwise, the shades are identified with a number, not a shade name, and the case clicks when closed. “It is a very luxe product at mass,” remarked Solomon.
There are also two line extensions from Kinetin skin care coming in July, Kinetin Firming and Pore Refining Serum and Kinetin Firming and Brightening Eye Cream.

Ultima II Gets a Makeover
As Solomon works on Almay, there is also a quiet movement afoot to transition the personality of Ultima II, long the most pricy and prestigious cosmetics line at mass. New eye shadows are being packaged in black lacquer compacts, with a clear plastic outer package. Gone are the yellow compacts with black trim and matching cardboard boxes. Yet, Solomon said, the brand will retain its upscale price range. New eye shadows are priced at $11 for a wet/dry shadow pot and $15 for Re-Flective, a powder eye shadow duo.
Solomon explained that the brand, whose largest customer is J.C. Penney, is “going back to its roots” with an eye toward trendy and breakthrough products. “We are trying to bring a makeup artist feel to the brand,” said Solomon, who noted that Ultima II’s Lip Sexy was transformed into Revlon’s blockbuster ColorStay lip color. Ultima recently launched a new fragrance called Ultimately U and is expanding that with a scented body wash and body lotion. Both are priced $15 for a 6-oz. tube.
There will be more to come in product innovation from Ultima, stressed Solomon. Besides J.C. Penney, the brand is carried in select Walgreens and CVS stores.

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