TURNING UP THE VOLTAGE

Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — Mass market beauty retailers hope to add more clicks to their bricks this holiday season.
For two years, drug and discount retailers have only dabbled with online retailing. For most drugstores, the sites were primarily for pharmacy refill orders. Mass merchants sold primarily big-ticket electronics or easy-to-ship merchandise such as books and CDs.
This year is different.
Mass marketers have fine-tuned their e-commerce models at a time when consumer confidence about ordering on the Web has risen. There has been a shakeout of competitive beauty sites that once posed challenges for mass merchants such as beautybuys.com, ingredients.com and planetRx.
Conventional wisdom has always been that consumers would not buy small and inexpensive items such as mascara or lipstick online. The items just weren’t economic to buy and ship. The stakes have changed, however, during holidays — when merchants can offer more expensive fragrance and bath sets.
The confluence of these factors also comes on the heels of the attacks on New York and Washington that have caused more consumers to reconsider shopping online. Jupiter Media Metrix anticipates online holiday sales will hit $10 billion for 2001, up 15 percent over last year. The company predicts consumers will spend $199 billion online in 2005.
An opportunity to scoop up additional sales via the net is crucial for mass retailers, who are looking to plump up their bottom line. Drug chains, in particular, are searching for ways to eke out more sales from the front-end — or non-pharmacy — departments in their stores. The sale of high margin cosmetics and fragrances over the Internet is one remedy.
Mass marketers are getting more aggressive with cyber retailing. CVS.com, for example, e-mailed members of its shopper loyalty program, Extra Care, a message to check out special fragrance deals such as Drakkar Noir priced at $30 for a 1.7-ounce bottle. Beauty is relatively new to the CVS e-commerce site and has its own icon announcing the debut. Other items touted on the CVS.com site include a Color Workshop collection priced at $3.99 and a Red Door gift set with three products priced at $23.99.
CVS isn’t the only drug chain making it easy to buy prestige scents at the stroke of a key. Walgreens.com offers virtually every scent from Adidas to White Shoulders on its site, all in alphabetical order. Eckerd.com advertises all of its cosmetics at savings up to 10 percent and even offers beauty and makeup tips.
One of the most unique sites is Rite Aid, which has an ownership stake in drugstore.com. Rite Aid, through this partnership, has a link to beauty.com. That means that patrons to Rite Aid.com can also access prestige lines such as Paula Dorf and Shu Uemura.
Sources at mass beauty sites have seen increased interest in beauty-related goods this Yule — especially those associated with pampering. At drugstore.com, a company spokeswoman said there has been an uptick this year in spa-related merchandise such as foot spas.
Discounters aren’t overlooking e-commerce, either. Target, Wal-Mart and Kmart all rewired their e-commerce sites this year to prepare for the holidays. The sites are more consumer-friendly and loaded with an increase in stockkeeping units. Kmart, for example, tripled the number of its items it offers, from 90,000 to 250,000. Wal-Mart improved its navigation to use category tabs that run across the top of the page. Target uses its private-label Sonia Kashuk cosmetics line as one of the main features on the site.
For holiday, Target has a special gift icon that connects to prestige scents such as a minicollection of fragrances including Wings, Cool Water, White Diamonds, White Shoulders and Passion priced at $23.99. Wal-Mart.com even offers consumers a gift with purchase on Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. For $47.47, shoppers get three Cashmere Mist sku’s and a tote. By ordering on the Internet, shoppers can get the gwp — a sales process that is impossible to pull off in bricks-and-mortar stores because of a lack of dedicated beauty consultants.
The improvement of mass Web sites shows that chains such as Wal-Mart and Walgreens aren’t going to let prestige or pure-play competitors pass them by in cyberspace.

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