WAL-MART TESTS BEAUTY CONCEPT

Byline: Faye Brookman

ORLANDO, Fla. — For the last six months, Wal-Mart has been testing its own uniform cosmetics fixtures in a sprawling 200,000-square-foot store here.
Although beauty manufacturers invest millions in fixtures to make their brands stand out, Wal-Mart is tinkering with its own shelving that makes department resets easier. According to sources at the store, located just northeast of downtown Orlando, the new fixtures have encouraged shoppers to try brands beyond traditional Revlon and Cover Girl. This is not the first time Wal-Mart has used Orlando to test new concepts.
The gray plastic fixtures used by Wal-Mart make cosmetics appear almost space age — a fitting style for a store located in a city known for Disney World. On top of each fixture is a small canopy equipped with lights so that all merchandise is illuminated. In other Wal-Mart stores, only Oil of Olay is lit, thanks to lighting built in by the manufacturer.
Located just beyond the pharmacy, cosmetics is kicked off with an endcap devoted to shade breaks. On a recent visit, that prime location was turned over to Cover Girl’s new Sheer Karma.
What’s evident about the fixture and shelves — which snap into slotted shelving — is that Wal-Mart can easily control how much footage it allocates to brands.
Traditionally, manufacturers make their fixtures available in specific sizes. If buyers want to add a few more inches, they must opt for an entire foot. At Wal-Mart, however, there’s 4 1/2 feet of Revlon and 1 1/2 feet of Almay. Those two brands kick off the department. Bold graphics are affixed to the shelves to show consumers new looks.
The next row of fixtures is the home for eight feet of L’Oreal, four feet of Neutrogena and four feet of Oil of Olay. The third aisle is dedicated to Wal-Mart’s Trend Zone — a collection of products targeted to teens. A store associate said the fixtures have been attracting young shoppers. Signs single out the area as the Trend Zone and the brands stocked include Jane, StreetWear, CG Smoothers and Bonne Bell. StreetWear has a graphics frame that can be changed to reflect new styles and colors.
New York Color NYC, Bari Cosmetics, Coty’s Air Spun Powder and nail assortments from Sally Hansen round out the cosmetics assortment.
Fragrances are in the next aisle, and are organized using a design created by fragrance leader Coty Inc. Using Information Resources Inc. data, Coty tells the chain what the top-selling fragrances are and the brands are positioned in that order — much as books are arranged in a bookstore. Currently, the top three sellers are Vanilla Fields, Vanderbilt and Jovan. There’s also a locked glass case with more expensive scents.
Next to fragrances are facial skin care products. New facial items, such as Pond’s Clear Solution, are promoted on end-of-aisle displays. A photograph of the beauty adviser is hung on one endcap and a sign promotes her personal product suggestion — which, in this case, was Biore.
The final aisle of beauty is devoted to bath products. The offerings include Sarah Michaels, The Healing Garden and Simply Basic. Although Wal-Mart is experimenting with large bath boutiques, this store has only 12 feet of bath products and accessories.
Located in a blue-collar area, this supercenter features an auto shop, a bank, a full grocery assortment and a salon. What’s notable about the salon, owned by Regis, is that it gives the store the opportunity to sell under its roof salon shampoos such as Joico, Sebastian, Regis and Paul Mitchell.
Wal-Mart introduced the supercenter concept 10 years ago. One hundred fifty new supercenters were launched in 1999, bringing the store base to more than 700 by yearend.
Wal-Mart isn’t the only chain experimenting with its own fixtures. Target has opened its version and several drug chains are said to be planning tests. Manufacturers are carefully gauging the success of the ventures — especially because they have invested so much in displays. Some aren’t sure the displays have pizzazz.
“I’m suggesting that retailers can create a department, but continue to let manufacturers enhance that image by having individuality — so that it becomes somewhat of a cosmetics bazaar, as opposed to a cosmetics warehouse,” said John Wendt, president of Maybelline, earlier this year.
Revlon’s president, Jeffrey Nugent, has expressed concern that universal fixtures could become boring to shoppers.
Retailers counter, however, that they must do something to differentiate their stores. “There’s been so much consolidation and we are all looking at our stores now to see how we can show customers that we are special,” said Larry Zigerelli of the CVS drug store chain.
The concept of retailers constructing their own beauty shelving isn’t foreign to mass retailing. In the late Seventies, most retailers used standard pegboards to hang blister-carded products. The chains also merchandised by type of product rather than brand — for example, all mascaras together. It wasn’t until Noxell, which owned Cover Girl at that time, introduced the first manufacturer-produced fixture that things started changing. Eventually, most retailers converted to vendor-supplied shelving.
The success of Sephora in the upscale market has enticed mass marketers to look at changing the way they present beauty. Also, the launch of a bevy of new brands has retailers struggling to reset shelves. Most buyers think creating their own fixtures will provide more flexibility to squeeze in new stockkeeping units.

As expected, Timothy Noonan has resigned from Rite Aid Corp. Noonan briefly was chief executive of the chain, following the departure last year of Martin Grass. Prior to that, he was president and chief operating officer under Grass, who left shortly after Rite Aid announced it would make a $500 million downward restatement of pretax profits for the past three fiscal year.
Noonan was the interim chief executive until he was succeeded last December by a new team headed by current Rite Aid chairman and ceo Robert Miller. Until now, Noonan has served as a consultant.

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