NEW YORK — Mass merchants want customers to jump into the tub with their private label brands.
House labels have always been a staple for food, drug and discount stores in commodity categories such as shampoo and paper towels. Conventional wisdom, however, was that shoppers crave well-known names when it came to bath and beauty. That theory is being blasted out of the water.
The most recent example is Eckerd Drug Stores’ bath and body collection, called Comfy. Kathy Steirly, vice president of beauty marketing for the drugstore chain, based in Clearwater, Fla., said the line is designed for use by mothers and children. “It is for bath times for one or both together,” she said of the line launched in February.
Produced by Mana Products of Long Island City, N.Y., Comfy includes bubble bath, lotion, powder, soap, wash suds and even a candle. Whimsical names include Laugh Out Loud bubble bath, including a bubble-blowing wand, and Butter Me Up Baby Lotion. Prices range from $4.99 for bubble bath to $9.99 for a gift set.
Packaging features Comfy’s mascot — a ladybug. According to Steirly, a ladybug embedded in glycerin soap is the bestseller to date.
Lorraine Coyle, vice president of marketing for Eckerd, said the products are designed to encourage pampering and relaxation. “We know how difficult it is for any working mom to balance the demands of work with the emotional needs of her family,” she said. “Eckerd is well aware that moms want to be more actively involved in the lives of their children.” According to figures from the Census Bureau, there are more than 32 million mothers in the United States, and of those, 73 percent work for pay. “As the number of working mothers continues to increase, corporate America will have to respond by recognizing their unique issues,” said Melonie Berry, founder That includes, she said, “the desire of working mothers to find balance between work and family obligations.”
Eckerd is merchandising Comfy on a special floor display near cosmetics.
Eckerd isn’t alone in its efforts to take the bath category into its own hands. Rite Aid, ShopRite, Wal-Mart and Target are among the mass merchants nurturing their own brands. Many programs are modeled after the success of Canada’s Shoppers Drug Mart, which has offered its own line, Rialto, for several years. Target has also been an inspiration for merchants looking to bypass national brands in favor of house labels. Buyers said there are several advantages to private labels. For one thing, it is easier to get in and out of trendy ingredients — and control the space devoted to the brands. There are also higher profit margins in house brands, according to Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association in New York.
Several retailers also contend that innovation on the part of branded manufacturers has diminished with consolidation in the market. For instance, the Dial Corp. now owns Sarah Michaels and Freeman. So retailers say they are forced to do it themselves.
Even suppliers said there’s pressure to be in private label to offer something different. “Retailers are paring back what they have to three or four brands, including a private label,” said a source for a major bath brand.
A final impetus for the push in private label is the wildfire success Sephora has had with its own products, according to buyers.
According to Sharoff, store brands now account for one of every five items sold every day in the mass stores, representing retail sales of $43.3 billion. Efforts on the part of retailers to “brand” their own stores has made private labels acceptable, he said. In a recent Gallup poll, consumers defined store brands as having the same degree of positive product qualities as national logos. In the same survey, 83 percent of consumers said they purchase private labels on a regular basis.

Mary Manning, who helped conceive many Coty blockbuster fragrances such as Adidas Moves and Stetson, has resigned as of March 3, 2000. She was most recently senior vice president, international development and licensing for Coty Inc. Manning worked at Coty U.S., now Coty Beauty, for more than 23 years.
“I wish Mary Manning all the best in her future endeavors. She accomplished great things while at Coty and has left us with a great legacy of work,” said Peter Harf, chairman and chief executive officer of Coty Inc. “Mary’s legacy here continues in the people with whom she worked and the relationships she forged.”
Harf also announced that Anastasia Ayala has been promoted to senior vice president Global Marketing of Coty Beauty. A five-year veteran of Coty, Ayala will manage an international department charged with driving the expansion of The Healing Garden, Calgon and Adidas brands for Coty Beauty, and the globalization of other key U.S. brands in Europe and abroad. Ayala is overseeing the introduction of ZZZ Theraphy due in stores this fall and Junipertheraphy, another addition to The Healing Garden. “I look forward to strengthening the consumer awareness of these brands worldwide,” said Ayala in a statement.
Most recently, Ayala was senior vice president, Global Team Rimmel and Cutex Europe. Based in London at that time, she lead efforts on the successful worldwide expansion of Rimmel London. Her efforts resulted in the recent introduction of Rimmel to the U.S. in Wal-Mart.
“Anastasia’s appointment is important as we continue Coty’s strategy to globalize our most successful brands in the U.S. and abroad,” adds Harf. “She truly understands international consumer markets.”

Wegmans, which opened its first New Jersey store last year, likes the Garden State enough to plan two more units. A 120,000-square-foot store is planned for Bridgewater, N.J. Also, a store is planned in the Manalapan, N.J., area with company officials said to be scouting other sites in the state. The 59-store chain is known for high levels of service and huge assortments. Based in Rochester, N.Y., Wegmans has stores in New York State, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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