TWEEN TIME AT RETAIL
Byline: Laura Klepacki
LIVINGSTON, N.J. — Decorated like a girl’s bedroom with a sashed curtain in the front window and a pink-checkered headboard behind the checkout, the new Velvet Pixies store here is out to win the hearts of tweens.
Velvet Pixies, a new store concept being tested by Claire’s Accessories, opened at the Livingston Mall in March. Two other units opened late last year in Roosevelt Field, N.Y., and Rockaway, N.J.
But Velvet Pixies isn’t the only specialty retailer in this New Jersey shopping center tempting the six-to-12 set with its beauty assortments. Last Friday, 100% Girls, a two-year-old division of Urban Brands, opened a store. And on Monday, Limited Too, located on the same concourse, between the two newcomers, launched a frequent-shopper program for cosmetics and bath and body items. For every 10 beauty products purchased, Limited Too shoppers will receive a free item.
Following in the pattern of junior apparel chains like Mandies, Hot Topic and Charlotte Russe, retailers developing tween stores consider beauty an inevitable part of the mix.
Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, said she wasn’t surprised by the movement. “Consumers are so willing to buy anything, anywhere, including cosmetics — especially if you have the right image and fashion accessories to go along with it.”
Liebmann said she was witnessing two growth trends. One is larger retailers such as Wal-Mart getting bigger and attracting more shoppers. “On the other side of the scale, smaller, specialty retailers are creating uniquely whimsical experiences,” she said. Sonia Rohan, a spokeswoman for Claire’s, described Velvet Pixies as a “test store concept targeting seven-to-12-year-olds with branded merchandise and a small amount of private label.” She said beauty and bath and body items represented about 10 percent of the business — and if the stores prove successful, more will be added.
At the Livingston unit, gels and lotions, including 6.8-oz. bottles of “Groovy Chick” hand and nail cream, were displayed across the top of an oversized wooden dresser on the left side of the store. A bottle of the cream is $5.50. A 20-oz. body gel is $8.50.
In the left rear corner, a 3-foot section was devoted to beauty, including glitter lip gloss pots for $4 and key chains. Bottled Energy Glitzy Lotion and Ice It! Body Glitter, items from Claire’s private label line, and some Traffic Jam items were among the merchandise. Despite the set areas, beauty products were displayed throughout the store, decorating other fixtures.
The walls and fixtures were a mix of pastel colors dominated by pink and purple. Curtains of various materials and colors draped the dressing room stalls, and clusters of stars hung from the ceiling of the store.
At 100% Girls, the decor was decidedly youthful, but with an energetic urban feel. Music pulsed from speakers as music videos played on monitors mounted on the ceiling. A silver disco ball hung in the ceiling’s center.
The interior decor was in pastel shades spotted with zebra prints. The wall behind the cashier resembled a heart-shaped vanity mirror. On the left wall was a display of bath gels and lotions promotionally priced at $2.99. In the room’s center was a round fixture with bath gift sets for $12.99, down from the regular $14.99. Flavors included Bubblehead and Warm Blueberry Muffin. A small selection of cosmetics sets, at $4.99 and $5.99, was on pegs near the register. Further back in the store was another selection of single gels and lotions, including a Root Beer flavor.
Limited Too, drawing on its Bath & Body Works heritage, offered by far the widest selection of cosmetics and bath and body products, such as antibacterial hand gels. The chain, spun off last year, was once part of Intimate Brands, of which B&BW and Victoria’s Secret are divisions.
Beauty was prominently displayed in the front left corner of the store on freestanding racks and on the wall. Signs alerted customers to the newest products, which included a collection of cosmetics implements and an eyebrow color wand. Store associates promoted the new frequent shopper program. One woman remarked that the program was good for little girls who only buy cosmetics in the store.
The mall also includes a Rite Aid on a level above. But unlike the specialty retailers, this store has an assortment that offered little for young girls. It carried a promotional display of Bonne Bell, a couple jars of Bon Bons nail polish and a prepack of Girlie Talk cosmetics sets from Markwins.
Because of competition from specialty retailers, mass, drug and food players have been rethinking how to merchandise beauty. And several bath manufacturers [see story page 10] are developing lines that could help create a boutique feel.
For the specialty players are intent on growth. In addition to Claire’s exploration of the market with Velvet Pixies, Limited Too, which has 350 stores, plans to expand this year, as does 100% Girls, which will more than double its size. According to its Web site, 100% Girls now has about 25 stores in operation and another 30 are slated to open soon.