BOUNCING BACK TO HEALTH

Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — Once-ailing Physicians Formula is now the picture of health.
At the National Association of Chain Drug Store Marketplace show in June, new products from the company were the talk of the show for many buyers.
Layana Palmore, category manager at Drug Emporium, said the line has been growing “double digits” in her stores. This spring, space devoted to the brand was expanded by a foot, she noted. And she’s working with the company to bring in the new items for 2001 and improve its displays by segmenting trendy products from the traditional corrective items.
It’s a far cry from where the brand was this time two years ago. Even Ingrid Jackel, vice president of marketing for the company, recalls days not too far away when the brand feared for its future.
“We were questionable at that time,” recalls Jackel. That time refers to the period leading up to the much anticipated Oil of Olay and Neutrogena cosmetics 1999 launches. Retailers, who reset departments every spring, had to make painful decisions in order to bring in the new and heavily advertised lines. Physicians Formula, with a line of useful, but dated corrective products, had been a target for many. Its positioning as a skin care line was similar to both Olay’s and Neutrogena’s.
But in the fall of 1998, the brand made a quick scramble which somehow resulted in a smooth introduction of the first series of unique beauty items, such as its Pearls of Perfection powder compact and Eyebrightener color for eyes. The company also unveiled plans for its first TV ad campaign. “We knew we had to react drastically and quickly,” said Jackel.
Now the brand’s sales are growing by double digits, fueled by a collection of color products that bring a prestige sensibility to the mass market. At the same time, the company has maintained its authority as a dermatologist brand with unique foundation formulations and delivery systems and updated twists on green and yellow cover sticks.
As the company moves to bring even more trendy color items into its line, advertising plans for 2001 will continue to include television. And for the first time, placements will be made in teen magazines on top of the usual adult beauty books.
Jeff Rogers, senior vice president of sales at Physicians Formula, a division of Paris-based Pierre Fabre, said sales are expected to be up 38 percent by yearend 2000 over 1999 to about $35 million wholesale. Sales have grown in existing accounts, but there have also been significant distribution gains. The brand was expanded from 300 Target stores chainwide. It also went chainwide in Wal-Mart.
A long-term goal is to have the brand, now in 16,000 doors, reach a distribution of 20,000 to 25,000 doors.
Jackel has spent more time designing products to fit into emerging lifestyles and trends. Several are planned for January 2001.
A promotional eye shadow collection called Planet Eyes, planned as a summer promotion, will become a basic stock item next year. Six planets offer a mix of iridescent and matte shades. They come in Earth, Jupiter, Mercury, Neptune, Saturn and Mars, retailing at $5.95 each.
There is also Aqua Powder, a loose powder that is 50 percent water, that leaves a cool feeling when applied. “The water dissolves on contact with skin,” said Jackel. It comes in three versions: highlighter, translucent and bronze. Each price at $11.95.
“We also wanted to jazz up the blush category,” said Jackel. The result is Planet Blush, a powder blush in a package with a clear globe-shaped lid. A compact is $9.95.
There is also an extension to the Pearls of Perfection, highlighting and bronzing powders. The color pearls will now be offered in a gel formula. A bottle is priced at $12.95.
And in the skin care segment, Physicians Formula is adding swirled moisturizers in four varieties, called Mood Swirls. Temptress, in pink, contains orchid and gingko biloba; Globe Trotter features grapefruit and lemongrass; Zen offers chamomile and ylang-ylang, and Cyber has spearmint and ginseng.

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