DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

NEW YORK — It is a competitive time for mass market beauty.
Challenged by the expansion of specialty retailers as well as Internet start-ups into the beauty category, mass marketers are looking at ways to lure new shoppers while improving the productivity of departments. With those goals in mind, numerous retailers have been unveiling aggressive programs to sharpen their beauty focus.
Over the past year, some mass market chains have begun testing new cosmetics fixtures that replace manufacturer-supplied units. The idea is that by using their own displays, retailers will have more control over inventory management and department maintenance. The flip side, manufacturers fear, is that brand identity will be lost on a uniform wall where the ability to differentiate is limited.
At the same time, retailers are becoming more interested in developing private label beauty lines as another way to set themselves apart. The efforts first emerged in the bath and body category and are now appearing in color cosmetics. Until recently, cosmetics had been considered off limits for private label. The extensive product assortment that was required, as well as the need to keep abreast of fashion trends, was considered too difficult to tackle for most retailers.
But the advances of retailers like Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, along with the ubiquitous appearance of cosmetics at unlikely places, such as 7-Eleven, have pushed traditional mass chains to step outside their comfort zone.
Appearing on pages four through seven is a sampling of innovative efforts now being made by cutting-edge retailers.

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