GRL LAB: CVS’S TEEN SCIENCE PROJECT

Byline: Laura Klepacki

PHILADELPHIA — CVS is out to prove a hypothesis.
If drugstores offer a selection of trendy beauty, jewelry and accessory items in a display that is relevant to a junior lifestyle, then teenage girls will come shop.
So CVS is doing just that — and with a unique drugstore spin. Giving a nod to its core business — pharmacy — CVS unveiled its much-anticipated teen beauty center “Grl Lab” this month. The teen section’s logo is a flower with mauve petals and a green stem propped in a blue laboratory beaker.
In the chain’s second busiest store in the Philadelphia market, CVS has had a four-foot-by-three-foot prototype of “Grl Lab” up and running for about a month. Store manager Mike Stenderowicz said it is getting a good response.
To draw attention to the display — which is part of the beauty department — hanging from the ceiling is a “Grl Lab” sign. The sign — resembling a Periodic Table of Chemical Elements familiar to high school science students — highlights a series of two-letter symbols. When linked together, the letters read: “Never has going to lab been this much fun.” In a company marketing materials, CVS refers to the Grl Lab program as “The Science of Cool.”
Throughout the chain, 2,800 of it’s 4,200 plus doors are expected to have the “Grl Lab” department in place by the end of October.
“Grl Lab is off to an outstanding start in terms of interest from teens and in sales,” said Larry Zigerelli, executive vice president, corporate development at CVS. “During Back to School, we had some of these cool products for teens. We had offered them in seasonal end of aisle displays, prior to putting Grl Lab in.”
He said CVS has also just relaunched its hair accessories collection for teens. “I believe we have the largest selection of any drugstore,” said Zigerelli. “Grl Lab is an extension of the teen programs we have been doing for the past year.”
“We expect Grl Lab to be a cornerstone for us to have a major share of teen spending across many categories, not just on the teen center,” said Zigerelli. CVS intends to seize on trends as well. “If there is a neat new teen camera, we will put it on Grl Lab and not restrict it [the display] to the body glitters and other trinkets.
“What we hope is that Grl Lab reinforces that we understand teens and that we want CVS to be their destination for beauty products.”
CVS is using Cover Girl’s Shade Central — the lighted center piece of the brand’s new in-store wall unit — as an anchor for its Grl Lab department. Shade Central features an interactive shade selector, room for new Cover Girl products and also offers saleable samples.The other three sides of the display house a range of products from stuffed animals to handbags, although the bulk is beauty products sourced from a wide variety of manufacturers. But there is also a supply of photo frames, stationery and even diaries. The highest-priced item in the Harbison Avenue store was a bedroom lamp for $9.99. Keychains, barrettes, earrings, bangle bracelets and even a comb-in hair color item was also part of the mix.
CVS has also added bins of its own Essence of Beauty cosmetics such as nail polishes and lip gloss. One novelty item was stackable lipgloss packaged in a cardboard apple. However, Essence of Beauty items do not dominate the display.
CVS’s “Grl Lab” program reflects the growing concern among drug chains that they are losing beauty sales to the rising crop of specialty stores catering to the youth market [see related story on adjoining page.] Even mass merchandisers are doing better luring teens because of their ability to cross-merchandise music CDs and fashion with beauty.
With this major initiative, CVS hopes to get a jump on its drug chain competitors. In a memo explaining its teen program, CVS said, “We want to be the first, best and the market leaders.”
And the company is apparently taking the long-term view. Its marketing plans also state that CVS “will capture the teen consumer early by establishing shopping habits and retail relationships that will continue well through adulthood.”
Grl Lab merchandise is expected to change every 30 days to keep the display fresh and interesting, according to Zigerelli..
As for its role, Anne Martin, manager, global cosmetics marketing for Procter & Gamble cosmetics, said Cover Girl, “welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Grl Lab program. CVS owned the inception and execution of the in-store program and Cover Girl provided additional expertise and consumer insight.”
Martin said that Cover Girl will continue to work with CVS to “provide teens with an easy, fun and cool shopping environment.”
Michael Kaplan, vice president of Added Extras, one of numerous brands showcased on Grl Lab, thinks CVS is moving in the right direction.
“CVS has started to chase the teenage customer. They are taking a very proactive role and capitalizing on it well. They have six to eight promotional cycles and the prices are tremendous values in comparison to what’s at the specialty stores. They’ll do the volume and get the margins.” Referring to its new snowglobe item, Kaplan commented, “We’re excited about our globe, it is a custom mold filled with cosmetics.”

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