NEW YORK — When Gianine Rothschild — a founder of Pookie Products — couldn’t find a quality color-tinted and flavored lip balm, she decided to create one.
This story first appeared in the January 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“There are flavored glosses, but not with color,” explained Rothschild, who, along with college friends Nicole DiPietra and Nanette Guarda, helped cook up Pookie in a kitchen two years ago. The first collection of lip balms did not have color.
Adding color is a big move for a small company that has steadily grown in distribution by standing out from the competition in unique ways. While many large firms have philanthropic efforts, Pookie’s founders decided right from the beginning to give back to the public. A portion of sales of its original collection is donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. A portion of sales of the new Colorbalm items will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Pookie’s product positioning recently caught the attention of specialty store retailer Anthropologie, which will test five flavors in 15 stores. That adds to the list of specialty stores, upscale pharmacies, spas and gift stores selling Pookie. There is a healthy e-commerce business generated by the firm’s Web site. Celebrity users such as Jennifer Garner, Rosie O’Donnell and Kelly Ripa have helped build awareness. Pookie has also generated interest with seasonal specials such as a Valentine balm now featured on its Web site.
Another channel for reaching potential customers has been marketing to brides and parents-to-be. A champagne-flavored balm called I Do has been a huge hit with brides looking for wedding favors, while It’s a Boy and It’s a Girl have become shower favors and birth announcements.
With the launch of color, Pookie’s founders hope to open more doors. Six colors/flavors will ship in March. These are Very Cherry, I Truly Do (champagne flavored), Be Mine Forever, Chocolate, Tangerine and Berry. Suggested retail is $9 for a .15-oz. tube.
Rothschild said the expansion into color is just the beginning of new categories Pookie hopes to enter. “The mood of retailers is more optimistic and they are willing to try more things, so we see opportunities that aren’t limited to lips,” said Rothschild.
Just a few years ago, things looked bleak at Rite Aid after an accounting scandal cast a dark shadow over the chain. New management came in promising to revive the business and now financial analysts expect Rite Aid will report its first profit in years this March. Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded Rite Aid’s ratings, citing the chain’s ability to achieve the revenue and cash flow needed to turn the company around. The turnaround has been accomplished by moves such as the closing of 400 stores as well as improvements in front-end sales.
Beauty has been a major contributor to the uptick in front-end sales. Rite Aid has a magazine featuring beauty items and has always placed a big emphasis on the category. While many retailers have struggled with bath and body, Rite Aid has created a dedicated and easy-to-shop home for the department. The same can be said for other categories such as nail care and ethnic cosmetics. Manufacturers expect beauty will continue to evolve and become even stronger at Rite Aid.
Target isn’t the only mass merchandiser tinkering with its layout. Last week Wal-Mart opened its first urban supercenter in Tampa, Fla. Faced with challenges in bringing its massive supercenter format to urban markets, Wal-Mart has shrunk its footprint. The 99,000-square-foot unit in Tampa features a new look in health and beauty care situated near the pharmacy at the entry of the store. Borrowing from drugstores, the store has a drive-through pharmacy. Since the assortment is tighter, only the fastest-moving stockkeeping units are merchandised. The store also sports a large selection of beauty products merchandised for Hispanics.