NEW YORK — In the Eighties, Primo from Parfums de Coeur grew to be one of the best-selling mass market fragrances by comparing itself to the premium Giorgio scent, then sold only in department and specialty stores. Packages touted the slogan, “If you like Giorgio, you’ll love Primo.”
That same ploy is now being used to promote a host of new skin care products in drugstores. At an Eckerd store in Skillman, N.J., an endcap display features items such as Nulexin and Striadril. These products have stickers on packages comparing them to high-end products or salon services. Nulexin, for example, claims to have the same dark circle prevention ingredients as Hylexin (and a comparison of the labels finds at least five of the exact same ingredients). Nulexin is priced at $39.99 versus a $95 price tag for Hylexin at Sephora.
Striadril has packaging suggesting the product is “better than Botox.” Other items in the Eckerd mix include Dermectin with an enzyme peel for $29.99, and Lip Explosion, a lip plumper for $24.99.
There are, of course, a slew of new high-tech skin care launches from the big players such as L’Oréal and Neutrogena. What separates the niche players such as Nulexin, however, is a unique two-step distribution process that allows them to compete with the megabudgets of L’Oréal or even Procter & Gamble.
Many of these fledgling items are hawked in infomercials as part of what the mass market calls the As Seen on TV category. Many chains such as Walgreens and Rite Aid reserve prime display areas in stores for the items that launch on TV and then are released at retail to an already informed audience.
It is estimated As Seen on TV sales exceed $1.8 billion. Some current top sellers in the genre include Urine Gone, a household cleaner, the Sauna Belt and Salon Bronze. The direct TV market is also known for such memorable items as Boogie Bass, the dancing fish.
Add the exposure from TV to the built-in recognition by linking the products to well-known but more expensive products such as Hylexin, and the sales potential is high. Once the products are available at retail, chains feature the items in advertisements to build further demand. Rite Aid, for example, is promoting Nulexin and Striadril in its circular advertisement.
Selling similar items at reduced prices is not a new concept to mass retailing. At the prescription counter, generics often outsell the original popular Rx items. Private label formulations of everything from Jergens Glow to Pantene line the shelves at any local drug chain. Mass market customers have been trained to trust the options and typically believe they work at least “as well” as the national brands.
Are customers buying the cheaper options? And will they still fork over as much as $40 for a mimic of a prestige brand? Overall skin care sales are up just over 2 percent in food, drug and discount stores to $2.8 billion from $2.59 billion, for the 52-week period ended Dec. 31 (excluding Wal-Mart). One retailer selling the knockoffs said they work best in markets where there are women who have perhaps tried the originals and now want to see if the others hold up to the claims.
There were several management changes at The Jean Coutu Group this week for its Brooks-Eckerd Pharmacy subsidiary, America’s fourth largest drug chain. David Morocco, currently executive vice president of marketing, has been appointed executive vice president of strategic and business initiatives. He will be responsible for overseeing all vendor and trade relations for front end and pharmacy. Morocco is a longtime industry veteran with extensive marketing experience.
Enzo Cerra, another well-known industry face, will assume the role of executive vice president of marketing. He will be responsible for marketing, merchandising, advertising, store replenishment and purchasing. He will become a member of the Brooks-Eckerd executive committee.
Both executives report to Michel Coutu, president of The Jean Coutu Group USA.
The company continues to integrate its purchase of Eckerd into the Brooks fold, a process that has not been easy, but sources said is currently on track.