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Sassaby Tries a New Niche: Cosmetics

NEW YORK -- For the last three years, Sassaby Inc. has staked its livelihood on making cosmetics organizers. Now the company is hoping to fill them.

The 144-item color cosmetics line will be aimed at young women, aged 12 to 18, the same user...

NEW YORK — For the last three years, Sassaby Inc. has staked its livelihood on making cosmetics organizers. Now the company is hoping to fill them.

The 144-item color cosmetics line will be aimed at young women, aged 12 to 18, the same user base that buys Sassaby’s organizers.

Sassaby has created a new brand, Jane Cosmetics, that will make its debut in July. The line initially will be distributed in a total of 800 Target and Wal-Mart doors, according to Don Pettit, president of Sassaby Cosmetics, a wholly owned subsidiary set up by Sassaby to market the new brand.

Pettit, a 13-year veteran of Noxell Corp. and Procter & Gamble, is planning to expand distribution to 4,500 mass outlets by the first half of next year and into 9,000 doors by 1996. “We felt that the Sassaby image and even its logo were bigger than organizers,” Pettit said. “Company research showed us that Sassaby was considered wild, colorful and exciting. We thought that all of these associations would make for a cosmetics line.

“We chose the name ‘Jane’ because we wanted something unexpected, yet personable and personifiable,” Pettit added, noting that Sassaby got further impetus to launch a cosmetics line following the company’s Christmas promotion last year.

“Sassaby packaged private label cosmetics in its boxes for Christmas that did more than well enough for us to venture into the category in a bigger way,” he said. The packaging, created by Sterling Design of New York, is basic black jazzed up with Sassaby’s traditional hot pink and turquoise graphics. The line will be featured in a three-foot black freestanding unit, with the same bold accents as the packaging.

“We purposely kept the line uncarded so it would stand out,” Pettit said. “If you walk into a store that has 80 feet of cosmetics, 60 feet of it is on white cards. It is confusing and difficult to distinguish between lines.”

The display will also hold eight different color brochures that offer tips and makeup advice in a humorous fashion, such as “How to Give Good Lip.”

Jennifer Balbier, product development consultant, helped create the line, which consists of 24 lipsticks in four finishes — matte, shimmer, satin and matte/frost — lip pencils, powders, lip glosses, foundations, tinted moisturizers, concealers, blushers, eye shadows, eye liners, eyebrow pencils and mascaras in regular and waterproof formulas.

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There are also cosmetics accessories that include makeup sponges and brushes.

The products have been given offbeat names such as No-Show Concealers, Lip Huggers lipsticks, Eye Zingers eye shadows and Highbrow eyebrow pencils. The Gliding Eyeliner pencils are billed as “klutz-proof.”

The shades, inspired by prestige market brands, include a mix of matte neutrals and shimmery colors designed to be compatible with a broad range of skin tones.

Each item will be line-priced at $2.99. Trial-sized samples of the lipstick, foundation and mascara will be available for 79 cents.

“We think there is an enormous price gap in mass market cosmetics that leaves us an opportunity,” Pettit said. “On the one hand, you have Revlon with lipsticks that have a suggested retail of $6.50 and Cover Girl whose lipsticks are around $4.39. These prices don’t leave a lot of room for a mass market consumer to make multiple purchases and experiment.

“On the other end of the spectrum are companies like Wet ‘N’ Wild, whose lipsticks have a suggested retail price of 99 cents. There is not a whole lot in between.”

While Pettit declined to give a sales projection, industry sources estimated that the Jane line will generate a wholesale volume of some $10 million in the first year, which would match last year’s box business.

Sassaby will back the brand with $2 million to $3 million in print advertising this year, Pettit said.

While the media schedule is not yet complete, Pettit noted that a four or five-page insert is scheduled to break in five magazines in July. The insert will contain a coupon for a free mascara with any full-sized purchase.

The company is then planning to run three to four ads per month for the next 11 months, Pettit said.

To further promote the brand, the company wants to go online with the Prodigy computer network in August. The bulletin board, which will be called Jane’s Brain, will be used to get feedback from their customers.

“This is a very current way for us to stay connected with our audience,” Pettit said, adding that the bulletin board will be left on at all times so that Jane users can “talk” to each other.

“It is also a way for us to identify the causes they care about,” he said, adding that twice a year Sassaby lets consumers name a new product that has been developed. The company will then donate the proceeds from the new product to a charity chosen by consumers, who will cast their votes via the network.