Owned brands fill gaps, drive differentiation


 As part of its quest to be the most loved and shopped beauty destination, Walgreens offers an array of its “owned brands.” These chain exclusives fill in gaps in assortments or offer tremendous value, according to Kina Guyton, Walgreens director of beauty owned brands.

As part of its quest to be the most loved and shopped beauty destination, Walgreens offers an array of its “owned brands.” These chain exclusives fill in gaps in assortments or offer tremendous value, according to Kina Guyton, Walgreens director of beauty owned brands.

“Our owned brand portfolio supports the vision that everything we do is with the customer in mind and how we provide her with the right assortment and pricing,” Guyton said. “We offer everything from masstige, such as No7 and Botanics; such national brand equivalents as Studio 35 (skin care, implements and accessories); and those with their own distinction, including our baby line Well Beginnings and Ology, a well-being collection free of harmful chemicals.”

Walgreens is adding two innovative beauty exclusives — Colour Prevails and Circa. Both initiatives will be housed in a variety of fixture sizes with ample sampling and trial. Consumer feedback encouraged Walgreens to create an environment where consumers could experiment and get samples from trained associates. The brands won’t be launched in all doors, but have a nationwide presence within carefully curated stores with the strongest beauty consumers.

Colour Prevails was created by Nonie Creme, the genius behind Butter London who is ready to take her “respectful disruptive” approach to mass market beauty categories.

“Prestige doesn’t have the reach that I want at this stage of my life and career,” said 43-year-old Creme, who came to fame as one of the first lead nail artists to work behind the scenes at fashion week and various photo shoots in London. “It can be expensive, it can feel very exclusive and I want to do something that has a really broad reach.”

That hit all the right chords with Walgreens where executives are looking for authentic collaborators like Creme, explained Guyton. The company already knew of the demand for her products since Duane Reade had a hit with Butter London. The new 140-SKU Colour Prevails line includes nail colors with a patent-pending technology that allows a consumer to place her finger along the applicator to help her paint her nails. But Colour Prevails runs the gamut of all color cosmetics, not just nail which was the hallmark of Butter London. Cosmetics prices range from $9 for liquid eyeliner to $19 for an eye shadow palette.

Creme also is unveiling semi-permanent hair dyes called No Regrets. The assortment of hair dyes is priced from $10.99 to $12.99. “The mass market has felt a little flat, and I think we can have some real fun and bring a huge amount of energy to that space,” Creme said.

Eva Mendes and Walgreens equals beautiful collaboration

As part of the masstige selection, Walgreens also is going Hollywood Glamour with a line featuring Eva Mendes as the brand ambassador. She’s helping Maesa Group bring a new line of color cosmetics, called Circa, to 3,000 Walgreens doors. The collection is expected to resonate with the expanding multi-cultural population. “Because I’m Cuban-American, it was really important to me to have colors that serve all types of ethnicities,” Mendes noted.

The 133-SKU line is inspired by old Hollywood glamour, and the packaging reflects an art deco feel. Among the products are foundations, a dual-ended mascara, and a lip and cheek stain. Circa will unveil brushes and cosmetic bags in 2016.

In a unique twist, Circa will have a portal on its website for makeup artists, where they can purchase products at a discounted price. It is a unique avenue to get the brand in experts’ hands. Beauty Advisors also will have special training to help tell the Circa story.

Walgreens was willing to add more masstige lines based on consumer acceptance of the Boots properties. The iconic brand, now part of the Walgreens family, has taught the chain a great deal. “One of the things we are incredibly proud of from No7 is that we are really getting a measured test of how Walgreens shoppers react to the positioning, the price points and the experience,” Guyton said. The Boots experience with mirrors and more testing affirmed that mass consumers want a better experience. “We are learning together how to take the brand to the next level.”

Balancing masstige and value equivalents

But the success of owned brands isn’t only in masstige, Guyton pointed out. The masstige brands take a great deal of brand building and resources — and are fit for only select markets. There are other owned brands delivering a true point of difference in all stores, such as the new skin care system Studio 35 that is comparable to Clinique. Last year, Walgreens scored with a product equivalent to the direct-marketing hit Proactive. Traditionally, the Studio 35 items are priced about 20% lower than national counterparts. Lower priced, but not lower quality, is how Guyton explained the products, which she feels are a great value option.

“We have a desire to make sure that range is always innovative and always has the right offer for our shoppers. It is a balance for sure, and there are opportunities in both masstige and brand equivalents,” Guyton observed.

The ability to tailor assortments per store is just as important in owned brands as national partners. Some stores have customers willing to pay $8 for a nail polish; for others, it isn’t a good match. “We’ve done a really great job of putting premium beauty in the best doors,” she added.

Learning from Walgreens’ loyalty program, Balance Rewards, is one avenue helping Walgreens determine the mix from store to store. And, Walgreens has a good handle on who isn’t completing their beauty basket in their doors, so they can focus on developing beauty assortments to achieve conversion.

Earlier this year, Guyton said the chain had a very successful Must-Haves event featuring only owned brands. “We had a lot of engagement, and Beauty Advisors sent in photos of how they built out our brands. We are so lucky to have our dedicated Beauty Advisors who have the ability to talk about our brands,” she said.

Tapping social media for owned brands is still in its infancy, she added, but will play a bigger role in product development.

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