Retailers, manufacturers aim to breathe life into beauty

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Retailers, manufacturers aim to breathe life into beauty

By Seth Mendelson - 04/27/2019

What will be the biggest issues tackled at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting? Over the next few days, 30 of the nation’s biggest beauty brands will meet with executives representing more than 60 national mass retailers to hammer out strategies for the beauty industry for the year ahead.

Drug Store News asked those attending on both the buying and seller equation what beauty topics they hope to sort out during strategic exchange appointments this week.

The past year particularly was not rosy for the mass cosmetics and personal care business. According to Nielsen data, mass beauty declined 3% for the four-week period through March 9. Skin care and hair care were the exceptions, both posted small gains.

Aiming to turn the tide, here are topics executives hope to delve into during top-to-top meetings at tents and cabanas during NACDS Annual Meeting.

How to bring the magic back
Mass merchants took a hard hit in the beauty aisles, losing shoppers to online, specialty and department stores. The latter, in fact, turned up the volume in beauty with remodeled stores and price points competitive with mass. For such retailers as CVS Pharmacy, Target and Walmart, the ammunition will be exclusive products — from big and small brands — that help differentiate their selection from the competition. CVS Pharmacy has added more than 60 new lines. Walmart is on a growth path with such exclusives as the new wellness brand from Bobbi Brown called Evolution_18. Target has added a slew of new lines, including Grace & Tonic, Sculpt, Love AnyBody, Megababe, Queen V, Real feminine hygiene, and Pacifica supplements.

While niche beauty is having its moment, the majors have an arsenal of new, too. Retailers expect to see a barrage of fresh items across all categories, especially shades tweaked for all complexions. There also is talk of a renaissance in the mass fragrance market.

Make it sustainable
Consumers are tired of excess packaging and waste in the beauty category. Still, recycling has gained traction in the kitchen, but not in the bathroom. According to a report from Johnson & Johnson, 7-in-10 Americans said they always or almost always recycle, but only 1-in-5 people consistently did so with bathroom items. Such companies as L’Oréal are working to encourage consumers to add bins to bathrooms much like recycling containers in kitchens.

Unilever is committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Recently, the company unveiled reusable packaging innovations across nine of its brands, including four new product formats.

The industry is morphing from trying to make products beautiful to trying to produce packages and products that are more sustainable. Challenges in the journey exist, including educating consumers and finding the ways to provide recyclable materials that don’t raise price points.

“Sustainability is the No. 1 issue people are asking us about now,” said Larissa Jensen, executive director and industry analyst at the NPD Group.

Elevating the experience
Shoppers found the mass beauty ambiance a bit “humdrum” over the last few years. That’s a problem when one of the number of reasons people shop brick-and-mortar is the experience. Retailers are coming to NACDS Annual Meeting armed with a wish list of strategies they want suppliers to help support — mostly financially. Those include more use of such in-store digital tools as tablets that people can use to virtually try makeup on. There also is a clarion call to improve fixturing, eradicating the age-old gondolas endemic to the industry in favor of a more boutique approach. The Birchbox in Walgreens uses fixtures designed to resemble bedroom furniture rather than a store.

Ingredient stories
Consumers are reading labels, looking not only for what is not in products, but what is left out. Retailers are trying to sort out what is important to shoppers. Many chains have vowed to remove such chemicals as phthalates, propylparabens, butylparabens and formaldehyde. Flynn Matthews, head of insights and measurement, global CPG at Google, said people care as much about naturals as ingredients. Digging into Google searches, she said consumers look based on two keys — safety and efficacy. In the United States, she said the most popular keys words are gluten and oxybenzone. The hot ingredient searches are turmeric and, not surprisingly, CBD. The natural ingredients she said to watch out for are witch hazel and rice water.

Meetings will undoubtedly dig into how to serve the needs of shoppers who want less toxic, yet high performing, products.