Taking a hint from Canadian drug stores


Consumer Suzanne Lee grew up in upstate New York, but moved to Ontario many years ago. Recently, upon visiting her hometown, she stopped at a local drug store for her favorite skin care product. She was surprised to find it wasn’t sold there.

(To view the full Beauty Trends Report, click here.)

“Funny, I never noticed until now how much better our drug stores are in Canada for beauty,” Lee acknowledged. “I was told my brand was a department store line in the United States.”

Her observations are spot-on. The United States and Canada may share borders, but the two countries have few similarities when it comes to cosmetics and fragrances.

Mass market cosmetics retailers have long envied the access Canadian retailers have to beauty brands that won’t distribute to American counterparts.

More European-inspired than American-influenced, Canada’s leading drug stores sell such brands as Clinique, Clarins, Lise Watier, Biotherm and Lancôme — names U.S. merchants only dream of stocking.

Service is superb — more Sephora than self-selection. And the stores pump out the sales and profits to boot. Estimates are that Canadian beauty departments produce sometimes twice the sales per sq. ft. of American mass beauty doors. Average beauty departments in U.S. stores typically generate less than 6% of total store sales, where Canadian units can hit almost 10% of overall cash register rings.

There are myriad reasons why Canadian stores get what U.S. stores can’t. Dating back 30 years, Canadian shoppers didn’t have as much access to department stores that were privy to premium brands. Often the population was so spread out it was prohibitive to pop into a department store to restock the makeup bag.

Consequently, those lines went where shoppers were — often in drug stores. One Shoppers Drug Mart beauty advisor explained it this way: “The high-end lines are a huge success here because they reach all corners of the population — not just cities.”

But the attractiveness stemmed from more than just getting to customers, but also from the fact that the environment in drug stores was better suited for the lines that often require hands-on service to demonstrate the value of spending more.

Over the years, other premium options have flourished in Canada, most notably Sephora, which has more than 30 units spread through eight provinces. Ulta Beauty hasn’t crossed the border yet, but could challenge the Canadian mass beauty universe if it did since the company also fuses mass and class. For now, consumers appear quite happy to shop at their local drug store.

The discount format hasn’t flourished as fast in Canada. In fact, Target retrenched when it found challenges getting enough foot traffic to support its stores.

Keeping Canada’s pharmacies abreast of trends thanks to constant visits from beauty companies is a major boost to the stores. Representatives from various lines make the rounds to stores. “They help train, offer demonstrations and help with displays,” said the Shoppers Drug Mart beauty expert. In the United States, buyers confirmed visits to stores are limited if at all.

Loic Steinbach, VP of Vitry USA, said Canadian retailers benefit from the high levels of service. “In Canada, there is an associate who greets you immediately. You will never find a consultant cleaning shelves. There is a difference in the approach of the cosmetics service in the stores.” During busy hours, many retailers even staff the beauty area with several consultants, he said.

Other business-building tools employed in Canada include financial incentives for beauty advisors, as well as plentiful demonstrations. Steinbach also said Canadian merchants turn their valuable front- and center-of-store real estate over to beauty. When it is located at the door, rather than on another floor or off to the side, customers must pass through beauty to get to the pharmacy counter — a good ploy since beauty often is an impulse purchase.

One obstacle in the United States to getting the best beauty staff is the lack of commissions with mass merchants lacking the funds to attract top-level people. However, as witnessed by the numbers, finding money in the budget could pay off.

To be sure, such U.S. drug chains as Walgreens and CVS are working feverishly to burnish service in America. CVS is removing housekeeping duties so beauty consultants can work one-on-one with customers. Its consultants also will be equipped with such tools as iPads.

Walgreens also is adding a new level of super-trained consultants to further enrich its customer interaction levels. The hope is that, over time, the United States will continue to attract new brands while enticing shoppers who have migrated to such specialty stores as Sephora back to chains.

Rite Aid and Target, as well, have upped the ante in service within beauty.

Still, U.S. retailers often head north for ideas and concepts to import into their departments. “There are a lot of things happening in Canada that could be done in the United States,” Steinbach said.


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Beauty app-splosion


Beauty brands are rushing to add apps as a ploy to allow shoppers to experiment with beauty more often, while also eliminating the need for consumers to return products because of disappointment in shades. If a brand doesn’t have an app now, it probably will this year.

(To view the full Beauty Trends Report, click here.)

L’Oréal kicked off the trend two years ago with Makeup Genius, but many others have been quick on its heels.

The latest is e.l.f. in conjunction with YouCam. E.l.f. Cosmetics is the first mass market brand to launch on YouCam, a beauty app offering virtual makeup application with more than 300 million downloads.

YouCam features about 50 e.l.f. SKUs on its platform, highlighted by three e.l.f.-curated holiday looks, the brainchild of e.l.f.’s makeup artist Achelle, which will be extended quarterly.

The debut also represents the first time YouCam is offering “shoppable” looks. “You can buy as you are trying on, [which has been available], but for the first time you can shop the entire look and purchase right from there,” said Mara McCune, VP of marketing for e.l.f.

“We believe our consumer is increasingly connected. She gets her information and is influenced by bloggers and what she sees online. We see virtual beauty as a way to influence her shopping decision and a natural extension of our mission of making luxurious beauty accessible,” McCune said.

Also new in the app store is Clairol’s MyShade, an app that not only allows women to see how a shade will look, but also offers consultation to personalize the choice. “We hope to turn the [hair color] category around by putting expert advice in the palm of women’s hands,” said Heather Carruthers, VP of Clairol Global and U.S. marketing. “What we’ve done is take the daunting task of choosing hair color and make it simple. MyShade is designed to bring the expertise of our color experts to the customer in a few simple steps.”

Carruthers said women tend to spend as much as 10 minutes in hair color aisles, twice the time they devote to other hair care products, but only 50% of those women actually make a purchase. “We are trying to get more women to color their hair by removing the biggest fears — getting it wrong or ruining their natural color. It’s empowering.”

MyShade has a broad menu of options, including the choice to click and see a new trend, such as the merger of Red and Bronze for a color called Ronze. Users can share their images of the fresh hair hues on social media channels.

“The Clairol app offers the ability to virtually try-on a hair color, which is of extreme importance to consumers, since hair coloration is usually a big commitment,” said Parham Aarabi, CEO of ModiFace, the company behind many of the new apps. “The MyShade app brings two interesting features to the market, including an [artificial intelligence]-based hair adviser that guides a user as to what shade is best for them, and a universal shade-scanning technology built into the adviser that helps them try on any permanent home hair color,” Aarabi said.

The scanner works with any hair color box, even from competitors, and suggests a shade from the Clairol range.

Carruthers said the app reduces the risk of getting it wrong through a series of questions, such as, “what is your gray level?” to prescribe a personalized solution. The app features ModiFace’s patented hair coloration and shade-matching technology to accurately depict hair color. It starts from the hair color in the photo for a realistic result. There’s also the opportunity to call or e-mail an expert from MyShade.

Retailers said they expect to see more apps roll out this year, especially since millennials like to experiment. Apps allow that without actual applications and washing off the looks each time. The apps also offer the capability to take selfies to share with friends for feedback.


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From brows to lashes and lips, color cosmetic sales are trending up


From the hot color segments to new product launches, here is what you need to know about the beauty business in 2017.

(To view the full Beauty Trends Report, click here.)

Mass market color cosmetics sales continue to climb, driven primarily by adventurous millennials.

For the sixth continuous time period, the most explosive expansion is coming from eyebrow makeup. For the 52-week period ended Oct. 30 across multi-outlets, as measured by IRI, the sector’s dollar volume soared more than 34%.

To that end, chains are rushing to add more brow entries while building out brow departments. Maybelline’s Eyestudio Brow makeup showed sales gains of more than 142%, while its EyeStudio Brow Drama contributed another almost 40% increase. Milani burst into the category with its Stay Put Eyebrow Makeup, which is up more than 250%.

CVS is the exclusive mass merchant source for Wunderbrow brow gel, a one-step solution allowing women to easily fill, define and shape their eyebrows with natural-looking color in under two minutes. Wunderbrow achieved fame on the Internet, and is hitting CVS stores in five shades, priced at $22.

The focus on eyes is helping women discover the beauty of artificial lashes. Kiss Products unveiled new product innovations for 2017 designed to keep the momentum.

“We want to be category drivers,” said Annette DeVita-Goldstein, SVP of global marketing at Kiss Products. According to IRI, Kiss’s eyelash adhesives and artificial eyelashes both churned out sales increases exceeding 50% for the most recently tracked 52-week period.

“We have our ear to the ground for beauty trends,” DeVita-Goldstein explained, adding the company noticed celebrities and beauty icons were wearing mink artificial lashes to achieve a fluffy and luxurious look.

With a goal of making non-fur options that would be lighter and more affordable, the Kiss team created Lash Couture, Faux Mink Collection. New technology with a knotless lash band was implemented to create a natural, layered look. The lashes, which mimic the look of mink without using real fur, are sold in six lash styles retailing for $5.99. The lashes are reusable up to 10 times.

“Lashes are instantly transformational,” said DeVita-Goldstein, who believes the advantages of the faux mink will attract more users to the false eyelash category. To complement the new lashes, Kiss also rolled out a new strip lash adhesive that is strong but gentle, thanks to the infusion of biotin and blueberry extract.

A new lash app is expected to help women virtually “see” lashes before applying. Salon Perfect, which is exclusive at Walmart, now can be tried on an app from Perfect365. Ardell lashes will be added to the app in the next month.

“Easy application is absolutely one of the biggest obstacles concerning false lashes today, and has been for decades. Many women buy the lashes, but either end up having a professional apply them or they don’t use them at all,” explained Vickie Wei, director of marketing for Perfect365. “The nature of eyelashes and how they are sold makes it almost impossible to try them on before purchasing them. Most users purchase a number of ‘wrong’ lashes before finding their perfect pair.” Wei said eyelash-related enhancements are a $1 billion-plus category that will benefit from the further education provided by digital solutions.

Perfect365 app users can experiment with five one-tap lash looks and view videos on how to apply lashes in real life. Perfect365 is a free makeup app with more than 80 million users. It uses face-detection technology for accurate virtual makeup placement on photos and live videos. Perfect365 app users will be teased about the lash addition.

From lids to lips — women also want to make a bold statement with their lip shades.

The lip category is still shining for mass merchants with sales of lip combos up 140%, gloss up 4%, lip liner rising 4.5% and lip treatment soaring 100%. Among the standout products in the sector are LA Colors Lip Combo, Maybelline Baby Lips lip gloss and NYX lip liner.

The final category with the most positive results is concealers. Dollar sales of concealers are up almost 11%, propelled by a trio of Maybelline items — Instant Age Rewind, Fit Me and Superstay Better Skin. Also, NYX Wonderstick powered a 163% growth spurt.


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