Innovations in the eye makeup segment build excitement

BY Nora Caley

With full brows and smoky eye looks taking center stage, making eye makeup pop is a more complicated process than ever. The good news is that to meet shopper demand, retailers and suppliers are growing their eye makeup offerings — particularly around eyebrows. Some of the more innovative items in this segment are driving growth in retail stores, and manufacturers said retailers can thrive if they keep up on the trends and make some updates to their stores.

According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, total U.S. multi-outlet sales of items in the cosmetics-eye category totaled nearly $2.1 billion for the 52 weeks ended April 22, down about 2% compared with the same period the previous year. Some products performed better than others. Sales of mascara were flat, down 0.84% to $917.7 million. Sales of eyeliner were down 7.5% to $534.8 million. Sales of eyeshadow were down nearly 11% to just under $270.9 million. There was a bright spot though, in eyebrow makeup, which was up 20% to $316.2 million.

The brow trend is booming, said Natalie Plain, CEO of Billion Dollar Brows in Irvine, Calif. “We are seeing an explosion in demand,” she said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Plain founded the company in 2004 in Los Angeles as a prestige brand. Recently, the company launched the brand Arch by Billion Dollar Brows, with products available in drug stores.

“Nobody was doing a niche brow brand directed at the drug store audience,” she said. “When I would go to the drug store, I would go to the cosmetics section and I would have to hunt for products in our category.”

The new assortment includes brow pencils, pomades, gels and tools — with each individual SKU retailing for less than $10. The patented Brow Buddy shaping tool also will be made available with the Arch lineup for $8.99, as well as a new variety of value kits each priced at $12.99. The kits have such names as the Selfie Kit, the Brow Essentials Kit and the Brow Beat Kit.

Drug and food retailers have a great opportunity to boost sales in this growing category, Plain said. “I know from a lot of women — especially moms, who shop at drug stores — that not everybody has time to go to a salon or high-end retailer to make their beauty purchases,” Plain said.

She added that some retailers are making other adjustments to attract these consumers. Some drug stores are investing in improved lighting and also more attractive flooring to enhance the purchasing experience in the cosmetics department. Also, Plain said, some stores host special events. For example, one supermarket hosted a Mother’s Day event in which a beauty advisor was in the store, offering makeovers and advice.

In the blink of an eye
IRI data shows that U.S. multi-outlet sales of cosmetic accessories were up 8.5% to $1.14 billion. Makeup applicators stood out among beauty implements, with sales up more than 10.3% to $312.1 million. Sales were strong in false eyelashes and adhesives, up 29.4% to more than $212.3 million.

Social media plays a role in this growing category. “Lashes recently topped Pinterest’s biggest beauty trends list with a 152% increase in searches from the year prior,” said Jennifer Johnson, senior brand manager at Ardell Retail.

Johnson also said that the hottest trends now are “next-level lashes,” which are long, thick eyelashes. “The strong lash look can be achieved through easy-to-use false lashes, voluminous mascaras and eyelash serums that will make your lashes look like false lashes,” she said.

Earlier this year, Ardell, a brand of Los Angeles-based American International Industries, launched Magnetic Lashes in some of the brand’s most popular styles. Instead of using an adhesive to keep the lashes on the upper and lower eyelids, the lashes use tiny magnets along the lash line so the lashes cling to each other. “The consumer response has been phenomenal, especially for new lash users who find the application much easier than using traditional eyelash adhesive,” Johnson said. “We will be making application even easier with a new Magnetic Lash Applicator that works in seconds.”

Another top seller in the Ardell lineup is the Faux Mink line, which Ardell recently expanded with Faux Mink Individuals, which Johnson said are mini clusters of 20 lash strands fused on one end with a flat base. The idea is to create a customized lash look and applying just a few of the clusters to create a dressed-up look.

The false lash category is one of the fastest-growing segments in cosmetics, Johnson said, noting that opportunity exists for retailers who can seize on that excitement.

“Delivering a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that spreads across the store to the website to mobile is key,” she said. Since the audience is mainly Gen Y adults, technology plays a role. “Incorporating digital experiences, where shoppers can virtually try on a lash style to see how it looks on them before purchasing, adds a level of hyper-realism and immediate gratification that engages the shopper — particularly that crucial millennial shopper — like no other way can.”

Assortment also is important as shoppers are purchasing multipacks at a higher rate than ever. Retailers should make sure they maintain their in-stock levels, Johnson said, as product turns are increasing.

More color
Eyeshadow color is making a comeback, said Sharon Wang, vice president of Chino, Calif.-based Profusion Cosmetics. “Women, Generation Z, millennials are looking for the latest eyeshadow shades and value,” she said. “More women are wearing eyeshadows than ever before.”

Profusion makes professional quality, cruelty-free cosmetics that retail between $4.99 and $19.99. The company said the pigments are saturated, and the color goes on in one stroke, blends beautifully and looks good on people of every skin tone.

Profusion will launch 28 new products in a collection called Day Dream Believing at Target in July. The collection is packaged with lilac holographic touches and has the latest products and palettes for eyes, brows, lips, cheeks, contour and highlighters. The collection is priced between $4.99 and $9.99, and each package has instructions on how to create the look on the back.

Retailers can drive sales by changing the assortments often. “Retailers would be wise to pulse palettes monthly, or bi-monthly,” Wang said The stores also should use social media and emails to announce the latest news in palettes to customers. That would help drive more users from the prestige stores to drug stores and mass outlets.

Social media is helping to generate interest in eye cosmetics as people look to YouTube and Instagram for makeup tips, and also to view celebrity looks. “Brows are key to a complete eye look,” Wang said. “People seek multi-finish eye looks, and shimmers, satins, mattes and glitter are all in demand.”

Also, color is making a big comeback, Wang said. “Whether Kim Kardashian West with vivid blues, Pat McGrath in lilacs and purples, Smashbox in Rose golds, Anastasia in reds, saffron and cinnamons, expressing individuality through eye makeup is a trend we are seeing more of.”


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