Cosmetics, styling aids lead ethnic sales – Health & Beauty Aids/Ethic Products
While ethnic toiletries sales are flat overall, there are still growth segments. Ethnic cosmetics, which account for approximately 12 percent of all ethnic dollar sales, were up 39 percent in dollars and 28 percent in units for the year ago period ended last May, according to Towne-Oller. Styling products, which have a 10 percent dollar share, were up 18 percent in dollars and 17 percent in units; shampoos, with a 2 percent share, were up 17 percent in dollars and 21 percent in units; and hair color, with a 4 percent dollar hare, were up 12 percent in dollars and 14 percent in units.
Relaxer kits, which generate a hefty 19 percent of all category dollar sales, were up 5 percent in dollars and 7 percent in units.
In researching this article, Drug Store News spoke with a half dozen chains with stores in high population ethnic markets as well as to ethnic product distributors who account for approximately 70 percent of all sales into retail, beauty and barber shop doors.
Most reported that the hottest new launch of the year so far is Biocosmetics’s Black Opal, a skin care regimen developed specifically for women of color. “Black Opal is the most exciting thing I’ve seen this year. It’s hot,” says Jim Normandin, who buys ethnic beauty care for Beauty Enterprises in Connecticut.
In Oregon, Sheri Ralston who buys cosmetics for Payless Drug stores, said Black Opal did very well in test. “Not only did it sell well, but the consumers who heard about it or who bought it were very vocal about it. We got lots of cards and phone calls from consumers asking for more information, and when you get that kind of response, you can be pretty sure there’s a need for the product.”
“Black Opal is the best launch I’ve seen this year in the ethnic products category.” says Genovese’s Stephanie Hayter. “When women come in the store asking for the products, you know they’re doing well.”
Hayter said Genovese will roll Black Opal out to all stores this year, merchandising it in skin care adjacent to cosmetics. The chain will also merchandise the new men’s shaving care line in the men’s toiletries department. Genovese will be featured in tag lines on the radio ads that Black Opal will be running in the New York market.
“That’s possible because we’ll have the line in all our stores, and hopefully it will help us attract women who are now buying ethnic skin care products in department stores,” said Hayter.
This quarter, Biocosmetic, which makes Black Opal, will be launching three more specialty women’s products as well as a line of men’s shaving and skin care toiletries with alpha hydroxy ingredients.
In evaluating the new launches, Jim Normandin, who buys ethnic products for Connecticut-based Beauty Enterprises, said just based on the success of Black Opal’s first women’s specialty product, its Advanced Formula Fade Gel, he thinks the new launches could do extremely well.
“They seem to know what the consumers want. And although the men’s segment of the market may be smaller than the women’s segment, shaving is a big problem for African-American men because of the way their hair grows. They suffer from razor bumps, so if Black Opal can get their message across that their products will not cause that kind of irritation and will even help cure it, they could do very, very well,” said Normandin.
Other growth areas
According to three leading ethnic product distributors, the relaxer segment is showing growth, particularly at the premium-priced end with brands like Optimum Care, Dark & Lovely, Creme of Nature, Soft & Beautiful, Gentle Treatment and the new Pink Oil Relaxer.
At Detroit-based Standard Distributing, president Dan Medow said relaxer sales are “up 3 percent off a large base.” His best sellers are Dark & Lovely, Optimum Care, Soft Beautiful, African Pride, Gentle Treatment and two children’s relaxers, Just For Me and Beautiful Beginnings. “The children’s relaxer kits are really helping this category. They continue to show good growth,” Medow said.
At Beauty Enterprises, Normandin said Luster’s new Pink Oil Relaxer kit is doing very well and Culver’s new Bone Straight relaxer kit also looks like a winner. “Luster’s had a greater percent of success than anybody,” said Kent Humphreys president of Oklahoma-based Jack’s Service. “They don’t just put a product out on the market and hope it will stick. They will spend to support it.”
Pro Line also has some new packaging for Soft & Beautiful that one buyer said should be “very well received in the market.”
The popularity of the relaxers, which give women a lot of flexibility with hairstyles, has also helped sales of styling and holding gels. Medow said his strongest sellers this year are the new Let’s Jam Pudding and its new Set N Hold Gel. “The packaging for Set N Hold Gel is beautiful,” said Medow, “and they are also in the high-end segment, which is showing very strong growth.”
Lower-priced styling gels are also turning in most regions, Medow said, particularly Ampro, Isoplus and Summit’s Pre Con gels.
Oil sheen sprays are another growing segment within styling aids, helped by the popularity of the relaxers. Among the fastest growing brands are Isoplus, TCB, Revlon, Optimum Care and Luster’s Pink Oil. “Relaxers take the shine out of the hair,” said Medow, “and the oil sheens put it back.”
Holding sprays and spritzes are still popular, up 12 percent for the six months in the regions Medow services. Best sellers include Isoplus, Optimum Care, Wave Nouveau and New Era.
Shampoos and after conditioners are doing okay in many regions. Medow reported that Standard’s shampoo sales were up 18 percent in dollars for the first six months of 1994. “Pricing in this category has gotten much more competitive with general market shampoos,” he said. Some top sellers are Optimum Care, Creme of Nature, Isoplus and the new Pink Oil shampoos and conditioners.
With Soft Sheen into the hair color category with its new Optimum Care line, sales in this segment are shifting upward. “Hair color sales are growing,” said Humphreys of Jack’s Service. “Our color sales are and have been up, and with Soft Sheen only getting started now with their new launch, the category should continue to grow,” he added.
At Standard Distributing, dollar sales of hair color products surged 33 percent, for the first six months of 1994. Medow said he doesn’t know yet where or when the category will level off. He also said Optimum Care Color has done very well and is now being added to the planogram. One buyer said while Soft Sheen has taken longer than expected to ship its new Optimum Care Color line, it looks “very promising.” All the ethnic buyers Drug Store News interviewed for this article liked the packaging for the Optimum Care color line; two called “excellent.”
Most popular brands
Carson’s Dark & Lovely is doing well, and its new men’s line, Dark & Natural, is doing exceptionally well. Combe men’s hair color SKUS are also selling well, particularly the Mustache and Beard SKU. All the distributors Drug Store News talked to were also optimistic about Revlon’s relaunch of its Creme of Nature color line.
In niche categories, Mane Tail remains the hottest & item of the year, even though supply is starting to get spotty as a result of the manufacturer’s decision to only sell Mane & Tail to retailers who have pet care centers in their stores. There are also dozens of knock-offs of Mane & Tail waiting in the wings, but the ethnic product distributors we talked to were unanimous that they were only doing a “fraction of the sales of the original.”
At Jack’s Service, Humphreys reported that the cocoa butter stick segment of skin care is a sleeper segment, generating good growth off a small base. “We do tons of business with cocoa butter sticks,” he said. “They’re more popular with African-Americans than the cocoa butter creams and lotions. The Woltra cocoa butter stick and the Darbee cocoa butter stick are two of the category’s strongest brands.”
Medow at Standard Distributing also reported strong sales of cocoa butter sticks. “When African-Americans suffer a cut, the skin around the wound darkens as it heals. It’s a condition called keloid. Cocoa butter products help to promote healing and reduce the problem.”
Among the smaller vendors, JM Products has a new Isoplus heritage style line called Egyptian Essence that two buyers think could be a sleeper in what remains a growth segment.
The African heritage products like the African Pride, African Natural and African Royale lines are also continuing to do well.
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