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Prescription for Value : Busy Consumers Are Rediscovering the Drugstore for Skin-Care Buys

February 12, 1989|PADDY CALISTRO

ANOTHER trend from the 1950s is resurfacing: Many women are heading for the drugstore to buy skin-care treatments--a dramatic reflection of working women's need for convenient, economical shopping.

According to Jean Brackenbury, vice president of treatment marketing at Revlon Classic Cosmetics, skin-care sales at stores such as Osco and Longs have risen 15% since 1987. She credits the surge to an increase in the number of women who have limited time for families, jobs and personal care. Many of these women have spent 20 years being educated at department-store beauty counters.

In the past, these women had more hours to spend browsing. "Now they just want to buy the right products quickly and get on with more important things," Brackenbury says.

This year, firms such as Revlon and L'Oreal will offer new collections of treatment products that hang on racks in "bubble packs" in drugstores and supermarkets. Max Factor is repackaging its three collections to appeal to a more sophisticated shopper.

The woman who buys cosmetics at the drugstore is specific about her needs. "She knows that the products are functionally the same. She sacrifices the fancy packaging, but she still gets results," says Sharon LeVan, senior vice president of marketing at Max Factor.

"Some prestige products contain more expensive oils, but basically the products are the same," LeVan says. So-called anti-aging treatments sell for $45 or more in department stores; similar products in less ornate packages retail for $15 or less in drugstores.

A 1988 study by Gallup and Drug Store News magazine indicates that 48% of all women are using more skin-care products than they did several years ago, and 50% of females between 13 and 49 are using more. The report indicates that 40% of the nation's women buy their moisturizers in drugstores and grocery stores. Yet for many cosmetics consumers, there is still no substitute for department-store service and prestige.

Brackenbury reports that the sales volume of Revlon's Anti-Aging collection increased 35% in 1988. Sales for the brand have surpassed $8 million, she says, even though there are only four products in the 2-year-old collection. Another typical drugstore line, Moon Drops, which Revlon has mass-marketed for more than 20 years, experienced a 12% sales spurt in 1988 over 1987.

Liz Parks, an editor and cosmetics specialist for Drug Store News, says that such growth is due partly to increased attention paid to cosmetics by retailers. "Stores have begun to merchandise products differently. They are making the lines more visible and accessible to the shopper," she notes.

Some drugstores have videotapes to explain use or to promote new products; others employ cosmeticians to provide information. The drugstore cosmetics area, Parks explains, "is a very soft sell; it's convenient, it's fast and it's less expensive." And to many of today's working women, short on time and long on stress, these aspects are big pluses.

Model: Carol Cline / Style

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