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A Happy Marriage

By: Lisa Doyle
Posted: July 13, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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So what constitutes a brand that would fit into such specialty retail outposts? “For me, it has to deliver what it promises, it has to be a good product and packaging is important,” explains Ginsberg. “Purchasing in personal care is an emotional experience, and [consumers] have to connect emotionally to the brand. A great brand is a story well told.” La Rinascente concurs, and also emphasizes the brands’ commitment to ethical and moral responsibility. “The goal is to select credible and certified products,” asserts De Stefanis. “We normally verify all certifications prior to signing our purchase agreement.”

Mass Expansion

For some brands, branching out beyond the specialty retailers and into the mass market comes with its own rewards. According to global market research firm Mintel, 57% of women bought their beauty goods at a mass merchandiser, and 45% frequented the drugstore for these items in 2010, making them the top channels for cosmetic purchasing among women of all ages. Moreover, these retailers can boast a wider selection of branded products than ever before, and can afford to be competitive with their pricing—a major plus for recession-weary fashionistas.

In February 2011, the high-end French beauty line Roger & Gallet expanded into Duane Reade, a landmark drugstore chain in New York. However, these products aren’t exactly stacked on an endcap between the diapers and denture cream; they fit perfectly into Duane Reade’s Look Boutiques, the store’s sophisticated beauty centers that market prestige products on par with those found in top salons, spas and luxury retailers. The Roger & Gallet line is now found at six Look Boutiques in Duane Reade outposts throughout Manhattan.

Until recently, products from Butter London—a Seattle-based line of nail lacquers, hand and nail treatments—could only be found in small and specialty retailers and at the company’s flagship store in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In April, all 390 Ulta stores began offering the brand’s products to the a vast clientele. “Butter London and Ulta are perfect partners,” says Leslie Freytag, president and CEO of Butter London. “Offering an affordable, yet luxurious selection of nail products, Butter London is high fashion, which serves Ulta’s desire to provide affordable indulgences to their customers.” It’s an arguably wise business decision—according to Mintel, 11% of shoppers surveyed have made a beauty purchase at Ulta in the past six months.

It Takes Two

Whether a brand can be found in specialty retailers, mass merchandisers or anywhere in between, the experts all concur: The support needs to be on both sides of the equation—the brand and the retailer—in order for products to sell in any environment. “Having a great relationship with our vendors is crucial,” says Kelly. “To that end, we really investigate all areas and ensure that we always have the inventory, resources and team to support them.”