Magazine article Black Enterprise

Redefining Beautiful: Black Cosmetics Companies and Industry Giants Vie for the Loyalty of Black Women

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Redefining Beautiful: Black Cosmetics Companies and Industry Giants Vie for the Loyalty of Black Women

Article excerpt

Redefining beautiful..." For years, this bold catchphrase has been Cover Girl's calling card, helping to make it the leading cosmetics brand in the nation. But only now is Procter & Gamble, Cover Girl's $29 billion parent company, finally making good on its stance as an innovator.

After 32 years of defining beauty standards with mostly blue-eyed blonde models, such as Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs, Cover Girl is sporting a fresh new face--that of tawny-toned model Lana Ogilvie--and courting a brand new customer: the African-American woman. Cover Girl is not alone.

After decades of being socially and economically ignored by general-market cosmetics companies, the black female consumer has suddenly become the $4 billion beauty industry's new darling. From prestige department store brands such as Fashion Fair and Prescriptives, to lower-priced drugstore staples such as Revlon, Maybelline and Posner, cosmetics makers are scrambling to win the black woman's attention--and her dollar. Even direct marketers Avon and Mary Kay, who have long enjoyed a loyal following of African-American consumers, are beefing up their efforts. This, despite the fact that their market is not perceived by analysts to be threatened by retail activity.

Why the sudden explosion of interest? The reasons why are as plain as the numbers. Retail sales of ethnic hair care, skin care and cosmetics products grew 6% in 1992, pushing the market to $547 million, according to a study by Packaged Facts Inc., a New York-based research firm. Hair care, the oldest and largest segment, with sales of $390 million, gained only 4%. Ethnic skin care, with sales of $75 million, grew a respectable 7%. But ethnic cosmetics blew past both categories with double-digit growth of 15%, reaching sales of $82 million.

Packaged Facts projects the ethnic cosmetics segment will grow by 22% in 1993 and continue to build, eventually reaching sales of $162 million by 1997. Tack on skin and hair care for a grand 1997 total of $732 million in anticipated sales of ethnic beauty products.

Set against a backdrop of weakening industrywide sales and 1990 census figures--which show that the nation's 16 million African-American women are younger (30% are in the prime purchasing age of 18 to 34), better educated and more affluent than ever before--the appeal of black women as the sought-after segment of the moment is undeniable. Factor in that the black female population is growing at twice the rate of its white counterpart--and eureka!--beauty makers large and small have found a new way to impact the almighty bottom line.

No wonder more than a dozen makeup lines and line extensions have been thrust at the black female consumer in the last two years. And there are more on the horizon. Without question, the onslaught of competition in the ethnic cosmetics market is good news for black women, who for the first time have the dizzying array of cosmetics choices that white women have long enjoyed. But it could herald disaster for smaller and some black-owned companies, which lack the deep pockets needed for massive advertising campaigns as well as the financial clout to demand adequate shelf space.

There is no way for the beauty industry's major players to hit their sales targets without cutting deeply into the consumer bases of smaller, more established ethnic cosmetics companies in both the "class" (expensive/department store) and "mass" (lower priced/drugstore) markets, many of which are black-owned.

While there is widespread debate over the potential size of the ethnic cosmetics market (interpreted at ranges from $100 million to $900 million), analysts, retailers and marketers do agree on one point: It is not large enough to sustain the number of players now competing.

And who will be left standing when the dust settles? Most black-owned companies respond with unqualified assurance. "This is not going to be a problem for us," says Alex Erwiah, owner and CEO of New York-based Naomi Sims Beauty Products Ltd. …

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