Magazine article Marketing

Cosmetics Brands Overhaul Counters: Beauty Firms Are Moving Away from Hard-Sell Tactics in Favour of Self-Select Displays. (Point of Purchase)

Magazine article Marketing

Cosmetics Brands Overhaul Counters: Beauty Firms Are Moving Away from Hard-Sell Tactics in Favour of Self-Select Displays. (Point of Purchase)

Article excerpt

When comedienne Arabella Weir appeared on our screens with her orange-faced, fragrance-squirting, department-store sales consultant in The Fast Show, the luxury cosmetics and skincare brand owners must have cringed. After all, this pushy, painted harridan is precisely the image they have been trying to shake-off over the past two years.

Upmarket beauty brands such as Clinique, Clarins or Lancome have traditionally been purchased over counters from beauty experts who recommend the best products for the condition of customers' skin or colours for their skin tone. This 'expert' approach reinforces the equity of these brands, conveying the message that these are technically sophisticated, high-value products.

But back in 1999, Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder realised this approach was not to everyone's taste. "Some time ago we began to see that our department store consumers valued our beauty advisers' knowledge and advice, but often wanted to experiment on their own -- to touch, smell and sample our products at their own pace," he says.

Move toward self-service

His comments are backed up by research commissioned by Elizabeth Arden that shows consumers are happy to make their own decisions about skincare and cosmetics. The traditional sales assistant, standing behind a counter with her thick mask of make-up, acts as a barrier to potential customers.

So prestige brands have begun rethinking their retail presence. "There has been a distinct move from the assisted consultation approach, toward self-service," says Stuart Wagstaffe, marketing director of POP agency CPI, whose clients include Estee Lauder and Lancome.

"Three years ago the original sites had a counter that presented a barrier between the consumer and product. Now consumers can walk in between areas and there is more interaction."

The favoured in-store marketing method within this sector is assisted sell. "It is a double-edged approach," explains Paul McWilliam, who runs a consultancy advising brand owners on in-store presence. "There is a general trend toward self-selection, but there is still a very important place for consultancy sales. Many brands have a combination of the two."

Debenham's premium cosmetics brand, Mea, is primarily self-service, but has consultants in larger sites. Clinique has a self-select display in Boots, but consultants in Self ridges.

McWilliam points out that this is not necessarily in order to cater for two different types of consumer, but depends on the consumer's shopping mode.

"They may be nipping out at lunch time, and go straight to the self-selection, or be more relaxed and have time to talk to the consultant."

Marketers going down the self-select route face some problems: there is the security issue of premium-priced products being out in the open. Some brands avoid this with free-standing or counter-tester units, while the product is still stored behind a counter, or by employing a consultant to man the area.

The display needs to reflect the prestige nature of the brand. Mea uses lightboxes to project in-store graphics. Vichy has developed a water-based unit for its top-end sites in Europe. Sales have doubled and the unit helped raise Vichy's profile in retail and among consumers.

"The movement and sound make people stop and look," explains Gerry Hebron, creative director at IDa Creative Link, which designed the Vichy unit and a display for La RochePosay.

Maintaining prestige

Charles Kessler, managing director of Kesslers International, used in-moulded print for a Clarins unit. …

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