EXCLUSIVE COSMETICS LINE TO DEBUT AT WAL-MART

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- By the end of March, Wal-Mart stores across the nation will have spread international flair with the launch of Coty's Rimmel London line of cosmetics.The retailer and New York-based Coty Inc. have developed an exclusive partnership in which nearly 200 items from the cosmetic company's popular Rimmel line will cross the Atlantic into 2,400 Wal-Mart stores."We've worked with Coty

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- By the end of March, Wal-Mart stores across the nation will have spread international flair with the launch of Coty's Rimmel London line of cosmetics.

The retailer and New York-based Coty Inc. have developed an exclusive partnership in which nearly 200 items from the cosmetic company's popular Rimmel line will cross the Atlantic into 2,400 Wal-Mart stores.

"We've worked with Coty for the last year-and-a-half to bring the line to stores in the U.S.," said Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio. "Rimmel is already an established line. It has pretty good market share in London."

He added that the idea for an exclusive arrangement "stemmed from a hope to fill a void where we saw we had a pretty good representation of budget and higher-priced franchise lines. In between, there was no mid-value line of cosmetics. You'd have the 99-cent products and then jump to $4 products. In between was a void. With Rimmel, what you have is a great value and a quality product."

Said Coty spokesman Arthur Gallego, "We're committed to the line. In fact, we already have ideas for more product and brand extensions. That's evidence of our commitment."

Aside from filling a pricing tier gap for Wal-Mart, the chic, racy branding of Rimmel appeals to a younger consumer and helps the mass merchandiser appear more fashionable, observers said. "There is a phenomenal trend among mass retailers to refocus their image, become stylish and fun, and reach new, younger customers," Peter Harf, Coty's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press statement.

Coty benefits from the agreement because its lower-priced Rimmel products get vast distribution at Wal-Mart's locations, and the line competes directly with other significantly higher-priced mass-market cosmetics brands such as Maybelline, Cover Girl, Revlon and L'Oreal.

Rimmel will remain exclusively at Wal-Mart for a year, after which time Coty will assess the line's performance and decide whether to make it available at other retail outlets. "At this time, there are no plans for other retailer installations," Gallego said.

Rimmel prices items in three tiers: $1.97, $2.97 and $3.97, the company said. Mascara comes in each price point, as does eyeshadow. Blush, nail polish, eye pencils, and eyebrow pencils are available for $1.97. Liquid eyeliner, compact powder and lipstick peak at $3.97. Products in the $2.97 range include powders and foundations.

Gallego said a lot of time and planning has gone into determining which colors and make up would appeal to the company's target market while maintaining a "London vibe." Wal-Mart attracts Rimmel's ideal market -- 18 to 30-year-old American women -- as well as older and younger female consumers who are looking for good price points, according to the cosmetics company.

"Really it's a product that we expect will appeal to all segments -- 8 to 50 year olds," said Bisio. "Wal-Mart's target is absolutely anyone and everyone."

Point of sale materials on two-foot and four-foot in-store Rimmel displays, developed jointly by Wal-Mart and Coty, will borrow graphics from an advertising campaign that Coty plans to run separately from Wal-Mart.

"There is no co-op advertising planned at this point, although that could change," Gallego said. Two brochures, one that explains Rimmel's philosophy, attributes and brand attitude, and a second that introduces the season's colors, will be available at store level.

"The line has a real London flavor," said Bisio. "Advertising has the British flag and double-decker busses. We will feature the product in our May circular."

Smaller Wal-Mart stores will use the two-foot wide fixtures, while larger-format stores will set up the four-foot displays. Seasonal color selections will be apparent at eye level, top center of the displays, according to Gallego.

"Because the products are color-coded by price, it's very easy to find what you want," Gallego noted.

Rimmel print ads with the tag line "Makeup Your Own Language" will break in May in general consumer and lifestyle magazines. Ad contracts with specific publications had not been finalized when Coty spoke to SN.