HARPS TO STRETCH SKIN CARE SECTION WITH HIGHER PRICED ITEMS

SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Harps Food Stores here is planning a chainwide rollout of an expanded skin care section with higher price point items.Traditionally, Harps has carried more low-end skin care products such as Suave and Vaseline Intensive Care lotions, which retail for about $2.95. Retail prices on the new facial and hand-body items slated for the section will average between $4 and $5, said Sam

SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Harps Food Stores here is planning a chainwide rollout of an expanded skin care section with higher price point items.

Traditionally, Harps has carried more low-end skin care products such as Suave and Vaseline Intensive Care lotions, which retail for about $2.95. Retail prices on the new facial and hand-body items slated for the section will average between $4 and $5, said Sam Richardson, health and beauty care director of the 37-store chain.

To the 300 stockkeeping units that currently make up its skin care section, the retailer will add about 100 SKUs in brands it already carries, like Oil of Olay, L'Oreal and Noxema, and in new brands like Nivea and Eucerin.

The rollout will double the space currently devoted to skin care to 4-foot to 8-foot sections. Harps' skin care sets now range from 2 to 4 feet.

The larger sets will be up by winter, Richardson said, in time to capitalize on the cold weather.

"We're kind of experimenting with it," he said, mentioning that in the last couple of months Harps has added a few more expensive skin care items at about 80% of its stores.

He said sales are up 10% to 15% at stores carrying the additional skin care items. Of the margins to be made on the new products, he would say only that they were "double-digit."

"Skin care is just so huge right now, and it's a category we don't need to get left out on," Richardson commented. "It's definitely a profitable category, and the consumer is not as price-conscious in that category."

Art Bundy, director of nonfood at Harps, added that "folks are getting older. There are a lot of retired people in the area,"which is a factor drawing more attention to skin care.

"I think people are more skin-conscious, more conscious of taking care of themselves than they were 10, 15 years ago," added Richardson, who expects not that his current customers will pay more for skin care products, but that he will pull in new customers from competing formats.

"I think I'm going to get the customer who's now going to another place for these items," said Richardson. "I'm not trading up; it's a totally different customer."

With the onset of cold weather, Richardson said, Harps would introduce freestanding skin care displays, endcaps and temporary price reductions.

"We'll definitely run several different ads during the peak of the season," he said, "and we won't be afraid of promoting the higher-priced items.

Richardson sees strong cross-merchandising opportunities for skin care, but said such decisions will be made individually by store managers.