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Retailers are taking aim at the coveted teen and tween customer segments in the color cosmetics category.Among the tools they are using are specialized displays, aggressive promotion and fresh assortments. With this strategy, supermarkets are sharpening their nail files to do battle with drug and mass competitors, said retailers and consultants."We're getting more involved in tweens," said Judie Groce,

Retailers are taking aim at the coveted teen and tween customer segments in the color cosmetics category.

Among the tools they are using are specialized displays, aggressive promotion and fresh assortments. With this strategy, supermarkets are sharpening their nail files to do battle with drug and mass competitors, said retailers and consultants.

"We're getting more involved in tweens," said Judie Groce, health and beauty care buyer, Lowes Foods Stores, Winston-Salem, N.C. Aside from the Cover Girl and Maybelline displays, Lowes is testing Bonne Bell, the perennial tween-centered brand known for its flavored Lip Smackers lip balms, in one store. "As we build stores, we're going to implement Bonne Bell in them."

Cover Girl also just introduced a new 48-count planogram featuring foundations, eye shadows, mascaras and face powders that target the teens and early 20s age group, Groce said.

Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., said the retailer carries Revlon, Caboodles, Almay, Neutrogena, L'Oreal and a low-end teen brand, Jordana Cosmetics, among others, said Mike DeJulio, senior category manager. "But teens aren't just buying the low-end brands," he said. "They know quality and they want the experience of quality products."

The media is drawing attention to the viable teen market, and retailers and manufacturers are paying close attention, DeJulio added.

"The tween market has a large amount of spending dollars today and the manufacturers that cater to their needs are going to enjoy the most sales," he told SN.

"There's still a lot of room for improvement for grocery retailers that sell cosmetics, but they've come a long way," said Diane Garber, president, In-Sight Communications, Buffalo Grove, Ill., and former general merchandise/health and beauty care executive for Dominick's, Oak Brook, Ill. "Supermarkets have become more competitive and they haven't dumbed down the selection."

Eye, lip, facial and nail cosmetics polished off a flat $2.9 billion in retail dollar sales in the food, drug and mass channels, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., for the 52-week period ending May 18, 2003, according to Information Resources, Chicago. Food stores grabbed $500 million in these color cosmetics categories, increasing dollar sales slightly by 1.5%.

The supermarket channel makes up a relatively small 6% of the cosmetics retail market, which also includes direct sales, department stores, specialty outlets, and food, drug and mass stores, according to the Cosmetics and Toiletries USA Report, published this month by Kline & Co., Little Falls, N.J.

But teens are a "strong and vital buying force," in addition to baby boomers, said Garber. "Retailers have a captive audience in consumers in the 12-to-50 age range, and they should make [strides] for positive growth."

"Targeting younger consumers is important because they look for the trendy products, but it requires a lot of shelf space and effort," said Carrie Bonner, project manager, Kline & Co.

Drug stores are also getting into the teen cosmetics fray. Rite Aid, Camp Hill, Pa., recently introduced Glam Camp, an in-store program that rewards teens for purchasing certain products by offering chances to win prizes. In the drug chain's recent in-store circular, a two-page pink ad touted Glam Camp products, announcing that customers who buy any three specially marked products will receive a free cosmetics bag filled with merchandise.

"The biggest hurdle for grocery is the sheer number of cosmetics brands they can profitably handle," said Garber. For example, if a particular consumer likes to buy all different brands across various cosmetics categories and the retailer does not carry one of those brands, Garber said, "will the consumer still buy the items the retailer does carry, or will she buy nothing at all and go elsewhere?"

To prevent such consumer erosion and to compete with innovative promotional programs like Glam Camp, retailers are using creative displays and services to promote customer loyalty.

Price Chopper incorporates specialized freestanding, end-cap and countertop displays to reach moms and daughters in high traffic areas away from the HBC area, such as store entrances.

"We build a lot of theater around the displays," explained DeJulio. A recent display included different sides highlighting lip care, eye care and blush "to develop a segmented theme," he said.

The 104-store retailer also makes sure to merchandise the freshest product selections when cosmetics manufacturers revamp their product lines in April and the fall each year. "You have to stay up on those [new products] to a point," he said. "We try to get the newest shades out there as they break so it makes for interesting shopping."

Price Chopper "jumps on first-to-market," DeJulio noted. "It's got to be out there in front of the consumer to do a total tie-in."

Merchandising displays and the creation of color-themed end-cap events will allow supermarkets to compete effectively, said David Gugino and Marina Binichis, customer marketing executives, at Revlon, New York. Also, cross promotions within segments like foundation and concealer can increase consumer market baskets by encouraging multiple purchases, and merchandising these segments near each other can encourage cross purchase, said the Revlon sources.

Lotta Luv, New York, producer of Candy Corner Products, a lip balm and bath line based on popular candy like Junior Mints, Jelly Belly and Bubble Yum, makes good sense for teens and supermarkets, said Steph Fogelson, president.

"These are products that supermarkets already have in their aisles," he said. "It's instant recognition and acceptance. If you see a Junior Mints lip balm, you know what it's going to taste like." Lotta Luv just introduced its Bake Shoppe Collection featuring lip balms that taste like Hostess Twinkies, along with a Cinnabon collection. The company is working with the food brands to create co-packaging opportunities that marry the food product with the cosmetics item in one package, Fogelson said, but he could not disclose specific brands.

Candy Corner displays are available in Pathmark, Carteret, N.J., Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, and Walgreens, Deerfield, Ill., he said.