The World's Largest Resource for the Cart, Kiosk, and Temporary Retail Industry

Spring 2001 Pretty Please

Try it On

Upscale department stores have them. So do drugstores and groceries. Women everywhere expect, look for and try makeup “testers”—counter displays of open tubes, bottles and pans that let you try before you buy. A great idea for a marketing tool, but often limited and sometimes just too messy to be effective.

Imagine instead a cart filled with neatly organized testers and products in every color, scent and flavor… one that invites you to pat, dab, smear and spritz to try on all the latest, with friendly guidance from the staff. Or a kiosk where someone demonstrates cosmetics just for you, as a makeover or just a try-on of this shadow, that blush. Or a photo booth that lets you see yourself in different hairstyles. Welcome to the new world of try-it-first beauty—as fresh, young and colorful as its target market.

Girl power

Daughters of the baby boom generation are growing up, and they are consumers. Tweens, teens and their Gen-X sisters are big spenders and, as a result, this young market now has the unblinking attention of cosmetics manufacturers and retailers.

The cosmetics retailer or manufacturer who doesn’t believe the youth market is worth serious consideration might take a look at the numbers. “The teen market is growing immensely. They’re surpassing baby boomers as the prime target for companies because they have so much disposable income,” says Keri Singer,’s 24-year-old fashion and beauty editor. By 2010, the number of teenagers in the US alone will swell to 35 million—more teenagers among us than at any other time in history, according to

imageThe Worth Global Style Network reports that teen girls in the US spend $8 billion a year on clothes and beauty products. Girls between 12 and 19 have an endless appetite for new beauty products because they are trying to define who they are. Trying out new looks helps them do that, says Singer. And if the products are fun, even better.

Enter entrepreneurial opportunity. A growing number of retailers are getting in touch with their “inner teen” and discovering that what works as a beacon to lure Mom and Ms. hardly blips on the Junior Miss radar screen. And so they’ve decided to go where the girls are—to the mall. Not stodgy department stores or even specialty inline stores, but colorful, can’t-miss-’em carts and kiosks.

“Girls live in malls and they travel in packs,” says Tim Runner, a principal with In Your Face Cosmetics of Irvine, CA. He runs the two-year-old company with partner Jill Bonnington, a former cosmetics executive. Runner, the father of four girls, knows whereof he speaks. His daughters and a panel of ten young advisors keep the company ahead of the curve on what teens want and what trends are on the horizon. “We saw that this market that wasn’t being addressed,” he says. “In department stores, [attention and service to] teenagers are shortchanged by the sales staff.” In many cases, sales associates discourage teens from participating in the sales process. In Your Face, now with 14 carts, stepped into the breach. “We saw an opportunity to sell our own line through carts, and keep prices down,” says Runner. “We also felt this was the best way to reach the market. When you go through a retail store, you become one of many product lines on the shelves.”

In Your Face carts are designed around two or three test stations where shoppers spend an average of 10 to 15 minutes experimenting with products that include 24 colored powders and eight glitters. Each station has samples, a mirror and cotton-tip swabs, and sales staffers are available to offer advice and answer questions. The Irvine Spectrum Center, with its lively shops and 21-screen cinema, is a magnet for young buyers—and so is the In Your Face cart in that center. “We have a very young clientele,” says Lee Eckholm, the manager for specialty retail. “Most [of them] are 15 to 25 years old, and this [cart] appeals to them. The cart and the products are presented very well.”

Of the shoppers who try the products, 60-70 percent buy them, Runner says. And buyers return so they can stock up on their favorites, try out the newest products and introduce them to their friends. “These girls like to think of themselves as trend-setters,” he says. “The ones who buy from us bring in their friends. They do the sales work for us.”

Show and sell

Whether they’re getting a makeover or simply trying something that catches their eye, these shoppers unwittingly serve as half of a winning marketing equation: demonstration product + consumer = sale.

Estey International (based in Chatsworth, CA) manufactures and sells an intensely colored, blendable line called True Colors, available at more than 50 kiosks run by licensees around the country. Young female consumers in search of the newest makeup trends are invited to a demonstration of the latest makeup looks and products. “These cosmetics are very demonstrate-able products that do well in malls because there’s so much traffic,” says Mike Mave, spokesman for Estey International Inc. “Salespeople in the kiosks can reach out directly to customers to do demonstrations, and that attracts other onlookers.”

imageAlso appealing to young female consumers is Magiff International, which sells makeup and nail polish through demonstrations at the company’s 35 eye-catching carts throughout the US. (The Fort Lauderdale-based company also distributes them in six other countries.) Miguel Giffuni, Magiff president, says his products have a strong appeal to young buyers, and he cheers the enthusiasm of teenage girls. “They are fantastic. If they like something, they buy it,” he says. “It’s an emotional response. If you keep putting out new things every 15 days, they keep coming back.” And he believes in the power of demonstration: “People who come up and just start putting on makeup aren’t going to buy,” he says. The Magiff sales staff is well-trained in non-verbal communication. They carefully read their customers’ signals, and subtly guide the demonstration process accordingly. “We train our staff to notice who a potential buyer is, and we train them to match their emotional tone to the customer’s.” That includes keeping it upbeat and fun. B. Laird McClure, manager of specialty leasing at Universal Studios in Orlando, says the Magiff cart at the CityWalk entertainment venue is colorful, charming and fun. “There’s a lot of interaction there—they get a lot of teenage girls,” he says. “[Magiff] made makeup application a fun thing to do.”

In a similar vein, Runner says a soft approach and a big helping of patience are essential to the sales process for In Your Face, especially when dealing with teenage customers. “They can make horrendous messes, which our staff has to clean up,” he says. “We train our staff just to be helpful and willing to teach customers how to use the products. ‘Are you familiar with our products?’ is our opening lead-in line.”

New neighbor

In 1997, Avon cosmetics—historically synonymous with door-to-door sales (“Avon calling!”) and an older clientele—began looking into opening kiosks Avon calls “beauty centers.” The company’s research showed that 20 million customers, many of them younger women, didn’t think of buying Avon products, or didn’t have access to a sales representative, according to Avon spokeswoman Laura Castellano.

Today, Avon operates 50 beauty centers in malls around the country. Operated by Avon sales representatives, the kiosks cannot replicate the personal relationship that in-home sales representatives develop with regular customers. But Castellano says the beauty centers have been successful in attracting new customers and reinforcing the brand. They also offer the Avon sales reps another avenue for introducing themselves and the products, and for recruiting and training their own sales force and receiving commissions from the retail sales.

In another effort to create niche markets, Avon will unveil their “store-within-a-store” concept in Sears and JC Penney stores. Avon will place an exclusive line of products to be sold only in a dedicated space within these stores. The line will cater to the beauty concerns of women at different life stages from teen to senior. “Our representatives will have enough knowledge of these different stages to develop relationships with clients,” Castellano says, and “[product] sampling will be a very important marketing method.”

Estey International also is using the concept of age-based marketing. They are introducing products that can be mixed together to create lip glosses, eye shadows and cheek color for customers in all age ranges. The company’s demonstration carts and kiosks appeal to mothers and daughters, teens and seniors—in effect, every woman. “Today,” Mave says, “women in their early 50s are young and hip and like to play.” And that’s what Estey’s demo kiosks are designed for—the fun of mixing and sampling, testing and trying everything the company offers and happily buying the products that look best.

Picture perfect

The season’s new makeup palette also sparks the impulse to update hairstyles. As women of all ages can attest, thinking about a new ‘do for spring is a boost to winter-weary spirits. But actually deciding on a new cut or color—and then actually going through with it—is often stressful and sometimes just plain scary: unlike cosmetics, there are no “testers” for haircuts and colors, no way to know how it will look until she’s actually done it. And if the gamble didn’t pay off, if the look didn’t turn out as she had hoped, she has to live with it till it grows out or finds a (usually costly) remedy.

But instead of the cycle that’s played out everywhere, imagine getting a peek at what you look like in that new bob before you commit—a hairstyle “tester” of sorts. Thanks to Hair Style Illusions, that’s precisely what happens. No more mystery, no more tears, and a lot of fun.

imageHair Style Illusions has photo booths that give customers a “virtual makeover”‘ for hair. For a mere $3, a customer can view herself in any or all of 64 different hairstyles ranging from silly to sophisticated. In as little as 30 seconds she can walk away with a photo of her favorite four looks. The Hair Style Illusions concept has its roots in professional salons. The idea for the hair makeover booths was inspired by the desktop version one of the co-owners had created for salon stylists. After seeing its popularity as a professional tool, the California-based company decided to adapt it for a vending-machine concept. Whether people use it as a tool or a toy, it would let everybody in on the fun—no appointment needed. Débuting just one year ago, Hair Style Illusions’ photo booths are creating virtual makeovers at more than 120 malls here and abroad.

Women looking for a change or just a few minutes of fashion fun can pop into a booth, play and experiment with the options, and preview themselves with locks snipped short, or shaped, or layered. Blondes can “try on” burgundy, brunettes can try red, silver can go gold. “This is definitely one of the most fun and entertaining photo machines on the market. I’ve observed the reactions of people leaving the machine, and it’s true—everyone has a smile on their face,” says Jim Henderson, co-owner and director of operations.

Women do tend to use the machine as a tool, Henderson says. “They generally choose three more serious styles, and then perhaps one wild and crazy one.” Then they use their finished photo to get feedback from their friends or boyfriends as reinforcement and encouragement. And when friends see the photo, they almost always hop into the booth themselves—a temptation that’s hard to resist, and creates additional revenue.

Although most of their customers are female, it’s not just girls and very young women who indulge. “All sorts of people are interested in it,” says Henderson. “The impression is that it’s just for young teenage girls, but its popularity spreads all the way to middle-aged women and older people.” There’s even something in it for guys—half of the styles include mohawks, spiked looks, Dennis Rodman-inspired colors, and even a bald look! “Men mainly go in just for the entertainment value,” says Henderson, so “the crazier [the styles], the better.”

By the end of this year, the company hopes to have 400 to 500 Hair Style Illusions booths in place. “Obviously, it’s also a great thing for the malls, creating more traffic and bringing more people out there to enjoy themselves.”

Tried and true

Whether it’s high-tech imaging, makeup demonstrations, or simply testers and mirrors, the try-before-you-buy approach makes products accessible and answers the universal “How would I look?” question. Letting customers sample and experiment with products, ask questions and get feedback eases the doubt and anxieties that get in the way of the sale. For the consumer, the new try-it approach is useful and fun. And for the retailer, it can mean a pretty penny.

Hair Diamond

The cure for a bad hair day is just a clip or a headband away, thanks to one creative company. Hair Diamond’s hair extensions, ponies, braids and “scrunchies” are the latest in faux. No tacky wigs or mere “falls,” this is more than a fix-it’s a fashion statement, says Sonia DiMaria, Hair Diamond VP and designer.

In addition to their popular line of hair jewelry, Hair Diamond has been selling their “hair designs” for almost a year, and according to DiMaria, their popularity is unprecedented. “I think it’s the hottest item right now in specialty retail,” she says. “When a new cart opens, you should see the crowd. Everybody is so impressed, and it’s so much fun to see their reactions. After all, it’s such a drastic change.”

The 100-percent washable fiber pieces look, feel and move like a woman’s own hair. And with a multitude of shades to choose from, a woman almost always finds one that matches her own. DiMaria says Hollywood has used hair pieces for years to alter actresses’ looks in a hurry. “People might not have known how the star’s hair was short for a film one day and then long the next.” Now, with Hair Diamond, the ability to do that is available to every woman. “Different hair pieces give women a chance to change their look right away.” They can have a salon-caliber coif without hours of heat-based styling. They can go from a business-suitable daytime look to a sexier evening look in minutes. They can change from curly to straight on a whim. “The idea is to have fun,” says DiMaria.

Hair Diamond also meets needs that go beyond fun and glamour. “Women who are losing their hair or have hair that is thinning love the idea,” says DiMaria. “[A hair piece] also adds confidence for older women whose hair might not have the bounce and the health it used to.”

Retailing from $15 to $65, the current collection of 16 styles includes short and longer styles, and new styles are continually introduced. “It’s not a fad, and it’s definitely going to keep growing,” she says. “I think eventually these pieces will become part of most women’s wardrobes. They will have several styles to choose from.”

Women of all ages are already in on the secret, DiMaria says. So next time, look closely at that dynamite ‘do-it just might just be Hair Diamond.

Pamela Rohland

Pamela Rohland often writes about the joys and tribulations of entrepreneurship for a variety of regional and national business publications.

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