Making the most of the sweet smell of success

With competition in the cosmetics and toiletries market currently at record levels, packaging designers should sniff out the opportunity to cash in on the trend, says Matthew Valentine

When the long awaited Virgin Vie store finally opens for trading, its products will join a growing list of rivals in the burgeoning cosmetics and toiletries market. New players are entering the fray at a rate of knots and those already there are revamping their ranges and packaging in order to keep up with the Joneses.

And the changes are not being reserved for long-established brands. Retailers are increasingly bringing out own-label ranges to milk the cosmetics cash cow.

Marks & Spencer this week relaunches its Classics from St Michael brand, a 40-strong range. London consultancy Artwork repackaged Classics, after previously developing a toiletries range for the retailer. Jane Gottelier, design director at Artwork, describes the brand as “very chic, mainly black, a range that would look good if you got it out of your handbag or briefcase”.

Retailer Accessorize, a spin-off from the Monsoon fashion chain, is to launch its first cosmetics brand next week. Called A By Accessorize it was created in-house. Fashion chains such as Next and Gap have ranges for men and women already.

KMI, which has seen its King of Shaves men’s toiletries range prove a success, has appointed design group Stylorouge to develop a rival to the Lynx brand (DW 1 August).

The established independent brands are determined not to be left behind. Landor was brought in by cosmetics house Yardley to revamp its range, which is pitched at the 35-years-plus age group and was relaunched in May. Market research showed a preference for a move away from the trend for “young and glitzy” packaging, says Landor senior design director Alison Cane.

Yardley evidently came to the same conclusions as M&S, settling on designs which Cane describes as having a “far more classic look”. Landor also paid a lot of attention to making the Yardley range easy to hold and use, and on being a product people would be “proud to have in their make-up bag”.

Helen Cooper, former group marketing manager for brand development at Yardley, now head of the fragrance department, confirms that the whole cosmetics market is extremely active. “We can’t afford to stand still,” she says, “the level of new product development in cosmetics is enormous.” The end of recession and increasing levels of disposable income are the reasons, she says.

And while items such as foundation and mascara create high brand loyalty in consumers, impulse buys like lipsticks and eye shadows do not. This, says Cooper, is where new entrants such as fashion retailers are the greatest threat to existing brands. And it is Boots’ No 7, the market leader, which still sets the packaging design standards which others must match, she says.

One of Yardley’s main rivals, Rimmel, is believed to be preparing an imminent relaunch of its brand at its in-house design studio. Studio head Dorothy Grey was unavailable for comment on the project as Design Week went to press .

The fight is just as fierce at the designer end of the market. The success of lines such as Christian Dior and Chanel has inspired others into the rapidly crowding field, as a way of expanding revenues from fashion empires.

In such a cluttered and competitive market high profile publicity is the key to a successful launch, something unwittingly and tragically achieved this month with the launch of the Versace make-up range. The range, which has been under development for two years, will be on sale in the holy retailing trinity of Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges and will have the distinction of being one of Gianni Versace’s final legacies. The design work, by Versace himself and his sister Donatella, was completed just before his murder.

On the high street, The Body Shop is trialing new designs and it, along with competitors such as Superdrug, is constantly introducing new packaging. Virgin’s ambitions for the Vie chain have been well documented, and even Asda has attempted to take on Calvin Klein with its unisex fragrance brand, George.

There is a simple reason for all this activity: money. The market for cosmetics and toiletries is growing apace, especially among men. Market research company Euromonitor predicts that this year British men will spend more than 753m on toiletries, or more than 26 per head. By 2001 that expenditure is expected to reach 831.8m (at 1996 prices). And Mintel Market Intelligence says women will spend 191m a year by 2001 just on bodycare products such as lotions.

So, by being in the right place at the right time, packaging design consultancies could find their balance sheets coming up smelling of roses.

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