Big drugstore beauty brands grapple with competition and savvy consumers

Meghan McCarty Carino Jul 1, 2019
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Legacy brands like Revlon and CoverGirl have been losing market share to luxury and specialty products. Lea Aharonovitch via Flickr

Big drugstore beauty brands grapple with competition and savvy consumers

Meghan McCarty Carino Jul 1, 2019
Legacy brands like Revlon and CoverGirl have been losing market share to luxury and specialty products. Lea Aharonovitch via Flickr
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Brands like Max Factor, Clairol and CoverGirl have been mainstays on pharmacy shelves for decades. But business has not been so easy, breezy or beautiful in recent years, leading parent company Coty to announce a big restructuring plan Monday. Legacy mass-market beauty brands like those owned by Coty have been losing market share as consumers migrate to luxury and specialty products.

Consumers still do the majority of their shopping for beauty products in pharmacies and big box stores like Target or Walmart, but the shelf space devoted to the legacy brands has been shrinking, said Larissa Jensen, a beauty business analyst with NPD Group.

“I walked into a CVS recently and saw a whole collection of K-beauty products,” she said, referring to ultra-trendy Korean beauty products, which often include buzzy or outlandish ingredients like snail slime and pig collagen.

They’re part of an explosion of niche brands that have fragmented the beauty landscape and made their way onto mainstream shelves, according to Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, including “organics, naturals, skincare beauty products that are meant for different types of skin so there’s a diversity and inclusion kind of component.”

In addition to increased competition, the big brands are also grappling with savvier consumers.

“All of that conversation and all of that product consideration is happening even before someone walks into the store,” said Mae Karwowski of the marketing agency Obviously. Rather, she said, it’s happening in online forums and on the YouTube and Instagram accounts of influencers like Tati and Jeffree Star.

But Karwowski said the rise of beauty influencers isn’t all bad news for the big drugstore brands, thanks to a phenomenon known as “dupe” videos, short for duplicates, in which influencers showcase a high-end product and a cheaper drugstore “dupe” for a fraction of the price.

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