April 24, 2009
Wat's that make-up?
Cult make-up brands are finding their way to your neighbourhood Watsons stores
By Karen Tee
Say 'beauty wonderland' and names that leap out are Sephora, Tangs and Robinsons' beauty halls and...Watsons?
Yes, the personal care store is going big on beauty these days.
With cheap-chic make-up brands such as Majolica Majorca from Japan and British-based Rimmel (see LONDON CALLING below) making grand entrances here via the chain exclusively, Watsons is becoming the go-to place for make-up lovers.
Of the more than 100 brands it carries, about 20 are exclusive to the chain.
Guardian Health & Beauty, too, is upping the glamour stakes.
It is becoming a haven for niche, hard-to-find beauty brands such as Britain-based Organic Surge and Korean brand BRTC, which is known for its blemish balms.
Last August, when Estee Lauder Singapore launched Tri-Aktiline, a wrinkle filler from BeautyBank - its division that develops products to be sold outside department stores - guess who it chose as its exclusive retailer?
FROM MASS TO MASSTIGE
On the trend to beef up its beauty range, managing director for Watson's Personal Care Stores Cathy Yeap says it has picked exclusive brands to 'differentiate us from the clutter in the market'.
'As we saw mass brands move into supermarkets and hypermarkets, we have gone from mass to masstige,' says Yeap, referring to beauty products that straddle the price range between mass market and prestige brands.
Consumer demand for a wider product range has prompted Guardian to bring in more brands, including the latest It beauty products, says Chang Hong Ming, its merchandise director.
'There is an emerging trend of customers preferring Japanese- and Korean-made products, whose ingredients and colours suit most Asian skin types,' she says.
Hong Kong-based Watsons began its push into the niche beauty market four years ago with new brands such as Avene from France and Beauty Formulas from Britain.
It also has cosmeceutical labels such as Taiwan-based Dr Wu skincare line to organic brands like German brand Lavera and Sukin from Australia.
Yeap says beauty products take up about one-third of the floor space across all Watsons stores here and are often prominently displayed at the front of the stores to draw traffic.
Similarly, about 30 per cent of floor space is taken up by cosmetics products at Guardian.
However, toiletries such as bath soaps and shampoos remain Watsons' 'bread and butter', Yeap notes.
Mag Teo, 32, a freelance make-up artist who writes a beauty blog (www.makeupstash.com), finds herself browsing in Watsons 'at least once a week'.
'Watsons is bringing in more cult brands, which is exciting for make-up lovers,' she says.
Her top finds are blushers with flattering shimmery shades from Japanese brand Gransenbon, which are hard to find even in Japan.
At Guardian, she has spotted make-up by Korean brand VOV, which is popular for its blushers.
Judging by the numbers, niche is certainly the way to go.
Yeap says Watsons' beauty category has seen a double-digit jump in year-on-year sales over the last four years.
Guardian, too, has seen a 'very healthy' double-digit growth in sales over the past two years in its beauty segment.
Yeap notes: 'Whether good times or bad, affordability is always a concern.
'People still need to brush their teeth, wash their hair and wear a little make-up.'
Get set for another wave of cool Britannia to hit Singapore.
Hip British make-up brand Rimmel - fronted by the inimitable Kate Moss as well as two other English roses, model Lily Cole and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor - is now available here through Watsons.
Rimmel is Britain's top-selling cosmetics brand, known for its on-trend eye make-up colours and mascara.
It is especially known for quality products at affordable prices - a feature that should sit well with Watsons' profile and recessionistas.
The brand is already available in 60 countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany.
One tube of its blockbuster Hide The Blemish concealer (available here for $11.90) is sold every minute in Europe alone.
In Singapore, prices range from $5.90 for nail polish to $25.90 for liquid foundation.
The brand's product manager here, Cyrena Tham, says: 'With people becoming more cautious with their spending, this is the right time for Rimmel, with our wide range of products, to enter the Singapore market.'
Rimmel's entry here is part of a move to expand its presence in Asia, which kicked off in 2006 in Japan, followed by China and Malaysia.
The brand is so ubiquitous in Europe that in Southern Europe, people refer to mascara as 'Rimmel', just as Americans refer to tissue paper as 'Kleenex'.
If you are wondering what the fuss is about, try its latest Sexy Curves mascara ($17.90), which has a unique 'triple pump brush' shaped like an hourglass.
The combination of long and short bristles works wonders at separating, curling and volumising sparse lashes in just two quick coats.
About 70 per cent of the brand's collection is available here, Tham says. There will be 50 Rimmel counters at Watsons' outlets islandwide by the end of this year.
She adds: 'We have a streetwise vibe that complements the high-street fashion that has taken off here.
'Compared to similarly positioned brands, Rimmel has a bolder, edgier look.'
Rimmel is now available at Watsons outlets in Takashimaya Shopping Centre, HarbourFront, Jurong Point and Tampines 1. A counter in Watsons Tiong Bahru Plaza opens next Tuesday.