Three beauty sites jump into the fray

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At least three new or updated apparel and cosmetics Web sites will launch campaigns in the next few weeks, joining a heavily populated e-tailing field.

Beauty Web site Gloss.com will unveil an upgrade Nov. 23, backed by an $8 million ad campaign; Indulge.com will introduce its fashion and beauty site this week; and online shopping guide StyleShop.com will enter the e-tail field with StyleShopDirect.com, a site selling designer clothing.

The three sites are among a slew of e-tailers that expect this will be a healthy holiday season, thanks to a strong economy and rising acceptance of online sales.

Cyber Dialogue, an Internet database marketing company, estimates 19.4 million consumers will spend $7.8 billion online this holiday season, double the $3.9 billion spent online during the holidays in 1998.

FIRST TV STARTS NOV. 22

Gloss.com will break its first TV advertising Nov. 22, part of a campaign from Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., that also will include outdoor, print, radio and online marketing. The spots show women in New York passing a note, which is finally revealed to bear the word "Gloss."

The new effort also will include an advertising insert in the December Vogue to mark Gloss.com's sponsorship of the Dec. 5 Vogue VH-1 Fashion Awards, and a contest promotion tied to Women in Film, a show-business group of which the company is also a sponsor.

Gloss.com recently raised $20 million in a second round of venture capital investments to fund marketing and upgrades to the site, which went online Sept. 27, said Deanna Kangas, VP-marketing. It will add services and features as part of the upgrade, such as new search functions and a gift shopping area. The upgrade also will include a preview of its Virtual Makeover, a feature coming early next year that will allow users to upload their own pictures and see how products would look on themselves.

PRINT KICKS IT OFF

Indulge.com, a rival site selling beauty products, accessories and jewelry, went online Nov. 14, backed by print ads from AG, New York.

Page ads feature b&w photos with phrases such as "Celebrate the small things" and "Time without pleasure is wasted." They broke in Sunday newspapers Nov. 14, including Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. A 12-page ad insert will run in many of the same newspapers Nov. 28 and will be used as a direct-mail piece in cities nationwide.

The $20 million campaign will add outdoor and TV spots in the future.

The holiday shopping rush forced StyleShop to handle its ads in-house while it searched for an agency. But last week the company turned over the ad reins to Berenter Greenhouse & Webster, New York.

Its launch campaign begins this month, and will include print, TV and online advertising, said Lisa Boyne, CEO of StyleShop, which plans to spend $2 million in November and December.

Ms. Boyne said the site will spend $10 million next year.

ADDITIONAL AD SCHEDULE

The site, styleshopdirect.com, was launched Nov. 1 and offers brands including Halston, Maxx New York and Frou Page Novick. Future plans include a January relaunch of the StyleShop sales and bargains site, renamed StyleShopDeals.com, which will be supported with an additional ad campaign in early 2000, Ms. Boyne said.

Ads will run in New York Magazine and The New York Times, followed by first-quarter schedules in fashion books including Elle, Harper's Bazaar and Jane.

The company also will air 15-second spots on CBS; the spots break on the network's "Martha Stewart Living" on Nov. 22.

E-tailing was a natural extension for StyleShop.com, started in April 1996 as samplesale.com, a Web site that listed designer sample sales, Ms. Boyne said. In 1998, it was relaunched as styleshop.com, a fashion and lifestyle e-zine and shopping guide where users can browse the latest styles and find out where to buy the items at stores in 250 cities.

The number of online shoppers for cosmetics and toiletries will more than double this holiday season, according to a recent survey from consultancy NPD Group. An NPD survey of online users found 11% plan to shop online for cosmetics and toiletries between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, compared to 5% of users during the 1998 holiday season.

New beauty Web sites competing for those sales include entries from established off-line companies, such as Sephora.com and Procter & Gamble Co.'s Reflect.com, as well as online-only retailers such as Eve.com and Beauty Scene.com.

Additionally, beautymarket.com, a discount beauty products site, will be launched in December, and CosmeticsPlus.com, an e-commerce site from the makeup retailer, is scheduled to go online today.

Even mass-market sites such as online drugstores PlanetRx.com and Drugstore.com have added holiday shopping areas with cosmetics and toiletries.

OTHER COMPETITION

Apparel sites face some tough competition from product marketers' Web sites, department stores and other e-tailers (AA, March 29), all of which want a slice of a holiday sales season that could reach $600 million in online apparel sales, according to NPD estimates.

The NPD survey found 24% of Internet users plan to buy apparel online this year, compared to 15% of users in 1998.

With such a full lineup, industry observers say shakeups in the near future are inevitable.

It's already started. Levi Strauss & Co. last month announced it will withdraw from e-tailing after the holidays because the venue isn't profitable enough.

The jeans company said its Web site instead will direct consumers to retailers that sell Levi's items on their own sites.

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