Coty imports U.K. brand for Wal-Mart

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Coty Inc. returns to U.S. cosmetics aisles in March with a high-fashion British accent and a mass-market Wal-Mart price tag.

Rimmel London, Coty's European mass-market makeup line, will appear exclusively at Wal-Mart stores starting in March. The brand includes a full line of cosmetics, nail color and makeup brushes, all priced from $1.97 to $3.97 each.

The launch will be supported by a campaign from J. Walter Thompson Co., London, and promotions that include sampling and in-store events. Ads feature colorful shots of models showing off Rimmel's makeup, and the tagline "Make up your language."

Ad efforts will concentrate on print, but TV and outdoor are being considered and a Rimmel Web site is under development, said Rick Goldberg, VP-color cosmetics at Coty U.S. Optimum Media, New York, Coty's media agency, has not yet finalized a media plan, but ads are expected to break in the second half of the year.

IN-STORE PROMOS

Mr. Goldberg would not disclose Rimmel's ad budget, but said it will be slightly smaller than Coty's media spending on fragrance, relying more on in-store promotions in Wal-Mart's 2,500 stores. Coty spent $10.3 million in U.S. media for its fragrance lines during the first 10 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Rimmel's arrival in the U.S. puts Coty back in the domestic makeup game. Although about 25% of the company's $1.7 billion annual sales come from color cosmetics, its presence in the U.S. market was minimal. Last year, it phased out most of its makeup products to concentrate on mass-market fragrances.

Coty makeup-mainly face and lip colors-sold poorly and was edged out of many stores by retailers who wanted to add new makeup lines from Procter & Gamble's Oil of Olay and Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena brands.

The additional competition, as well as new outlets such as French retailer Sephora and a slew of e-commerce sites such as Beauty.com and Gloss.com, have primed the U.S. market for Rimmel, said Anastasia Ayala, formerly Coty's senior VP-color cosmetics. Ms. Ayala was in charge of the Rimmel brand until this month, when she became Coty's senior VP-global fragrances.

POPULAR OVERSEAS

Rimmel makeup-around since the 1900s-is one of the most popular makeup brands overseas. Coty acquired the brand in 1996 from Unilever as part of a purchase that included several regional makeup lines, such as Cutex Europe and Pierre Roberto.

At the time, Rimmel was sold under different names in different countries, each with its own packaging and advertising. After the purchase, Coty executives decided to consolidate Rimmel into "one big, smart global brand," Ms. Ayala said. Rimmel U.K. was picked as the look with the strongest global appeal, and the line was repackaged and expanded from 15 European markets in 1996 to some 40 markets worldwide today. In 1999, Coty began talks with Wal-Mart to get shelf space for Rimmel, and those talks developed quickly into an exclusive agreement, Ms. Ayala said.

Rimmel gives Wal-Mart an in-house brand to compete with rival Target's exclusive Sonia Kashuk cosmetics line introduced last fall.

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