Character licensing royalty revenues have remained pretty static over the last few years, give or take the odd million. But looking back at LIMA’s year-end industry assessment, there was one category that seemed particularly ripe for growth in the kids sector. Health & beauty revenues jumped a whopping 52% in 2004 to bring in a total of US$38 million. While LIMA hasn’t broken that figure down by consumer demographic, licensors with tween girl properties say there’s a bona fide health & beauty boom going on, complete with widening retail channels, growing revenues and an increase in the number and variety of product SKUs available.
‘In the past, products available in this category stopped at bubble bath,’ says Mattel’s senior director of worldwide marketing, Lisa McKnight. Now it encompasses everything from haircare to cosmetics, and there are a whole lot more licenses competing for a piece of the action.
Mattel’s Barbie brand has graced the bubble bath shelf for decades, but earlier this year, the toyco moved its girls icon into the world of higher-end fragrances and launched an everyday haircare line that’s available year-round at Wal-Mart and in drugstores including Rite-aid. The company is working on licensing Barbie into more H&B corners for 2006, and McKnight expects consumption will keep growing along with the U.S. kids population.
‘Kid consumers (or their parents) are spending US$940 million a year on health & beauty aids,’ she says. And census estimates predict the number of U.S. kids ages five to 13 will reach 35 million by 2010. It also seems as though girls are glomming on to grooming products much earlier than in years past. ‘Girls are starting to mature more quickly, and parents are letting them wear cosmetics and be a little more diva,’ says Juanita Palomina, DIC Entertainment’s VP of domestic licensing.
DIC is certainly enjoying everything this trend has to offer. According to Palomino, Strawberry Shortcake sales in the category have increased by around 35% since 2003. ‘I can remember trying to pitch health & beauty in the past,’ she says. ‘It was very difficult to secure licensees unless you had a Tinkerbell or a Barbie.’ But over the last two years, Strawberry has expanded into makeup (eyeshadow and lipgloss pots by Townley Cosmetics), everyday shampoo (Ten Percent) and lotions (Cosrich).
More importantly, a considerable amount of retail space has opened up for these types of products. Target and Wal-Mart are currently playing host to Strawberry H&B endcaps, while grocery chain Albertsons and Long’s drugstores have picked up the new haircare line from Ten Percent. Even high-end, trendsetting L.A. retailer Kitson’s is stocking the Strawberry Shortcake lipgloss pots, which retail for a reasonable US$2.99. In fact, the gloss is the brand’s best-selling SKU, says Palomino. ‘We licensed it thinking about six-year-old girls, but 20-year-olds think it’s cool as well.’
Even Disney Consumer Products has noticed an up-tick. Initially, the Lizzie McGuire H&B line of 18 SKUs launched exclusively at tween retailer Limited Too in spring 2004. Intended as a one-off, limited-edition initiative, the product assortment has since expanded and become a full-time business for DCP – moving beyond Limited Too to occupy space in Kohl’s and grocery chains this past spring.
According to health & beauty director Sheila Ullery, there are now between 18 and 30 SKUs in rotation, including lip gellies, various kinds of gloss, a compact shaped like a cell phone and shower gel. Rotating the range is key, says Ullery, because ‘tween girls like variety and collecting. We cannot keep the same product on shelf or they become bored with the brand.’
But luckily, there are plenty of product innovations in the works to keep fickle tween customers coming back for more. For example, Palomino points to Strawberry Shortcake’s line of lotions. The goop itself features metallic sparkles, and the bottles contain little collectible gifts. So when a girl has used up the product, she’ll be able to shake out a little figurine or picture frame that’s been floating at the bottom.
Collectibility is also a key feature of Added Extra’s line of Trollz makeup, which is set to launch at mass retail in January. This product will look a bit slicker to appeal to the slightly older Trollz fan, borrowing from the likes of MAC and Stila. Compact embellishments will include the signature Trollz jewels, and different color combos are in the works to reflect the personality of each of the property’s main girl characters.
DCP is also taking a more sophisticated approach to its newest foray in the category. Meant to appeal to older tweens and teens, a line of That’s So Raven makeup (Townley Cosmetics) and perfume (boom!!) launched last month at Wal-Mart, Limited Too and Claire’s. The makeup packaging is colorful but clean-looking, and products are merchandised in table-top spinner racks at the cosmetics counter. To strengthen the connection between Raven and her fans, Townley president Abe Safdieh says his company has posted Raven Symone’s makeup tips up on its website.