The Grayson Report

CVS has Sephora Envy

By Suzanne and Bob Grayson, Grayson Associates | March 3, 2009

The conversation must have started with an innocuous, “Why not?” by somebody in upper management. “We have the locations, the customers/traffic, the capital—and we’re doing well with our stores’ indie brands. All we need is the right model. With that, we can budget for 60 stores the first year.”
And so, the first two Beauty 360 stores have opened. They are separate-entry upscale beauty specialty stores, attached to existing CVS locations. Fortuitously, the West Coast store is about five miles from our office in a typical California strip mall, along with a sandwich shop, restaurants, beauty salon, barbershop, Michael’s, a couple of regional chain stores and Trader Joe’s. Just about the ideal location for a drug store looking for high-density upscale consumers. Never mind that there are three major/major upscale malls within 2-5 miles of this location.
Based on the company’s press release about 360, “this new concept will redefine the beauty shopping experience by providing customers with access to prestige and niche beauty brands as well as an unparalleled level of service.”
Sounds like a cross between a beauty salon, department store and a spa. Except for fragrances from Arden (Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears, etc.,) and Calvin Klein, the rest of the shelves are stocked with not-so leading brands. Cosmetic brands include Sampar, Pop Beauty, Laura Geller, Paula Dorf, Talika, IT, Lola, Pure and a whole other bunch that you never heard of.  Not one really major line, indie or otherwise to give it the credibility to draw traffic. The décor is best described as bland—no buzz, no excitement, no special features. Plenty of enthusiastic store help, but will that change when the chief financial officer gets a look as the bottom line?
That brings us back to the critical question, “Why not?” It should have been, “Why yes?” We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: “Without a positive reason for success, failure is inevitable.”
The net is that a new concept store should have a new merchandising concept that’s bigger than the lines that it carries, which gives consumers a reason to revisit. More lines are not the answer. How to present those lines with a new twist to entice consumers, is a positive reason for success. Our March 2008 column told of a new concept beauty store, New Beauty—and it was, in every way. Much-heralded, and not just another Sephora or Ulta, the 360 stores must carve out a really new groove to achieve success for CVS. It will. Sephora had its bumps along the way until it found its groove.

A Boost from Ad Budgets?

Early in January, a headline in The New York Times trumpeted, “Prominent Magazines Lose Weight, Shedding Nearly Half Their Ads.” It listed the top losers—Vogue down 44%, Architectural Digest down 46%, Lucky down 44%, follow by a long list of others. Which brings us to the concept of “share of voice” (SOV).
The concept is simple enough: always spend ahead of your market share. If you have a 10 share of market, spend 11% (or more) of the category’s total spending. Some insist that spending 25% greater than your market share will really move the dial. The bad news is that there isn’t a lot of hard evidence when one considers the number of variables that contribute to the actual sale—not the least of which is the news value of the product itself.
But times of recession—when so much of the focus is on the bottom line—are exactly when this concept has the most power. If you merely maintain last year’s SOV you will double your impact, if others are halving their budgets. For example, think of the “impact” in terms of your ad in Vogue’s January issue, when there are many fewer cosmetic ads. Surely, you will have extra impact. Or, think of an Estée Lauder counter in Bloomingdale’s without Lancôme and a bunch of others, or in mass outlets, Revlon without L’Oréal and Maybelline (like the good old days). Less visible competition gives you greater SOV, which equals more impact. If you aggressively set out to spend ahead of your market share, your impact will rise exponentially with market share to follow neatly. With less spending, brand growth is hardly possible.
One caveat is paramount. If your ads didn’t do the job in a rising economy, spending more money in a recession won’t help. Looking at theAdAudit research below, if your ad doesn’t get into the high 80s, you may have wasted your money the first time. Don’t do it again! If you would like to see the ads referenced and analyses, email us:

Then, there is still another caveat: Nothing will kill a product faster than great advertising that fails to live up to its claims—especially now with blogs to spread the bad news. We asked our panel to evaluate the efficacy of a product that had one of the highest ratings in theAdAudit. With and without the ad, it was summarily rejected! Duh! What a surprise.

A New Challenge for CMOs

Spencer Stuart, the worldwide personnel search firm, estimates the tenure of chief marketing officers (CMOs) to be approximately 23 months. What seems to be the problem? Along comes Dave Aaker’s new book, “Spanning Silos: The New CMO Imperative.” Simply defined, the silo in the title is the same silo on the farm.  That is, self-contained, sealed units (to protect the commodities inside) and impervious to outside predators.
We aren’t going to review the book here; suffice to say that if your company is structured in a manner—either by form or operationally—so that cross-fertilization is not an active, ongoing effort, the CMO can never optimize his or her job. It's a good read. It will help your CMO do a better job and help those below her/him understand why the competition is doing such a better job.
On a similar (but different) note, The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article entitled “A Comprehensive Ranking of 200 Different Jobs.”
A tour of, only turned up the top 20.  The methodology covered five core situations: stress, income, physical demands, outlook and environment. Unfortunately none of the jobs we are intimately familiar in the areas of marketing, advertising, packaging, distribution, technical, et al., turned up. And, we would have left it there except that we ran across the breakdown of the components of the stress segment: quotas, deadlines, win or lose situations, competitiveness, speed required, precision required, initiative required and detail. We could relate! 
Oh yes, the top job in the 200 is mathematician, and number 20 is astronomer. More details can be found at jpobs/content/jobsrated_ methodology. It’s a whole new way of looking at work.

About the Authors
Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before starting their successful consulting business in the early 1970s. Their consulting clients have included Avon, Bristol-Myers, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Cover Girl, among others. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA and maintain an office in New York City. For more information, they can be reached at or