A New Face: Rite Aid Reformats to Pump Up Beauty Sales

After examining beauty sales trends for the past seven years, Rite Aid category manager Judy Wray felt it was time for a new approach.

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NEW YORK — Judy Wray, category manager at Rite Aid, has been doing some heavy lifting.

In an exclusive interview with WWD, Wray shared her chain's beauty plans, a rare turn for the press-shy retailer; a near anomaly for the media-eluding mass drugstore industry.

After examining industry beauty sales trends over the past seven years, Wray said it was time for new thinking and new layouts.

"It became very clear to me that there are new opportunities to expand color cosmetics. I walked through each of my planograms and studied displays to find ways to boost our profitability per linear foot," said Wray, one of the most respected merchants in the chain drugstore business.

In particular, Wray was looking to make more sense out of merchandising adjacencies. The idea was sparked when she needed a spot to merchandise Sally Hansen's Airbrush Legs. Wray was faced with squeezing it into an area where shoppers had to really hunt to find it. The item was such a success that shoppers did seek it out, but it got Wray thinking of ways to optimize her department. She also needed a new home for cosmetics bags and depilatories. "These conversations started a whole cascading effect," she recalled.

After months and months of reviewing vendor lines and looking at new launches, several new planograms were born. A particular challenge for Wray was that since Rite Aid has grown via acquisitions, there were varying layouts. "It is like a Rubik's Cube," joked Wray.

Rite Aid, which generated $16.8 billion for the 52-week fiscal year ended Feb. 26, accounts health and beauty sales at 4.8 percent of overall sales, or $806 million, according to the company's annual report.

Despite the patchwork of planograms, all stores were successfully reset between April and the end of June.

Additionally, Rite Aid has a new prototype called Customer World with a dramatic beauty department front and center in the store. Currently Rite Aid has eight of these Customer World stores. The newest opened in Enon, Ohio, on July 1, an 11,153-square-foot unit designed to "improve our competitive positioning and emphasize our commitment to customers in our existing markets," said Jay Ross, Rite Aid vice president of marketing and store prototype project managers.
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