Wal-Mart Puts New Face On Cosmetics Department

Wal-Mart is testing a revamped cosmetics department in a new neighborhood-format store in Tulsa, Okla. that opened this week.

The changes come as department stores have been trying to impart a more free-flowing, Sephora-like atmosphere to their cosmetic areas, and drug stores and mass outlets try to encourage more consumer-friendly cosmetics sections with more product testers and better displays to boost sales.

The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is a smaller sister to the Wal-Mart superstore, using what Wal-Mart describes as a "neighborhood store format." Currently, 112 are open, and plans call for another 15 or 20 over the next year.

The new 39,000-square-foot Tulsa store is the first one with the new cosmetics department design, and will also be used to test other new concepts, the company said in a statement. The cosmetics department features track spotlights, backlit pale-blue signage, curved aisles, and pictures of models sitting atop displays showing the latest products and trends, for a more glamorous look.

The cosmetic department is positioned away from food and the front of the store, and closer to the pharmacy and stationery departments. The redesign was based on "months of consumer research," the company said.

Wal-Mart is trying to create a more personalized shopping experience, along the lines of the store-within-a-store feeling created by Victoria's Secret's beauty section. On hand at the Tulsa store's grand opening on Wednesday to give makeup and hair consultations were a Maybelline makeup artist/consultant and Garnier Fructis celebrity hairstylist Chuck Hezekia--whose clients include Mischa Barton, Nicole Richie and Joss Stone.

Wal-Mart is a key retailer for marketers of packaged goods and beauty items, and its 23,000 stores account for about a quarter of total U.S. sales--ranging from 20% to as much as 40% depending on the product category, marketers have said.