Revlon: Back In The Nail Game

It’s no surprise that nail is the hottest category in beauty, with consumers rushing to buy new colors or purchase one of the many at-home gel manicures now on the market. Robust growth in the category has marketers creating new lines (M.A.C. recently announced a new 65-color nail collection; fashion retailer Joe Fresh offers polish under its own name) while others are opting to buy brands. And earlier this month, Revlon announced it was buying the trademarks and intellectual properties of Bari Cosmetics, primarily for its Pure Ice nail color collection. The deal, interestingly, comes a year after the company’s buy of Mirage Cosmetics, a purchase made mainly for its value-priced Sinful nail color brand.

Revlon used to be the ringleader of mass nail color, fueled by color promotions dating back to Fire & Ice. But as Revlon struggled in the 2000’s, so did its hold on nail color market share. Ultimately, Revlon’s nail share slipped and innovators such as Sally Hansen charged past. Management has made it clear, though, of their goal to regain market leadership organically or via acquisition. Just a month ago, Revlon CEO Alan Ennis admitted a heavy interest in pursuing the nail category, stating it was “on fire” at WWD’s CEO Beauty Summit. He may have been alluding to the impending purchase of Bari.

The purchase of Sinful in 2011 seemed strategic: The brand was hotter than any other color line in Walgreens, and the deal ensured Revlon instant access to shelf space in the largest drug chain in the U.S. But there was a flip side: Walgreens considered Sinful a homegrown product line and didn’t want to see it extended to competitors. For other drug store retailers, there was the hesitation that Sinful didn’t add something different enough to the mix.

While Sinful did give Revlon a nice line with great distribution, it didn’t offer what was likely the goal: critical mass. The result? Revlon went looking for another logo.

Enter Pure Ice, a brand launched decades ago at a time when marketers were targeting teens with hot, niche shades. Revlon used $22 million of its revolving credit facility as well as an unspecified amount of cash to finance the deal. And, with its great shelf space at Wal-Mart, Revlon snapped up a brand that drugstores might be willing to add since discounters aren’t considered head-to-head competition.

Sources expect Pure Ice to be run under Paul Murphy, who also oversees Sinful. Time will tell if Pure Ice gives Revlon the critical mass it’s surely looking for.