Beauty Battles: Upping the Ante at Duane Reade, Sears

Sears announced its return into the beauty market today, shortly after J.C. Penney's big entree and Duane Reade's plans for a major boost in cosmetics sections of its stores.  It's a war between department stores and drugstores, but we smell an underlying theme: Target.

After promptly discontinuing their beauty offerings in 2001, Sears now has plans to reestablish themselves in that sector with a variety of vendors including L'Oreal, Cover Girl (obvi), Yves Rocher and Pure Organics.  Duane Reade, every New Yorker's crusty neighborhood favorite will also go for a facelift in their stores by revamping their selection of facial products.  Execs on both sides aim to woo younger customers, which, judging from our own buying patterns at 13, will totally work.  The department and drug camps are also each claiming encroachment by the other, so we're not conclusively sure where women are buying their makeup, but we do know one thing.  After several years of building the brand of legitimate bargain fashion, Target's model, which always included beauty with lines by Sonia Kashuk, JK Jemma Kidd, Pixi, Boots and others, is now wisely being followed by its low-price and less-sexy counterparts. 

Sephora, too, changed the industry to make makeup consumerism a simultaneously accessible and indulgent endeavor, and is embroiled in its own duel with the more mass-market Ulta.  One would think the cheapos have the advantage in this economic climate, but maybe not - we're a culture that covets designer, and a $22 Chanel lipstick is an easier fix than a $5,000 bag.  Will high-end at low-rent places, sort of like Target, work?  Maybe the marketing execs can fight over that one too. 

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