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It ain’t pretty – the cosmetics counter.

November 15, 2009

I was out and about yesterday looking for inspiration among the department store shelves when I came across a few grossities.  I am not usually one to spread bad news but I think that this is worth mentioning so, here we go.

While out shopping I found:

*  One med-high priced brand of lip balm (in a tub) completely separated and smelling rank.

*  5 separate pump dispenser packs, caked up with old lotion around the nozzle.

*  The afore-mentioned lotions in various stages of cottage cheese cakiness.

* More than a handful of brands for which one had to purchase or clandestinely rip open the pack to reveal the ingredients listing.

* Two sad old creams completely separated.

Sound familiar?  I am not surprised that products don’t go the “shelf life” distance when presented as sample pots.  These products have a tough old life often being used by hundreds of grubby hands – large and small every day. They are also placed under hot and bright lighting and quite frequently forgotten about altogether in the rush to re-stock the sales merchandise.

The problem?

Well, rancid lotions could do more than put you off a brand, they could seriously upset your stomach. How many of us test out potential new product on the back of our hands, rubbing it in and then giving a once over before we buy? How many of us then wash it off before digging into our cappuccino and banana bread?  Most of the time these actions will go without consequence but every now and then, a split lotion spells danger as it has come under bacterial attack.  Candida, E-Coli, Pseudomonus and Staph grow well under cream conditions.

The solution? 

  • Sales assistants and merchandisers need to keep their eyes peeled for any dodgy looking sample stock. Don’t assume that because it is in shelf life it is OK.
  • Suppliers of samples need to customer proof their products by choosing robust packaging that consumers can’t get into. Jars are a BIG no no.
  • Us shoppers need to inform the sales assistant of any products we find looking below par. If they shrug you off saying that the product is “always like that”  I would stear well clear.
  • Product manufactures should ensure that shoppers can find the ingredients listing easily when shopping – many people wish to steer clear of or purchase only certain ingredients.  Why not help them out?

Brand owners beware,  the tester pot may be the first and last meeting you have with a potential new customer. If you product sells for over $70 per 50ml pack why not invest in a more robust tester strategy?

One Champion yesterday was Clinique. The products were flawless and samples were collected for the shopper by sparkly clean sales assistants armed with disposable spatulas.  Whatever your views on Clinique, they certainly know how to pour a sample!



3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2009 6:31 pm

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. November 16, 2009 9:59 pm

    Hi, I think your article is so true. I have just set up my skin care range and have done a few party’s and noticed how eager people are to dip straight in even though I supply spatulars for testing with, so I am looking for an alternative. No matter how many times you ask them not to dip they still continue so if you have any tips on samples please let me know I do have a problem with the balms they love to smear it on and then I have to loose that tube, its expensive and im trying to make some cash not put it in the bin!!


  1. It ain't pretty – the cosmetics counter. « Realize Beauty

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