If you need further proof that the department store beauty counter is going the way of the Macarena, look no further than your nearest CVS. Mass-market retailers like Duane Reade and Wal-Mart have been making forays into the land of upscale cosmetics, as an article in today's Wall Street Journal reports. Soon, you'll be able to pick up your kitty litter and get your eyebrows tweezed at the same place: "The stores are sprucing up displays, adding lights to shelves, creating weeks-long training programs for their 'beauty advisers' or offering facials and massages on-site." Beauty chains like Sephora have apparently broken the iron grip of the white-coated ladies at department store beauty counters, convincing high-end cosmetics companies that ladies are just as likely to purchase glitter eyeliner in a more casual environment.
Having pricey makeup more readily available is useful for women-on-the-go, like the investment banker in the article who dashes in for a quick makeover at lunch, and the rough economic times make a makeover at Duane Reade for a fraction at the price pretty appealing. (As for stocking more shiny things, the more the merrier, obviously.) And it does eliminate that "what color foundation will actually match my skin" roulette to be able to try things out. But part of the appeal of drugstore make-up was always the ability to grab six different shades of nail polish from the 99 cent bin and go play. Integrating higher-end products into the display might not immediately push out the Wet'n'Wild stand, but it certainly changes the dynamic of the good ol' bronzer aisle to have a beauty consultant at the ready, asking if they can help you apply lipliner. Accessibility to those brands is all well and good, but pushing them at a drug store, usually the refuge of the unassuming Covergirl compact, gives the whole Big Makeup wars a whole new playing field. After all, as Kate Harding pointed out, the ingredients in that Maybelline lipstick might not be all that different from the newest Hard Candy one, even if the latter costs $15 more. Plus, as a friend of mine put it, "would you really want to get a facial while picking up a bag of chips and some bug repellent?" Maybe so. I'm not going to cry any tears for the decline of the beauty counters at Dillards, but I certainly hope this won't spell doom for cheap glitter.