By  on March 18, 1994

TORONTO -- Enthusiasm for alpha-hydroxy acid products and items containing sun protection benefits shows no signs of waning across Canada, according to national cosmetics buyers.

New product launches, combined with the ongoing advertising and media hype surrounding AHA's, are fueling overall treatment sales growth of about 20 percent, the retailers said.

Since Estee Lauder launched Fruition and Clinique introduced Turnaround Cream in Canada just over a year ago, the two lines have led most others in sales for major retailers like Sears Canada, Hudson Bay and Holt Renfrew.

Lancome was also mentioned by buyers, not for any specific products but because of the interest created by an ongoing series of introductions.

Retailers also noted that body treatment has been doing well, particularly cellulite creams that smooth and tone the skin.

"AHA products are really driving the treatment business. It hasn't lost steam because there is a lot more awareness of AHA's among customers," said Shelley Rozenwald, vice president and general merchandise manager for Holt Renfrew stores.

The Sisley line has been the top seller at Holt Renfrew for two years, followed by Lauder, Clinique and Princess Marcella Borghese. However, the best-selling individual products are Fruition, Prescriptives' All You Need and Sisley's Ecological Compound.

Rod Ulmer, divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics and fragrances for Hudson Bay stores, said treatment sales are booming.

"Consumers are ready to believe the advertising claims, but I don't think it's just marketing hype that makes them successful. Anybody making claims has to be really sure they can be proven," Ulmer said.

Lancome has unseated Lauder as the top-selling line at Hudson Bay. However, Lauder and Clinique continue to do well with the chain, where the leading individual skin care items are Fruition, Turnaround Cream, Elizabeth Arden's Ceramides line and Lancome's Renergie.

Arden will be put to the test as it rolls out Alpha-Ceramide across Canada in March. Retailers say extra effort will be required at the cosmetics counter, not only to explain the benefits of the new product, but to convince customers to invest in a multistep system.

"I think the new product will help build loyalty for Elizabeth Arden, because it means more frequent contact with the customers," said Joan Lash, cosmetics buyer for Brettons, where Lancome, Christian Dior, Clarins and Erno Laszlo are the top lines.While AHA products have created excitement at the cosmetics counter, interest in skin care products with sun protection benefits continues to build. Face moisturizers with a minimum SPF of 15 have become such fast movers, they're matching sales volumes for AHA products, said Lash.

As a result, introductions like Shiseido's new sun care line are expected to generate healthy volumes this year, she said.

"Products with UV connotations are doing very well, particularly in Vancouver and Calgary, where there is a lot of outdoor activity even in the winter," Lash noted.

Body treatment is starting to gain momentum because of the ongoing fitness craze, retailers said. Christian Dior's new Svelte cellulite control cream is a hit at Brettons and Hudson Bay, while Lancome's new Vitalite Douceur body care line is expected to capture a lot of attention this year.

Holt Renfrew's Rozenwald agreed that body treatment is gaining ground and expected Sisley's new Botanical Tensor firming product to be a top seller when it hits the counter in March.

At Sears, cosmetics manager Angela Bunting said, "Our Canadian customer isn't that body-oriented yet. For now, AHA's are still the strongest-selling growth area, and I expect them to continue to drive the business."

Sears' top skin care lines are Clinique, Lauder and Lancome, while the top products are Fruition and Turnaround, Bunting said.

The one consumer-buying trend that hasn't lost steam for any of the major retailers is the demand for added value.

Said Bunting, "Customers want to sample before buying, they recognize that they're making an investment, and they want to make sure the products are right for them."

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