NEW YORK -- Mass market beauty manufacturers expect glad tidings this Christmas and are predicting some of the healthiest gains in years.

"The mood is basically optimistic," said Bill McMenemy, executive vice president of marketing at Del Laboratories. "We feel that people are buying a bit more in general, so that bodes well. In addition, this year's approach is a lot more scientific."

He added that some stores have even planned their markdowns in advance -- which items, when and by how much.

"We have all analyzed last Christmas extensively, and so now we can all make educated decisions on what and how much to buy," he added. "Everyone is working together more than ever before to maximize sell-through."

This year's optimism is fueled by sales-increase projections ranging from 10 to as high as 40 percent for the November and December selling season. Last year, manufacturers were looking for holiday increases in the high single digits or very low teens and, for the most part, they got gains in middle-to-high single digits.

"Overall, we have noticed a good increase in purchasing, especially during a slow summer," said Jerry Abernathy, president of Coty. "We feel that we are already off to a good start. We are anticipating a strong Christmas."

Business, however, is not expected to catapult back up to the huge Christmas gains of the early Eighties.

"Retailers and consumers are probably all going to be more cautious in the way they buy as a way of life, not just as a trend," said John Nuechterlein, senior marketing manager for Yardley. "Being conservative is now the norm. But it is safe to say that things are loosening up a bit."

Manufacturers cited several ways to make this year's holiday selling season more rewarding. These included sharply priced gift items for under $10 and more upscale presentations, tailoring gift offerings and in-store displays to meet the needs of different retail accounts. Added value is another key. One example is packaging fragrances or cosmetics in reusable holiday tins or travel bags.

"Value is still the major buzzword in the mass market," McMenemy said. "Consumers are looking for it in terms of pricing, size, impression and content."Many manufacturers, such as Coty, Revlon, Del and Lady Red are taking advantage of increased in-store traffic during the holidays and are launching new fragrances to further boost sales.

Coty is rolling out two new women's scents prior to November, when the holiday selling season intensifies.

Vanilla Musk, the sequel to last year's top-selling Vanilla Fields, will roll out this month. Longing, a romantic floral fragrance, is set to bow in October.

Longing will have two gift sets. The first is a 0.05-oz. cologne spray coupled with a 0.25-oz. eau de parfum spray. The other consists of a 1-oz. cologne spray and a 3.7-oz. body powder. Each set has a suggested retail price of $17.50.

Vanilla Musk's set will contain a 1-oz. cologne spray and a 0.35-oz. perfume spray. The suggested retail price will be $12.50.

The company will also give Vanilla Fields its first gift presentations. One set marries a 0.75-oz. cologne spray with a 0.375-oz. perfume spray.

The other set holds a 0.75-oz. cologne spray and a 3.7-oz. talc. Each set will have a suggested retail price of $14.95.

In addition to its more than 100 gift selections, Coty cites advertising as a major force behind holiday profitability.

According to company executives, the 1994 advertising budget is $74 million in network TV and print. The bulk of that amount is spent during the fourth quarter, Coty said. New recipients of television campaigns will be Aspen, the Jovan Musks and Vanilla Fields.

TV campaigns for both Aspen and the Jovan Musk scents will bow this month for the first time in several years.

Vanilla Fields, which was previously only advertised in print, will make its TV debut in late October.

According to Abernathy, Coty is expecting seasonal gains of 10 to 12 percent.

"In addition to what we are doing, other manufacturers are offering new fragrance introductions," he said. "We feel that consumer's awareness level is heightened. Coty can only benefit from that."

Abernathy was referring to such major launches as V by Vanderbilt from L'Oréal and Revlon's Fire & Ice.Revlon will also have two new fragrance efforts, which will precede the holiday festivities. Fire & Ice for women bowed last month, while the men's version will launch in October.

Charlie Red, which is part of the company's overall effort to relaunch the Charlie franchise, will bow in mid-October.

The Fire & Ice set will have a 0.5-oz. cologne spray and a 0.3-oz. eau de parfum pour for $20. There will be four Charlie gift sets, including the Charlie Two Ways About It set of a 0.5-oz. concentrated cologne spray with a 1-oz. cologne pour for $11.50.

Fire & Ice will also be coupled with a holiday shade promotion that will be in stores in November. Special countertop and freestanding displays will merchandise the new scent along with shades of red, silver, gold and other dramatic hues of color cosmetics.

"Reds are emerging as the color of the season, and there is an increasing popularity in metallic shades," said Kathy Dwyer, executive vice president of marketing at Revlon. "With this promotion, we can make Fire & Ice visually distinctive by tying it into the fashion of our color cosmetics."

The company is offering a total of 27 gift sets and 10 stocking stuffers associated with its 12 fragrance brands.

According to Dwyer, best-selling gift items include sets with Charlie, Ciara, Forever Krystal and Guess and Guess Men.

"We've trimmed back a lot of items that didn't really sell well in the past," she said. "Our primary goal was to concentrate on the best-selling ones instead of continuing to do the same gifts every year."

Revlon has also upgraded the packaging on all of its gift sets, Dwyer said.

"We wanted them to be more in line with a quality image and to give them a more upscale and premium feel," she said.

Dwyer noted that Revlon is expecting holiday gains of 10 to 15 percent this year.

The big news at Max Factor is that for the first time under Procter & Gamble's reign, the division will have color cosmetics sets in addition to its traditional fragrance offerings in Le Jardin and Jaclyn Smith's California.The first kit, which will be available for warm, cool or neutral-toned complexions, will contain a High Definition Mascara, a High Definition Eyeshadow Quartet and High Definition Shadow Liner.

The lip and nail kit will include coordinating shades of a Diamond Hard Nail Enamel, a High Definition LipLiner and a High Definition LipColor. Each cosmetics set will have a suggested retail price of $13.95.

"We decided to do the kits because we felt they gave us a great opportunity to have consumers sample a broad range of products in the line," said Kimberly Stewart, beauty care manager at P&G.

In addition to Cover Girl's usual holiday mix of fragrance gift sets and color cosmetics, this year it will have stocking stuffers for the first time to provide a lower opening price point into its gift offerings.

These include a malachite and gold gift box filled with a Nailslicks nail enamel, InCondition LipBlush and an Incognito fragrance miniature. There is also one with a Nailslicks nail enamel, Lipslicks LipGloss and a Navy fragrance miniature.

Both gifts will have a suggested retail price of $6.25.

Cover Girl is reportedly seeking a sales growth of 28 percent, largely due to the new stocking stuffers.

Added value is the main point behind Maybelline's holiday presentation.

"We have always tried to offer things that can not only be used as a gift, but that will appeal to people personally, as well," said Cathy Wills, executive vice president of marketing at Maybelline. "Our main news this year is that we are offering reusable containers, in addition to the products inside."

Two out of three Maybelline gift sets will be in zippered cosmetics bags, instead of the plastic cases or boxes from previous years.

The Expert Eyes Kit, which contains a mascara, an eye quad and an eyeliner, will be packaged in a clear cosmetics bag for a suggested retail price of $10.

The Classics Kit is a collection of a coordinating lip color and nail enamel, an eye shadow duo and mascara in a navy blue cosmetics bag. The suggested retail price is $14.20.

According to Wills, Maybelline is anticipating a 10 to 12 percent sales growth for November and December."A lot of companies have dropped off in their holiday presentations, especially in color cosmetics," she said, referring to companies such as Revlon who no longer do color blockbusters. This leaves us with an opportunity for growth."

Gift giving is a crucial part of the upscale bath business, so this year the Yardley Bath Shoppe -- like Maybelline -- is focusing on added value and sharpening its price points.

The company will offer three sets, up from two last year. The first contains three 1-oz. shower gels and three small soaps for $7.95 in a floral gift box.

The Shower and Bath Duo houses a mesh sponge and a bath and shower gel in a reusable gift box and will sell for $9.95.

The most upscale offering is a gift tin that is filled with four small bath soaps and a ceramic soap dish with a suggested retail price of $13.50. There will also be a stocking stuffer with travel sizes of two bubble baths and two body lotions, scented with different fragrances, for $4.95.

"The under $5 and the under $10 price points are crucial in the mass market," Nuechterlein said. "We knew that the $13.50 would not be for everyone, but we thought that a lot of stores would want something a bit more upscale for their better doors.

"With all the point-of-purchase and scanner data we all have available to us now, it is possible to really tailor gifts and presentations to specific accounts and even specific stores within a chain," he added.

In addition to the sets, Yardley will have a display of decorated gift bags that are free with any Yardley purchase. The display will also have mail-in rebate coupons for $2 off any future full-sized Yardley purchase.

The company is looking for 30 to 40 percent sales increases for Christmas, mainly because of the addition of a third set.

Pricing is also one of the key components behind the gifting strategy at Del Laboratories.

"We basically are offering things in two price ranges -- the under $5 and the under $10," McMenemy said. "Last year, we had a few higher-priced items, and we found they didn't move as well."The company will offer approximately 18 sets and stocking stuffers throughout its Naturistics, Natural Glow, Sally Hansen, Lip Quencher and La Crosse lines.

Prices will range from under $5 for a tote that contains a LipGloss and a Clear Super Shine Nail Gloss to under $15 for Holiday Spectacular Gift Set containing one Lip Quencher lipstick, one lip liner, three Hard as Nails nail enamels, one base coat, three types of top coat, one La Cross Nail Smoother, one pair of tweezers and a Dual Nail Groomer. "The idea behind the sets is to fill them with as many products as are feasible," McMenemy said."This way, they will allow for a broad section of cross-sampling."

Increased sampling is also behind the company's plan to present more Naturistics fragrance sets this year. "We think that the holiday season represents a great opportunity to get trials on our fragrances," McMenemy said.

Last year, the company only offered one fragrance sampler set. This year it will have five different sets. In addition, the company will have sets that combine the scents with bath products.

One such offering is the Say It With Passion set that has a 0.45-oz. Mountain Berry Cologne, a 4-oz. Mountain Berry Body Lotion, a 4-oz. Passion Fruit Gel and a Passion Fruit Soap.

The set, which will retail for under $10, is also available in Botanical Delights, Treasures of the Sea and Mango Madness varieties.

The company is expecting holiday gains of around 15 percent this year, mainly due to its smarter pricing strategy and stronger fragrance presence, McMenemy noted.

Sarah Michaels has also honed its prices by keeping everything in the $2 to $15 range, according to Mark Kaplan, president of LaLoren of Stoughton, Mass., which manufacturers Sarah Michaels.

Trial-sized items, which are presented as stocking stuffers, are $2, and $15 will purchase the Solage Bath Ensemble.

That set contains a bath and shower gel, a bath pillow, a body soap, a packet of bath grains and a mesh sponge, packaged in a plastic tote.

Kaplan noted that the company has increased its bath gift selection from four to six sets and that it has added offerings in a completely new area, as well.The company's newly launched home fragrance line will be embodied with five gift sets this year that will range in price from $3.50 for a bottle of scented oil to $7.50 for a light-bulb ring set.

Sarah Michaels also puts decorated gift bags on display so that consumers can create their own gifts from an array of company products.

"We are planning for a strong Christmas this year because we have not only increased our bath sets, but because the home fragrance line will be completely incremental business for us," Kaplan said. "We are also offering our bath sets in two new fragrances this year, Freesia and Calla Lily."

Kaplan said he is planning to double his holiday business this year. The company has also created new display units to better meet the needs of individual accounts.

Recently, Sarah Michaels expanded its countertop display program from two different units to half a dozen, and it has designed an in-line wooden unit for those accounts, which cannot take its 36-by-72-inch wooden freestanding display.

"We are finding that, more than ever, it is important to be flexible and to tailor things to different accounts," Kaplan said.

Lady in Red Ltd. of East Norwich, N.Y., is also planning for aggressive growth this holiday season with a 15 to 20 percent increase projected, according to Lisa Steier, sales and marketing analyst at the company.

"We are having heavy new product activity scheduled during the fourth quarter," Steier said. "We think that, along with our holiday gift sets, it will make for significant sales gains."

New products from Lady in Red that will be out in October include a 0.10-oz. mini perfume for $2.95 in each of the company's three fragrances, Lady in Red, Lady in White and Beautiful Lady.

"We think this one will be a great year-round item, as well as a stocking stuffer," Steier said.

The second new launch will be a 1-oz.-size eau de parfum in all three fragrances for $7.95.

Steier feels that the top-selling gift item will be a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum of either Lady in Red, Lady in White or Beautiful Lady in a vinyl tote bag with a gift card bearing a holiday greeting for $9.95."We think this one will be especially great for last minute shoppers," Steier said. "You don't even have to wrap it. All you have to do is take off the outer packaging, fill out the card and there you go."

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