By  on April 8, 1994

NEW YORK -- When it comes to skin care, alpha-hydroxy acid products aren't the only items causing a stir.

Dior Svelte, an anti-cellulite cream introduced this year by Christian Dior Perfumes, has been selling well above plan, according to first reports.

"It's our hottest single item at the moment," said Arnold Orlick, executive vice president and general merchandise manager at Bloomingdale's.

The product, which sells at $48 for 6.8-ounces, was launched exclusively at Burdines in late January. Burdines executives could not be reached for comment, but sources indicate over 10,000 units were sold through last week in the Miami-based chain, more than double the original plan.

According to Robert Cankes, president of Christian Dior Perfumes, the sales projection for Dior Svelte in its first year has been increased to 500,000 units from 300,000.

The product, which began moving into other stores at the beginning of March, will roll out to the company's 2,000 doors by the end of this month.

To back the launch in the U.S., Dior is reportedly spending $5 million on print and TV advertising this season. In addition to being merchandised at Dior counters in the company's BeautÄ doors, Svelte is set up on self-service tables in its fragrance distribution.

As a promotion, the company is handing out one million hand mirrors along with a leaflet detailing Svelte's anti-cellulite claims. The item is also being cross-sampled with Dior's Capture Face treatment product.

So far, those retailers who have added the product to their mix are reporting strong results.

Bloomingdale's launched Svelte on March 4 in 15 doors, and according to industry estimates, over 3,000 units have been sold through the end of last week, doubling the sales plan. Orlick declined comment on the figures.

"We were all nervous about the ad, which we thought might be controversial," said Orlick. The print campaign features a nude woman wrapped in a ribbon. "But it turns out people aren't offended.

"The product is good, and it's been marketed in a powerful way," he added. "We think the momentum is going to continue, with bathing suit season on the way."Neiman Marcus also introduced the item at the beginning of March throughout the chain, and according to sources, close to 2,500 pieces were sold in the first three weeks, achieving plan for the month.

"It's been doing incredibly well," said John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Neiman's. "I can't recall anything ever selling like this in this category. [Dior has] done a good job with advertising and in-store support, and I see no reason that it shouldn't continue to do well."

While Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's will not officially launch Svelte until April 17, the chain has been selling the item since early last week.

"At the moment, we don't even have our [promotional] program up and running," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager for DH & Field's. "But it's had an exceptional start. "The response has been overwhelming. This could develop into a very important business."

Burke noted that major beauty firms such as Lancome, Biotherm and Clarins have introduced anti-cellulite products, but that none were as strong out of the starting gate as Dior Svelte.

Dior Svelte's national ad campaign "seems to be having quite an effect," he said.

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