By  on May 13, 1994

NEW YORK -- Retailers here acknowledged that sales of bath, body and sun care products were still dwarfed by other areas of the beauty business.

Still, they were quick to point out many bright spots within the categories.

"There are a lot of new and unique items that are driving the business," said Rita Burke, senior vice president for cosmetics and fragrances at Macy's East. "These are small categories, but they're growing nicely. Bath and body in particular is still very new to department stores."

Burke said bath, body and sun sales had each been trending ahead in the "double-digit" percentage range.

Ed Burstell, cosmetics and fragrance buyer at Henri Bendel, said bath and body sales were "ahead in the aggressive double digits," while sun products were gaining at a slower pace, in the single-digit range.

"Newness in the assortment, combined with new and improved formulations, is still the key to this business," he said.

Burstell said sun, bath and body items made up a small portion of beauty sales at Bendel's, but he added that the categories had potential.

"When we're in the peak selling months, sun could be as high as 12 percent of the total," he said. "Bath and body is about 8 percent now, but we've targeted the category, and we'd like to bring it up to around 12 percent, as well."

Jane Scott, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Bloomingdale's, also said newness was essential to maintaining the growth stores are enjoying.

"New entries are making these businesses more visible," Scott said, noting that although sun products account for only about 4 percent of Bloomingdale's beauty business, she was "bullish on the category."

"All of our self-tanners continue to grow nicely," she said. "The newest ones are all doing well. They're a bigger business than protection products year to date, but during the summer, this may reverse.

"Advances in technology have been key to this market," Scott continued. "Technology has made [self-tanners] much more efficient and easy to use. The oil-free products that have been developed are also making a mark; consumers like the actual feel of the products."

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