NEW YORK -- The men's toiletries business is taking off in the Northeast, powered by several recent fragrance and skin care launches.
While the women's market had a record number of launches last year but no real blockbuster, the men's business witnessed fewer -- but more powerful -- introductions.
At Macy's East, the men's business ended 1993 with sales gains in the high single digits, and has been running ahead in the high single to low double digits year-to-date, according to Rita Burke, senior vice president and divisional merchandise manager. Burke said she hopes to keep up that pace through the end of 1994.
"Men's fragrance sales continued to exceed plan, both in the first three months of 1994 and at the end of 1993," Burke said. "In general, in comparison to women's, men's fragrance is stronger.
"The power launches seem to be coming from the men's category," she said, noting that Escape for Men, Zino Davidoff and Polo Sport have all cracked the top 10. "Women's had many launches in the second half of '93. Only a couple of them really made it to the top 10."
In addition to solid fragrance launches, Macy's has had something of a boom in men's skin care, in the form of the Polo Sport Skin Fitness Collection from Ralph Lauren, Lift Off from Aramis and Turnaround Lotion from Clinique.
"Lift Off came out of nowhere and is performing unbelievably well," Burke said. "Initial sales results have surprised us all."
Burke said Turnaround Lotion, which had just recently arrived on counter, was selling about as well as Lift Off and Macy's was trying to highlight the products in-store.
Burke said the core-product strategy -- which Clinique, for example, employed with Turnaround Cream -- can account for 5 to 10 percent of a line's total business and brings customers to the counter. She noted that the strategy seems to be applicable to the men's category, as well.
Polo Sport also has been doing "exceptionally well," Burke said, adding that unexpected hits include the spray hair gel, body cream and lip balm. "The Skin Fitness products have all been selling," she said.Burke attributed Polo Sport's sales to the clean white packaging, which she said jumps out at the customer, particularly in contrast to the cobalt blue of the fragrance bottle. Burke said Lauren's use of open-sell units on counter and in the Polo shops has also had an impact.
"It's less intimidating for the male consumer," Burke said. "It's reduced the barrier of asking questions about treatment products."
These three launches also stand out, Burke said, because men are buying the products for themselves.
"These players have brought life to the category," she said. "Men's skin care has never really taken off. It's still a challenge to get men to come to the counter and buy treatment for themselves."
Burke said Macy's top six men's fragrances are Obsession for Men, Eternity for Men and Escape for Men, all from Calvin Klein; Polo Sport; Drakkar Noir, and Cool Water by Davidoff. Teetering close are Zino Davidoff, Joop Homme, Fahrenheit, Design by Paul Sebastian and XS by Paco Rabanne.
XS has been a surprise hit, Burke said.
"It has great universal appeal," she said. "The name is slick. Sales results have been really phenomenal."
Several fall launches should keep up the momentum, Burke said, citing Elements from Hugo Boss, Wings for Men and Horizon from Guy Laroche. Burke said she is also eagerly awaiting the Tommy Hilfiger scent from Aramis, which is expected to be launched in late 1994 or early 1995.
"We expect Hilfiger to be a major name in men's fragrance," she said.
At Federated Merchandising, the men's category has been doing "a couple of points better" than women's, according to Michelle Williams, divisional merchandise manager.
"Men's has been running strong for at least a year and a half now," Williams said, pointing to important launches, including Polo Sport and Escape for Men.
Both Polo Sport and Escape for Men are in Federated's top six scents, as are Eternity for Men, Obsession for Men, Safari for Men and Drakkar Noir.
Williams said she expects the trend, which is running in the low double digits year-to-date, to continue through 1994 as other key scents, such as Horizon and Wings for Men, are launched."A lot of manufacturers have embraced the idea that men's brands can be bigger than women's," she said. "I think you're going to start to see more of that."
Williams said Horizon looks particularly exciting, considering Cosmair's pre-sell campaign and full array of promotions. "They've really covered every aspect of what needs to happen," she said.
Another upcoming plus for the men's business, Williams said, will be sets of miniatures, a giant class of products in women's last holiday season. "The men's business is going to benefit from additional samplers, or coffrets, that were not there last year," she said.
Skin care products from Polo Sport and from Aramis have been ringing up strong sales.
"Those products [Polo Sport and Lift Off] have been far above expectations," she said. "I think that is based on the quality of those products in particular and on the names behind them."
Williams praised the clean packaging, reasonable price points and general "friendliness" of the Polo Sport line, in addition to the open-sell merchandising.
"They're very understandable to the customer," Williams said of the products.
Williams estimated that about half of Lift Off's sales are directly to men. Despite the lack of major national advertising, Williams said Lift Off is finding a customer because it's "from a company men trust" and because it's a key item that's easy to use.
Still, she cautioned that men still don't have the patience for full treatment regimens. Williams said, "Shaving foam, deodorant sticks, moisturizers -- that's about as far as you can go."
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