By  on April 15, 1994

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.

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