By  on April 28, 2005

NEW YORK — Kanebo Cosmetics U.S.A. Inc. is marking its fifth anniversary here by introducing Sensai Premier, a skin care trio that taps the pricing stratosphere of the specialty store treatment category.

Meanwhile, the firm’s $2.2 billion parent company, Tokyo-based Kanebo Cosmetics Inc., continues to find its bearings after being spun off by a beleaguered Kanebo Ltd. a year ago.

This week, Kanebo Cosmetics U.S.A. launched Sensai Premier — a 1.4-oz. cream for $650, a 4.25-oz. emulsion for $380 and a 5.1-oz. lotion for $300 — at Bergdorf Goodman, the brand’s original launch venue in 2000. Outside New York, the products, which are dubbed simply The Cream, The Emulsion and The Lotion, will be launched at 19 Saks Fifth Avenue locations beginning next month.

Although the question of who will pay more than $464 an ounce for face cream remains, Kanebo executives maintain it’s not that big of a jump from the existing antiaging creams the brand already markets. Prior to Sensai Premier The Cream, Kanebo’s most expensive item was a $500 antiaging cream.

Barneys New York’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics, Bettina O’Neill, who launched the brand three years ago, looks at it this way: “It’s a customer in her late 30s [who is] concerned about aging — and she doesn’t mind spending the money for a quality product.” O’Neill added, “Anti-aging is a big part of [Kanebo’s] business,” which she termed “extremely important” to the Barneys cosmetics mix. Kanebo is said to rank in the top 15 brands of Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship, one of only about two-dozen stores that carry the brand in the U.S.

Kanebo’s airtight distribution notwithstanding, industry sources project that Kanebo Cosmetics U.S.A. will exceed $10 million in retail sales volume by yearend. The launch of Sensai Premier could drive a 10 to 15 percent increase in the firm’s retail sales, according to marketing manager Yumi Kobayashi.

Kanebo research has purportedly uncovered links between aging and DNA — specifically that DNA damage can follow skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays, among a number of other factors. According to Kobayashi, as skin cell turnover naturally occurs over a four-week span, “Sensai Premier promotes DNA repair in skin,” which can, in turn, combat damaged skin. Extract from a Japanese seaweed called gigartina tenella is said to produce “a 60 percent rate of repair of DNA function in the skin,” noted Kobayashi.

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