By  on March 18, 1994

CHICAGO -- Midwest retailers reported healthy gains in treatment sales last year and cited signs of strength in early 1994, as alpha-hydroxy acid products continue to top the charts.

Results ranged up to mid-double-digit percentage increases for 1993 and retailers said they expect sales this year to grow at the mid- to high-single-digit rate.

Lancome, Clinique and Estee Lauder led the rosters at most stores, while Chanel and La Prairie also captured attention at treatment counters.

Nancy Schmidt, divisional merchandise manager for Carson Pirie Scott & Co. in Milwaukee, reported that "treatment business has been terrific, due in large part to Fruition by Lauder and Turnaround Cream by Clinique."

Treatment showed a mid-double-digit increase last year, and Schmidt said she expects that pace to continue.

"Counters are experienced now in selling the new treatments," she said, noting that the alpha-hydroxy acid-based items introduced last year are among the strongest sellers in the store.

Lancome's Nutriforce sparked early gains, putting the brand's treatment sales ahead 10 percent, Schmidt noted, adding that good in-store visuals helped promote the product.

Carson's other top sellers include Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion and Lancome's Renergie Yeux anti-wrinkle eye cream.

"We're expecting really big things from Lancome's Bienfait Total later this spring," said Schmidt of the upcoming April launch of the moisturizer.

But it's the exfoliating products that have customers' attentions for now, she said.

"They're thrilled with the results, either real or imagined. We've got repeat business which says it all, and I don't see it letting up," she said.

"AHA products are still very hot, still driving the business," agreed Irene Price, buyer for Jacobson's Stores Inc., headquartered in Jackson, Mich.

Price noted that 1994 treatment results were up in the mid-single digits, largely on the strength of new introductions. She termed as "incredible" the recent launches of Nutriforce and Lauder's Resilience.

Jacobson's bestsellers also include Chanel's Day Lift and Night Lift, Turnaround Cream, Fruition and La Prairie's Age Management Series.

Price is looking forward to the redesign and launch of Chanel's Lift Serum Extreme, billed as an advanced version of the Lift Serum anti-wrinkle cream."We're projecting a very strong season," said Price, predicting high-single to low-double-digit percentage increases throughout 1994. Jacobson's plans to use direct mail, in-store clinics, product samples and newspaper advertisements to promote the category.

"The focal point for us is a tremendous amount of work in store, inviting the customer in for samples, in-store facials and skin analysis," Price noted.

"The fruit acid story has added a huge layer to our business," said Linda Petersen, cosmetics buyer for Dayton's, Hudson's & Marshall Field's in Minneapolis.

She reported a high-single-digit percentage gain in treatment sales at DH & Field's for 1993 and predicted similar growth for 1994.

"As we start to anniversary those numbers on products like Fruition and Turnaround Cream, we're showing increases on top of the launch numbers," said Petersen. "That tells us this is a long-term trend."

She said Fruition led treatment sales, followed by Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion and Turnaround Cream. Also strong are Origins' Starting Over and Prescriptives' All You Need.

DH & Field's recently launched Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide, which Petersen said is "doing really well." The store is anticipating BienFait Total later this spring, as well as Clinique's men's version of Turnaround Cream.

Petersen noted women have been buying the existing product and sharing it with their husbands.

"Multi-function items are a trend that's going over really well," said Petersen. "We're finding a need to show value and that's not so much in the price as it is in function."

The only quiet spot was at Halls Merchandising Inc., Kansas City, where treatment results were flat in 1993. Vice president and divisional merchandise manager Cheryl Holland attributed the stasis to the downsizing of the Halls operation; in 1993, Halls went from three to two stores.

"We have a conservative plan for 1994, but we hope that with a lot of product launches this year we will have an increase in the upper single digits," she said.

The company is planning launches this spring for Lift Serum Extreme, La Prairie's Time Management Cream and Givenchy's Firming Serum. Recent introductions of Renergie Yeux and Alpha-Ceramide are "doing well," according to Holland.Halls' top sellers include Chanel's Lift Serum Series, the Age Management Series, Lancome's Renergie and Vivifiance and Givenchy's treatment line.

"AHA's are firmly leading the business," reported Holland, who said that though many of the alpha-hydroxy acid-based products have now reached mass market distribution, their sales continue to climb.

Assessing its success, Holland said, "I don't want to call it a miracle drug, but it certainly has mass appeal."

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