By  on March 18, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- The treatment business is treating West Coast stores well, say area retailers, who noted that alpha-hydroxy acid products continue to drive sales.

Two lines -- Estee Lauder and Clinique -- were consistently mentioned as being at the forefront.

At Gottchalks, based in Fresno, Calif., Lauder, Clinique, Lancome and Elizabeth Arden are the biggest selling lines, according to Bob Wiser, divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics and accessories.

"Lauder had an outstanding year last year with their alpha-hydroxy acid product, Fruition. It drove my treatment business with Lauder up 25 percent," Wiser said. "With Clinique, Turnaround Cream was the magic formula, and I had a high-teens increase in Clinique. Those two products essentially drove my treatment business."

Lauder and Clinique led the pack at Macy's West, San Francisco, according to Sandy Pearce, vice president for cosmetics and fragrances. She said business in treatment products is currently up about 10 percent.

"Fruition has been terrific, and Turnaround Cream has been wildly successful," said Pearce, pointing out that Elizabeth Arden, with Alpha-Ceramide, and Prescriptives, with All You Need, are viable new contenders in the AHA arena.

At I. Magnin, San Francisco, Alexandra de Markoff, Lancaster, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and La Prairie, as well as the ubiquitous Lauder, are the leading lines, according to Adrienne Hoyer, senior vice president and general merchandise manager.

I. Magnin had been showing skin care gains of up to 13 percent, but with the Woodland Hills store closed and the Beverly Hills store somewhat affected by the earthquake that struck Los Angeles in mid-January, "Gains in treatment products have since leveled off at 8 percent overall," Hoyer said.

While alpha-hydroxy acid products are not that new a story, they remain the emphasis of the treatment business, with more companies launching products.

"Manufacturers wouldn't be creating them if they weren't still a major trend," Adrienne Hoyer said.

"Middle America really understands the acid products; there's been a lot of press on them, so the consumer understands what they do and how they work," said Bob Wiser.Echoed Pearce, "As retailers, we might get bored talking about alpha-hydroxy products, but the consumer is not tired hearing about them at all. They are an incredible story with legs."

The latest angle in the AHA phenomenon is products with a higher concentration of the active ingredient. Elizabeth Arden leads the way with Alpha-Ceramide, a four-product collection that primes skin for the final phase, which has a 7.5 percent concentration.

"Elizabeth Arden is going after the customer who is looking for more. We have Alpha Ceramide just hitting our counters now, and we think it is going to be phenomenal," Bob Wiser said.

Beyond higher concentrations, AHA's may extend to more specific targets.

"I see the next big trend as alpha-hydroxy acid products for the lips, to get rid of lines around the mouth," Adrienne Hoyer predicted.

"Moving from the face to other parts of the body may be the next step," said Wiser.

While acid products have been very much in the limelight, they haven't entirely usurped other categories of the treatment business. Both Lauder and Lancome launched new moisturizers recently.

Lauder's Resilience, a moisturizer that improves skin's elasticity, "has been doing very well in both sizes; in fact, we're out of stock on it already," said Wiser.

"Resilience has been a blockbuster," according to Sandy Pearce, who theorized that "Lauder hasn't come out with a new moisturizer in a fairly long while, and any time they come out with a new product and put as much muscle behind it as they did, it always tends to be great."

Although the retailers did not heap similar accolades on Lancome's recent moisturizer, Hydrative, they are eagerly anticipating the April launch of Bienfait Total, a total-care protective hydrator.

"We're excited about it because it's for all skin types and it's inexpensively priced -- $30 for 1.7 ounces -- and I think it's going to be an excellent product," said Wiser.

Added Pearce, "Bienfait is a very nice price point for a Lancome treatment product, and we're expecting great things."

Looking ahead to the future of treatment products, Bob Wiser predicted gains in cellulite creams, to be spearheaded by Christian Dior's Svelte. "I think that all the publicity over the new cellulite reducers is going to bring some activity to Dior, and to the whole category again," he said.Product launches in the treatment arena have grown recently, but the approach is still different from that of fragrance or color launches.

"In the fragrance business, you have to have the hype, the pomp and the circumstance, the store being the stage for the scene. In the treatment arena, I think that we have all gotten smarter with launches," said Pearce.

Added Wiser, "There's not a huge number of treatment launches, but the ones that are out there are big. The greatest difference now is that they're bringing the scientific nature of the product, the R&D aspect, to the table. That is what's making us excited."

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