By  on May 13, 1994

CHICAGO -- Midwest customers are pampering themselves with feel-good bath and body products and showing increasing responsibility toward the sun.

The bath, body and sun category is showing double-digit year-to-date increases in Midwest stores. Bath and body appears to be driving the business, with retailers reporting brisk sales in luxury bath products from a range of vendors.

In the sun area, self-tanners are maintaining the strong growth of last year, with new products like sprays and Estee Lauder's revamped sun line meeting with a good response. Stores say women are increasingly recognizing the importance of sun protection as a part of their overall beauty regimen.

At Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's, based in Minneapolis, bath and body sales are ahead by a double-digit percentage and sun products are also doing well, said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager.

The hottest performer in the sun category is Lauder's relaunched sun line. According to Burke, Lauder's self-tanner is the top-selling stockkeeping unit of the company's entire sun range.

"[The sun category] has gradually taken a big bite out of the market of the mass market and drugstores by providing better products. Women are heeding the publicity about sun protection and tend to see the category as an extension of their skin care routine," Burke said.

He noted that the industry sees sun as a hot category and other lines besides Lauder were also being very aggressive and innovative.

While self-tanners are the strongest business, protection is doing well but had some "catching-up to do," Burke said.

In the bath and body category, DH and Field's is putting most of its energy into H2O Plus. The line was tested in a couple of stores over holiday season and will be rolled out to most other units in the chain by the end of this season.

"We are opening in additional stores on a daily basis," Burke said.

Other hot lines in the category include Pact bath oils, a line of decorative bath oils packaged with dried flowers inside the bottles, and VitaSpa, Burke said.

Bath, body and sun is ahead by a high single-digit percentage at Jacobson's, based in Jackson, Mich., according to Irene Price, buyer. Body products are driving the category with sales increases in the low double digits.

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