By  on April 15, 1994

NEW YORK -- Mass market retailers finally have a reason to smack their lips.

The enthusiasm is due to a crop of launches this year in the lipstick category, one of the few bright spots in a lackluster color cosmetics business.

While overall color sales in the mass market were flat or down in 1993, lipsticks grew at a 3.8 percent rate, to $460.2 million, according to data from Information Resources Inc. in Chicago.

Lipsticks account for 22.2 percent of overall color sales in mass market stores, according to Towne-Oller and Associates, a division of IRI. The figures put lipsticks ahead of face makeups, which have a 20.2 percent share, but behind eye color, with 24.3 percent, and nail care, with 33.3 percent.

While not the largest category, the lipstick business will continue to grow, according to buyers, who said they expect it to continue producing the highest sales gains in color cosmetics for the rest of 1994, especially with a series of new items slated.

"Lipstick is one category shoppers still buy, no matter what the trends are," explained Jo Ann O'Connor, buyer for Gordon's Deep Discount in Newark, N.J.

Even though a muted look is dominating beauty for spring, buyers agreed, the emphasis on appearing natural is not keeping customers from purchasing lipsticks in brighter tones, as well as natural-looking ones.

"There's a tremendous resurgence in lipsticks, and there is even a lot of interest in things like frosted shades," said Herb Wilson, co-president of Wilson Marketing Enterprises, New York.

"Lipstick is the one product everybody uses," added Fran Wilson, co-president of the same firm.

"Lipsticks are an affordable way to update a look and, unlike skin care or other products, lipstick is easy to understand," she noted.

The retailers said they are excited about several new lipsticks that will be hitting the market for spring and summer. In many cases, mass manufacturers are borrowing tactics from successful department store products, such as sun protection or long-lasting formulas.

Upcoming launches include:

ColorStay Lipcolor from Revlon, which includes a patented formula purportedly designed to stay on all day without smearing. ColorStay will be available in 20 colors and carry a suggested retail of $8.

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