By  on March 18, 1994

LONDON -- London department stores reported that sales of prestige skin care products grew by 20 to 30 percent last year, and they see no end to the boom in 1994.

"We are seeing our treatment business explode," said Hilary Dart, perfumery buyer at Selfridges. "The entire market is expanding, and new customers and companies are coming in all the time."

In contrast to the surge in London, the overall skin care market in the U.K. -- including mass market and prestige products -- remained relatively flat last year in terms of value and volume.

The British market rose 3 percent to 423.92 million pounds ($627.41 million) from 412.72 million pounds in 1992, according to A.C. Nielsen's Beauty Care Survey.

But inflation last year was 2 to 3 percent, indicating that sales in value terms were static. The main growth came in the premium end, where sales expanded 6 percent to 74.67 million pounds ($110.5 million) from 70.5 million pounds.

The massive growth in London is being driven at the class end by product launches, a recovering British economy and an increasing awareness by British women of the need for total body care, buyers said.

Sales of some well-established lines have increased by more than 40 percent.

"The English for a while have been good at taking care of their faces," said Jenny O'Donoghue, perfumery buyer at Harrods. "Now they are learning that the rest of their body needs care, too.

"What we see is a definite need -- which is being answered by some companies -- to simplify things," she added. "The market is now less price driven than convenience and lifestyle driven."

Among the fastest-growing lines are Clinique, Lancome, Decleor, Elizabeth Arden, Christian Dior and La Prairie, buyers said. Clinique's growth is a result of the launch of Turnaround Cream last year, as well as of heavy promotional activity, buyers said.

Arden's Ceramide line has been strong, and the company soon will launch Alpha-Ceramide. Dior has been boosted by the success of its Svelte line, which it has extended with the introduction of Hydra-Star.

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