By  on April 22, 1994

ATLANTA -- A boom in nail care and strong gains in treatment are fueling the drugstore cosmetics business in the Southeast, according to area retailers.

A sampling of drugstores indicates cosmetics sales in the region range from flat for the year to date to gains in the high-single digits. New products, most notably professional nail care and alpha-hydroxy acid skin care, are leading the business.

At the 1,712-unit Eckerd, based in Largo, Fla., cosmetics and fragrance enjoy prominent real estate and are important merchandise classifications, according to Carol Allman, category manager.

She said the cosmetics category overall has experienced high-single-digit increases year-to-date, singling out March as her best month.

Allman pointed to two major changes in customer buying habits. First, she said the emphasis on the natural look has taken color cosmetics out of the limelight. She said Revlon's new Exotika line is one of the newest "natural colors" lines.

Second, Allman said, treatment has found a new audience, thanks to the alpha-hydroxy acid products now available in drugstores and to the baby boomers' desire to retard the signs of aging.

"Skin care is a rising tide. It's become just as important as color in the world of makeup," Allman said.

Eckerd carries the Alpha Hydrox brand as well as Oil of Olay and Pond's, both of which offer alpha-hydroxy-based items. L'Oreal's new Plenitude product, Excell-A3, is making its debut soon.

Within the next few months, Allman added, a manufacturer will be shipping Eckerd a thigh cream priced at $19.99.

"It's going to be a high-visibility item, but I don't know how long it will last," she said.

Nail care is another growing area for Eckerd, and Allman credited the gains to improved quick-dry formulations and to customer demand for professional products. She said Del Labs' Sally Hansen line is doing especially well.

"Women have less time to pamper themselves," Allman said. "They are flocking to get professional products that they can use at home. People are realizing they can buy it at Eckerd instead of a beauty supply shop. It's become a nice new business for us."

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