By  on May 13, 1994

DALLAS -- Body and bath products are eclipsing the sun care category in the Southwest, but only by a shadow.

Sales of body and bath items are trending ahead by 10 to 30 percent compared with spring last year, according to area retailers.

Environmentally conscious items are luring the eyes of consumers, retailers said, whether botanically based in formulation or packaged in recycled materials.

Fruit and floral-scented bath and body products are bestsellers, the merchants said, with items such as glycerin soaps, shower gels, bath oils, body lotions and splashes most popular.

The stores also noted that men are gravitating toward bath and body counters in increasing numbers, favoring fruity shower gels and body scrubs.

The sunny and warm climate here has translated to a strong market for the sun care category as well. Sun sales are ahead in the 10 to 15 percent range against last year's figures.

For their place in the sun, consumers are snapping up everything from shampoos and conditioners for pre- and post-sun care to makeup with SPF, said retailers. Sun protection products are shining along with the hot-selling self-tanners.

At J.C. Penney Co., the bath and body business is up 30 percent over last spring, according to Barbara Kille, buyer for sun care, bath and body.

"The bath and body shops that we have in over 500 stores are pushing the business," explained Kille. "The two categories really go together, and customers are responding to our concept."

She noted that key vendors in the shops are Ben Rickert, Vitabath, Caswell-Massey, Smith and Vandiver and J.C. Penney Signature, the chain's private label collection.

On Earth Day, April 22, Penney's launched Earth Preserv, a natural line of bath and body products, in over 600 stores.

Themed after the four seasons and packaged in recyclable aluminum, Earth Preserv includes products such as shampoo, hair vitalizer, body cleansers, lotions, soap, bath salts and sunscreens.

This fall, Penney's will launch Vitabath's Natural Florals collection.

The chain featured bath and body items in newspaper advertising that ran the week of May 1 and targeted 40 million households.

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