By  on May 13, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- The sun is rising in the West.

Although it's still early in the season, West Coast retailers say some of their strongest business is in sun care, with self-tanning products tending to dominate the category.

Bath and body sales are paling in comparison at many stores.

"The sun business is much stronger than bath and body," said Diane Gates, divisional vice president for cosmetics at Seattle-based Bon Marche. "While sun protection is still doing well, and it's a growing business, it's not as hot as the self-tanning category. Self-tanning is still doing over twice the business that protection is doing."

Gates cited Lauder as the number-one brand in sun at her stores, with LancÖme, Elizabeth Arden and Clinique close behind. The sun business "is running 10 to 18 percent ahead," Gates said.

At other area retailers, however, sun protection is driving the business.

"With so many of our stores in tourist locations, sun care is a 12-month business for us," said Al Wines, divisional merchandising manager for Los Angeles-based Carter Hawley Hale.

While Wines said that sun protection is currently a bigger business than self-tanners, he added that self-tanners are beginning to pick up as well. EstÄe Lauder, LancÖme and Clinique are the hot manufacturers overall in the sun care arena at CHH, added Wines, who noted that sales for the category are up in the single-digit percentage range this year.

At Fresno-based Gottchalks, sun sales are also going strong.

"The season has just begun, and we're already up 14 percent," said Bob Wiser, divisional merchandising manager of cosmetics and accessories.

Lauder, LancÖme, Clinique and Arden are the best-selling lines at Gottchalks, according to Wiser.

Sun care manufacturers haven't been resting on their laurels, retailers noted. Instead, they've introduced new variations, particularly in the self-tanning arena, and the retailers are excited about the new items.

"What has become the number-one item in that category is self-tanning sprays," Bon Marche's Gates said. "It was new last year with Lauder, and this year Clinique has one. [Customers] prefer the option of being able to spray it on without getting it on their hands."

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