By  on March 18, 1994

ATLANTA -- Rehydrate, refirm and regenerate -- these are the buzzwords that are creating consumer interest and spurring treatment sales in the Southeast, say retailers.The merchants stressed that customers want quick-working, easy-to-understand products that fit their busy lifestyles. It was also noted that the interest in alpha-hydroxy acid products continues and, as a result, the skin care category is showing increases across the board.At Rich's, Atlanta, treatment is outpacing fragrance and color, according to Pat Joyce, divisional merchandise manager. There have been double-digit increases for the year to date in the category and Joyce considers treatment to be a big growth category for 1994.This month the store is launching an advertising campaign targeted to "taking the mystery out of skin care," she said. Each week, Rich's will sponsor a full-page four-color advertisement that will tackle a skin care problem and focus on a product to help solve it."The basic idea is, 'If this is your problem, here's the product, this is how it works, and this is why it works,"' explained Joyce.Joyce said she felt women have become much more aware of their skin, can describe their specific problems and want to be able to treat them. She pointed to Lancome's Renergie and Lauder's Resilience as problem-specific products.The AHA items are also still in the treatment limelight, said Joyce. She sees no slowing of the trend and thinks it will continue to grow through this year.Estee Lauder's Fruition, Clinique's Turnaround Cream and Prescriptives' All You Need are all still strong sellers, Joyce said. She also noted she's already seeing positive reaction to the February launch of Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide.Joyce is also excited about Lift Off by Aramis, the recently introduced alpha-hydroxy treatment product for men. She predicted Lift Off will account for 25 to 30 percent of Aramis's total sales."The baby boomers are now in their 40s and 50s, and while the women have been taking preventative steps for years, the men now aren't liking what they see," she said.An upcoming product launch for which Joyce has high expectations is Christian Dior's Svelte, the anti-cellulite cream that she said has been hyped by the press."This will be the first product that can make the claims so many other products have wanted to make," she said."Women who are investing in treatment today want simplicity, and they want results."Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager of Parisian, in Birmingham, Ala., agreed that simplicity was the key for today's customer: "She's so much more active and diverse than she was 10 years ago. Her needs have changed, and I think the industry has responded well."He said the industry has started using "action words" -- like rehydrating, refirming and de-aging -- and that these words are important to the customer."The action words create more clarity for the customer, and she becomes able to understand what the product is going to do for her," Koch said.Koch also noted that alpha-hydroxy products are still driving Parisian's business."Our sales are up, the entire category is selling well and I think it's an important catalyst in the business," he said. Manufacturers are embellishing the business with additional AHA products, Koch said, citing Prescriptives' two new choices for All You Need: a sensitive skin formula and an oily skin formula. He also pointed to Arden's four-step Alpha-Ceramide as an extension to its Ceramide line.He said the store is playing very active roles in the launches and advertising of all the new products, but stressed that customer service is still Parisian's key to gaining and keeping customers."We'll use any method that brings the customer to the counter, but hiring nice people who develop special relationships with the customer is what we're known for."Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager at McRae's, in Jackson, Miss., said alpha-hydroxy products are still the hottest ticket in treatment for his store."I definitely see [the trend] continuing," he said. "With the introduction of Arden's Alpha-Ceramide, which offers higher concentrations of the acids, I think other lines will soon follow with higher strengths."He said he was very excited about Arden's launch and thinks customers will be attracted to the four-step system because it allows their skin time to acclimate to the product."The way they are marketing it is also great," he added. "They are offering steps one through three for free when you buy step four. That's the kind of value consumers are looking for."Evans said value and a product that offers dual performance are key selling points for his customers. He pointed to products like Lauder's Resilience, which refirms and replenishes, and Prescriptives' All You Need, which exfoliates and moisturizes.He also said Lancome's Nutriforce and Renergie are doing well in this category.Treatment sales are up overall for the year, Evans said, noting that Lauder's sales are up 18 percent, Clinique's are up 16 percent and Lancome sales are about even with last year.He attributed the rise in the Lauder and Clinique business to Fruition and Turnaround Cream, respectively.McRae's is planning a March launch of Lancome's Beinfait Total, which Evans said sounds good because it includes a moisturizer and an SPF factor along with alpha-hydroxy acids. He noted, though, that the advertising he has seen is not focusing on the AHA's."Since this is their first alpha-hydroxy acid product, I think they've chosen to approach it in a different way," he said, adding that he sees a trend in products that preform two or more services to the skin."I think the industry is trying to make it easier for the consumer. They are consolidating products as opposed to having her layer it on. The customer doesn't have time for that, anymore."At Castner-Knott, in Nashville, Tenn., customers are still on the alpha-hydroxy bandwagon, according to Wanda Rositano, cosmetics and fragrance buyer. She said treatment sales are up 11 percent from last year and attributed a lot of the growth to Fruition and Clinique."Fruition is the bestseller. Turnaround Cream is also enjoying success, and I think a lot of it is due to the price point [$27.50] and the positioning of the product."She said Castner's upcoming launches include Beinfait Total in April and Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide, which will make its debut this month."We're just unpacking it now and the packaging looks great," she said. "I think customers are going to be intrigued by it."While customers still have their eyes on the alpha-hydroxy products at Burdines, Miami, merchandising vice president Stacy DeMeo said Christian Dior's Svelte is stealing some of the spotlight.Burdines was the first to launch Svelte, and it hit stores in late January. DeMeo said sales have been phenomenal."We've had extraordinary results," she said. "Sales have exceeded our expectations." DeMeo pointed out that Svelte is unique in the same category because it is for the body, as opposed to the face.Skin care items that are doing well at Burdines include Lancome's Nutriforce, Lauder's Resilience and Clinique's Turnaround Cream, she said. Treatment sales continue to outpace fragrance and cosmetics.One trend DeMeo has noticed is a new interest in cleansers. Both Biotherm's new Biosource and Clinique's new foaming cleansers are selling well. Burdines carries Biotherm exclusively in the United States, and DeMeo said it is one of the strongest lines in the store.DeMeo concurred with other retailers when asked what women are looking for today: "Based on the success of Prescriptives' All You Need, women are looking for ease and time-saving in their treatment regimes."

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