ATLANTA -- Sales of sun, bath and body products have been a bright spot for Southeast retailers this year.
Each category has been showing strong gains so far, in some cases outpacing other areas of the cosmetics business, the retailers said.
The sun care business has been boosted by new self-tanning products that combine treatment properties or offer convenience, such as self-tanning sprays.
Bath and body sales, retailers noted, have been spurred by unique specialty lines.
At Rich's, sales of sun products have been increasing by more than 20 percent for two years, according to Pat Joyce, vice president and divisional merchandise manager.
The category is off to a good start this spring, with key introductions such as SuperTan from EstÄe Lauder and Self Tan Mist from Clinique. Lauder's SuperTan has had a strong sell-through since its recent introduction, Joyce said.
"We get it in and it's gone," she said.
Sun and environmental protection products continue to be strong as people become more aware of potential damaging effects from exposure to the elements, said Joyce.
Year-to-date bath and body sales are double those of last year, she noted, as Rich's has increased and updated its assortment and space and added lines.
One new line, Goodebodies, has been added in all stores; in Rich's top eight doors, shop concepts were installed. Joyce said the line has done well, listing as best-selling products aromatherapy candles, skin care, anti-frizz hair products and wooden brushes and combs.
"Everyone is looking for a way to unwind. This product is simple to understand, and 100 percent natural," said Joyce. "We're looking for continued growth."
This spring, said Joyce, Rich's also introduced VitaSpa by Vitabath to good response. Aromatherapy and bath gel products have sold well, as have kits that combine products for added value.
In-store selling specialists and events have been more effective than gift-with-purchase and purchase-with-purchase promotions, she noted.
"People don't really need incentives to buy these products," said Joyce, "although they do respond well to attractive presentations, special events and percentage-off sales."At the Jackson, Miss.-based McRae's, the bath, body and sun category has grown 10 to 15 percent for the year to date, faster than treatment and color. Its volume, however, is still smaller than either skin care or makeup.
"We want to grow this category by layering on vendors and adding events in the future," said Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager.
Evans said the key to bath and body is the open-sell format, which allows customers to handle the merchandise. Plenty of signs, visuals and easy-access price points $20 and less are also important elements.
"Price is important to compete with drugstores," said Evans.
To emphasize value, McRae's offers percentage-off sales along with promotions such as gwp's and pwp's, Evans noted.
McRae's launched Goodebodies in all of its 28 stores in November, and constructed in-store shops in two doors. Plans are to roll out the shop concept to all the units this fall.
"Goodebodies' all-natural ingredients and moderate prices have appealed to customers," said Evans. "We're looking now to bring in better-priced specialty lines."
The sun category is more popular than ever, said Evans, boosted by new products such as Lauder's SuperTan and Lancome's new spray products.
In sun protection, consumers want items with higher SPF's and are buying treatment products with the added value of sun protection. Lauder, Clinique and Lancome have been best-selling lines, Evans said.
Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Parisian in Birmingham, Ala., also described the sun category as "excellent."
Improved self-tanning formulas, spray products, promotional activities and increased consumer awareness have contributed to sun care's performance as a faster-growing category than treatment or color, he said.
Lauder, Clinique, Lancome, Clarins, Elizabeth Arden and Erno Laszlo have led the sun protection area so far this year, Koch said.
He added that sun protection products combining treatment properties have sold well, with SPF's in the 15-25 range most in demand.
"Sun products have shown marked improvement," said Koch. "With consumers becoming more aware of possible damage from the sun, the industry has put research and development behind their efforts and responded quickly."Koch added that strong visuals to open up a dialog between customers and salespeople are important sales tools in the sun category.
Bath and body products have grown along with sun products, he noted, with bath gels and body lotions the best-selling items. In-store sampling and demonstrations have boosted sales.
"Our relationship with the consumer -- which includes education -- demands the right people behind the counter and is key to our success," said Koch.
At Alcoa, Tenn.-based Proffit's, the bath and body business is the fastest-growing category next to treatment, according to Judy Ivens, divisional merchandise manager.
Sales have been driven by new specialty lines such as Goodebodies, as well as established bestsellers, which include Clarins, Elizabeth Arden's Spa Collection and Lancome.
The Goodebodies line of aromatherapy products and soaps has done particularly well since its addition last fall, Ivens said.
Sun products continue to do well, both in self-tanners and sun protection, with Lauder, Clinique and Clarins standing out as the best-selling lines.
"People are looking for the highest SPF's and moisturizers in sun protection and convenience in self-tanners," said Ivens, adding that self-tanning sprays as well as self-tanners for the face have been especially popular this spring.
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