NEW YORK -- Products created to thin thighs could also fatten profits.
Inspired by the success in department stores of anti-cellulite items like Christian Dior's Dior Svelte, which is expected to move 500,000 units in its first year, manufacturers are rushing lower-priced thigh creams to drug and discount stores.
The introduction of less-expensive thigh creams may be just another example of mass knocking off class to catch a hot trend, but according to industry estimates, mass market sales of thigh creams could top $90 million this year.
Major chains like Thrifty Drug Stores of Los Angeles, PayLess Drug Stores of Wilsonville, Ore., and Eckerd Drug Stores of Largo, Fla., have already begun or will soon start stocking the products.
At the recent Exclusively HBA show in Chicago, Wal-Mart cosmetics buyer Jeanne Hess called thigh creams "a hot new category."
Although priced lower than those in the prestige market, the mass market items tend to carry relatively lofty retail tags. One of the cheapest, Rebeka's New-Thigh Contouring Creme, costs $16.95 for 3.4 ounces, as compared to Svelte's $48 for 6.8 ounces.
But retailers cited the success of alpha-hydroxy acid-based treatment as proof that drugstore customers are willing to pay more for high-tech products that mimic department store lines.
In return, mass marketers are getting gross margins in the 45 percent range on thigh creams, versus traditional beauty margins of 35 percent.
Among the major thigh cream contenders are Rebeka's item, ATC Thigh Cream from An-Kar Products, Beautiful Thigh from Cosmania, Slimmer U by Crystal Springs and Lisee's Aromatherapy Cellulite Control for Thighs.
ATC and Slimmer U each contain aminophylline, an ingredient touted as a remedy for cellulite.
There is some debate, however, as to the shelf life of aminophylline. Some sources have said it becomes inactive in six weeks unless it is mixed in the right base. Manufacturers say their products have the proper formula, won't turn color and are not limited in their shelf life.
According to Rebeka, New-Thigh Contouring Creme's formula contains botanical extracts to combat the appearance of cellulite. The company is currently engaging in eight weeks of medical-clinical tests to provide data showing its product really works, according to general manager Barry Barr, who estimated that New-Thigh's volume could surpass $1 million in 1994.
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