Value Bath Booms in Economic Bust

The dour economy could have an upside for mass market bath departments.

NEW YORK — The dour economy could have an upside for mass market bath departments. Mass merchants said one category where they see shoppers trading down to mass stores from specialty shops is in bath products, including everything from soaps to body sprays.

This story first appeared in the February 6, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Data from ACNielsen supports that theory and reveals sales for the 52 weeks, ended Dec. 27, show the category personal soap-bath needs increased 3.1 percent to just over $2 billion, up from $1.94 billion.

That’s all good news to Chris McClain, president of Advanced Beauty Systems Inc. The former retailer, recently back from showing items at ECRM, is harvesting the value message of his Bodycology line at a time when shoppers are pinching pennies. “With limited disposable income, people want to stretch their dollars further. Bodycology delivers the value they are seeking with quality products offered below $5,” McClain said. With that as a backdrop, the company is launching new fragrances and reformulations.

The formulas contain neither mineral oil nor parabens, and more moisturizers have been added. The new fragrances include Midnight Garden, Cherry Blossom, Raspberries and Cream and Vanilla Romance. The forms include shower gels, body lotion, creams and body mist. While McClain hopes they will be strong sellers, he’s especially confident about vanilla since the vanilla scent has proven to be a consumer favorite.

Buyers said they are eyeballing their bath sections looking for avenues to both juice up sales and streamline suppliers. Many said existing products look dated and tired while innovative offerings such as those from Bodycology could provide new life.

Beyond the fresh scents, McClain said the firm just introduced foaming antibacterial hand soaps in sleek, contemporary packaging, priced competitively at $3 in apple orchard, cucumber melon, brown sugar vanilla and midnight garden.

Bodycology is also looking to connect with consumers on a more intimate level. McClain is tapping into some trendy marketing tools to reach out to consumers including online sampling and pages on MySpace and Facebook. On the Facebook page, for example, visitors are asked “What’s Your Bodycology?” Questions about preferences help direct consumers to a suggested scent.

To maximize the presentation of Bodycology, McClain suggests vertical merchandising in the bath section. He feels the block presentation helps encourage multiple sales. Advanced Beauty System also markets other brands including Cantu, Dr. Teal’s and SheaSoft. McClain said Dr. Teal’s in particular has seen a boost in sales from the widespread chatter of the benefits of magnesium sulfate in Epsom salts.