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With Every Click and Call, E-tailers Pad Beauty Sales

Cyberspace and TV airwaves are giving beauty sales a boost this holiday season, as shoppers have shed misgivings about buying color cosmetics and fragrance...

Cyberspace and TV airwaves are giving beauty sales a boost this holiday season, as shoppers have shed misgivings about buying color cosmetics and fragrance electronically.

In fact, color cosmetics has emerged as a top-selling category with new items from Smashbox, Bare Escentuals and Dior prompting shoppers to call in orders and fill virtual shopping bags.

But among the din of virtual ringing cash registers one item has emerged as the standout: the Clarisonic skin cleansing and exfoliating device. Clarisonic — designed by the makers of the Sonicare toothbrush — got a jolt in sales after Oprah Winfrey named it as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” on her program Nov. 20. That endorsement landed the device on Amazon.com’s beauty shop bestsellers list (where it has remained), said an Amazon.com spokeswoman, adding that gift sets and cosmetics infused with sparkle and shimmer also were selling well. Beauty.com and QVC — which launched Clarisonic on its airwaves in October — have also reported brisk sales of the $195 device.

QVC’s director of beauty merchandising, Allen Burke, said he is encouraged by the performance of color cosmetics this season, and expects that robust sales in the category will spill over into 2008. The big winners this holiday include Bare Escentuals’ BareGold Pure Luxury 10-piece collection, Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Face Powder with brush, Laura Geller Long-Lasting Color Brow Marker and Bobbi Brown’s entire range.

Referring to the bestsellers, Burke said, “There is more color on that list than there normally would be.” He added, “The items that are surfacing are powerful and have a long life ahead. These items really have traction.” Burke declared, “I can say with confidence that December will be the biggest beauty month we’ve ever had.” Burke, like many of his electronic retailing counterparts, plans to wrap up holiday sales early next week to guarantee delivery by Christmas.

This season marks HSN’s one-year anniversary with Sephora. To fete the partnership, their vendors rolled out glitzy gift sets. For instance, Dior featured a Red Carpet Kit for $70 that included Diorskin Airflash, a peach facial powder and large powder brush. Separately, its Diorshow Blackout mascara sold through 4,000 units in two minutes, said Michael Henry, HSN’s senior vice president of beauty merchandising.

Other standout items on his list include FusionBeauty’s Bling Fusion, a LipFusion Color Shine with a crystal-encrusted cap and a mini LipFusion for $49, and GoSmile’s Advanced B1 Formula Tooth Whitening Holiday Kit for $99, which includes Peppermint Smile Toothpaste. “Who would ever think that tooth whiteners would be a hit for holiday,” said Henry, adding that sales of the kit were 30 percent over plan. He noted that as of Tuesday, items with a holiday twist had helped to push December sales up 9 percent over last year. (See related story, page 12.)

Beauty.com, which is owned by its partner site Drugstore.com, has seen traffic increase since its relaunch in late September, said David Lonczak, chief marketing officer of Drugstore.com/Beauty.com. He added that the revamped site — complete with personalized skin care analysis and, for the holiday, the personality gift finder tool — has attracted more prestige brands to the fold, including Oscar Blandi.

He named top sellers as the Bliss Merry Citrus set for $38, Tarte Ready-to-Wear Pret-a-Porter Duo Look Palette for $44, Philosophy’s Makeup Optional kit for $78 and L’Occitane Honey Lemon Box for $66. New partnerships with Bluefly.com and Top Button, an online fashion community, have also boosted sales. Lonczak said, “We are definitely seeing a lift in holiday traffic year-over-year.”

For November, the top five most heavily trafficked pure beauty Web sites in descending order were: avon.com, sephora.com, FragranceNet.com, marykay.com and lancome.com, according to the online tracking firm ComScore Inc. Ulta.com is ranked sixth.