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Men’s Corner: Men’s Lines Push Price Envelope

A new men's skin care brand, called Alford & Hoff, is slated to launch at Neiman Marcus stores in mid-April ??? and its appearance may serve to expand a...

A new men’s skin care brand, called Alford & Hoff, is slated to launch at Neiman Marcus stores in mid-April — and its appearance may serve to expand a market for high-priced, high-performance men’s treatment products.

At about the same time, another high-priced line, Zirh Platinum, will reach Barneys New York. Both lines feature items priced in excess of $100.

Their introduction follows the launch last fall of a lower-priced line — yet high-performance positioned — called Action by Anthony for Men, which bowed exclusively at Barneys.

Alford & Hoff and Zirh arrive at a time when sales of women’s body care items priced at more than $150 have grown to $4 million in U.S. department stores, up from $600,000 in 2004, according to The NPD Group.

Karen Grant, the firm’s senior beauty industry analyst, noted that the average price of men’s prestige skin care products is $20, excluding sets, adding: “We see the premium end of the market growing at the fastest rate. At a certain strata, if you are targeting a niche, upscale clientele, yes, it can work. But it will likely be limited in reach and in the number of men buying — and women buying for men.”

Also factoring into the success formula of high-priced men’s skin care is efficacy, surmised Ed Burstell, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry and accessories at Bergdorf Goodman, which is launching Alford & Hoff exclusively along with corporate cousin Neiman’s.

“It comes down to the product,” he said. “Does it work? Is it going to give the results that it says?”

Grant said of the “superpremium” men’s treatment business, “[Introductions are] very uncommon, and it is still extremely niche.” Other brands that have approached this business include Sisley and La Prairie.

In Europe, Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani have introduced high-end men’s skin care lines.

The seven-item Alford & Hoff assortment features products ranging in price from $32 (for Shave, a 5-oz. shaving cream) to $155 (for Serum, a 1.7-oz. item).

The line gets its high-performance bent from Sirtuin-Activating Compound, an ingredient in several of the products that is designed to activate an enzyme called sirtuin, which is said to be key to cellular longevity.

At least four products in the Alford & Hoff line are purported to stimulate sirtuin. These include the serum, the moisturizer, $75 for 1.7 oz.; the SPF 15 moisturizer, $80 for 1.7 oz., and the eye cream, $48 for 0.5 oz.

Co-founder Barry Alford, who worked in sales of medical devices after college, came across research on sirtuin’s effect on the brain, particularly in Alzheimer’s patients. He found similar studies on sirtuin’s influence on the skin. (Some Avon and Estée Lauder skin care products claim to influence sirtuin, but Alford & Hoff’s use of sirtuin-stimulating ingredients is billed as a first in men’s treatment.)

“When skin is under stress, it activates sirtuin,” said Alford. “We wanted to make something that activated this sirtuin.” He added that sirtuin can boost cellular longevity by 70 percent.

Alford & Hoff’s ingredient complex also features antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids and minerals, and is designed to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The line, which also includes a cleanser, $35 for 6 oz., and a microdermabrasion cream, $85 for 2 oz., is set to make its debut at 10 Neiman Marcus stores and Bergdorf’s.

Men’s treatment “is something that our customer has been telling us they want,” said Bergdorf’s Burstell. He added that, while many of the men’s grooming lines Bergdorf’s carries have a shaving bent, this “true treatment line for men” represents “a direction where we see some opportunity.”

Plans call for Alford & Hoff to potentially roll out to 30 Neiman Marcus doors.

Alford, along with co-founder Jefferson Hoffman — the two were former teammates on Arizona State University’s football team from 1994 to 1998 — said they envision a guy age 25 to 45 years old, who is buying a $6,000 suit, picking up shoes and a belt and stopping for skin care products, as the target consumer for their line.

“They expect and want the best,” said Hoffman. “They are competitive, results-oriented and like style.”

Sixty percent of purchasers of men’s skin care products are women, according to Alford, who added that the serum, moisturizer and microdermabrasion cream are to be merchandised on the women’s cosmetics floor of Neiman’s. Bergdorf’s has slated the line for its men’s store.

Industry sources estimate that Alford & Hoff could generate first-year retail sales of $8 million, including sales at the two retailer Web sites, as well as alfordandhoff.com, which is slated to go live in early April. Co-operative advertising is planned to support the brand.