By  on April 6, 2007

Bologna, Italy — An emotional connection.

Those three words summed up the main theme of this year's Cosmoprof and covered everything from an increased focus on the consumer to greater innovation to a greening of everything from packaging to the design of trade show stands. They're trends that are bound to be seen over the rest of the year and beyond on retail floors and at international trade shows stretching from Singapore to Cannes.

Beauty firms exhibiting at the five-day Cosmoprof here said they are increasing their marketing budgets and expanding into new product categories in their attempts to tap into new customers. The themes fed into the bullish mood at the fair, which drew 145,331 visitors, a 5 percent increase over the prior year's session, while organizers celebrated the fair's 40th anniversary.

In Italy, at least, the moves are paying off, since the industry has rebounded from three years in the doldrums. The Italian beauty industry generated 8.08 billion euros, or $10.15 billion at average yearly exchange, in 2006, representing a 2.7 percent increase over the prior year. The country's beauty export business rose 4.5 percent to 2.24 billion euros, or $2.8 billion, in the period, but Fabio Franchina, president of Unipro, said, "We still are not anything compared to what we could be."

Unipro plans to host 21 programs for Italy's small and medium-size beauty companies to set up distribution around the world, particularly in emerging markets. On the home front, Franchina said the long period of decline of perfumeries had stabilized, and retailers had become aggressive in building their franchises with a sophisticated and personal touch. He cited as examples Mazzolari perfumery's expansion of its flagship in Milan and Rinsascente department store's beauty department revamp.

"They're getting absolutely closer to the consumer," he said, adding that when it comes to product, Italian beauty firms are spending more on research and development and marketing than ever before.

The Estée Lauder Cos., which was situated in the heart of the Beauty Onstage along with P&G Prestige and L'Oréal's Luxury Products Division, certainly epitomized the customer-friendly strategy. The company was so friendly, in fact, that it invited almost 300 VIP European customers of its Estée Lauder and Clinique brands to take part in interactive product presentations.

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