CHICAGO--Whether the mouth is dark and dramatic, or pale and soft, lipstick leads the color cosmetics category, according to Midwest retailers.
Where lips fade, eyes intensify in a makeup style that emphasizes just one feature at a time, retailers said. Treatment-type benefits and sun protection in color products no longer surprise customers here, they added. Such features are taken for granted.
And while big lines like Estee Lauder, Lancome and Clinique are still the most popular brands in their accounts, makeup artist lines such as Trish McEvoy and MAC are among the fastest growers, and those stores without them are eager to get the trendy new brands onto the counters. Overall, sales range from flat to gains in the double digits year-to-date.
With the onset of fall and its cooler, cosmetics-friendly weather and increasingly dramatic makeup trends, retailers also expect a boost in color cosmetics sales.
"Neutrals were a tremendous story, and I think it's pretty much behind us now," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics at Dayton's, Hudson's & Marshall Field's, based in Minneapolis. "It was low or no makeup. The fact that there is a look is encouraging."
Sales are ahead in most lines, Burke said, "from somewhat to big." He called the color category "rejuvenated." While overall volume leaders at DH & Field's are Lauder, Lancome and Clinique, the biggest gainers in color include Guerlain, Chanel, MAC, Lauder, Prescriptives and Clarins.
At Halls Merchandising, based in Kansas City, Mo., cosmetics buyer Steffenie Yates said product features are now exceeding sun protection factors. Vitamin additives in foundations, including La Prairie's Cellular Treatment Foundation with vitamins A, E and C and Chanel's La Poudre Mat Pressee with C and E, are becoming popular. Lip color also gets a treatment boost in La Prairie's Cellular Treatment Lipcolor with sun protection and vitamins E and C.
Beyond benefits, it is the sheer "excitement of color" that gets customers to the counter, said Yates, adding, "Color looks good for fall."
Halls' color business has been running double-digit increases this year, boosted by its Trish McEvoy launch, which Yates said exceeded her expectations "two or three times."
At Mercantile Stores in Cincinnati, Ohio, Joanne Hickey, divisional merchandising manager for cosmetics, said she is "anxiously awaiting" word from several specialty makeup artist lines that she hopes to launch in the stores. She declined to say which ones. Customers, she said, have been asking for them.
But the typical color customer is not line-loyal, said Hickey, noting, "She shops everywhere for color. Lips are still important. Eye color is softer. It's not the neutrals, but it's a softer palette."
The opposite look is equally valid: dark eyes with soft lips, she noted.
Lauder, Clinique and Lancome continue to lead Mercantile's color cosmetics business, Hickey said, but Prescriptives and Chanel have had the biggest gains.
While sales have been about flat versus last year, Hickey said she expects increases in the fall, when makeup becomes more important.

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