NEW YORK--Hallmark is leaving a new calling card. Following in the footsteps of such unconventional retailers of bath and body products as The Limited and The Gap, Hallmark is launching a personal care collection of its own. The six-item introduction is an extension of its Nature's Sketchbook by Marjolein Bastin-- one of the firm's top-selling lines of greeting cards and gift items launched last year. As with the greeting card line, the new bath products will be decorated with illustrated outdoor scenes and musings about nature by Marjolein Bastin, an artist from the Netherlands. "The impetus for the line was not that we necessarily were out to enter the bath and body market," said Eileen Drummond, Hallmark Trend Expert. "We just felt that personal care and home fragrance were a natural extension of this particular line. Nature is something that is experienced by the five senses." The Nature's Sketchbook bath and home fragrance assortment is set to roll out Feb. 15 to 10,000 of Hallmark's 22,000-door universe. The line is expected to reach 15,000 Hallmark stores before year's end. Hallmark accounts include Hallmark specialty stores, drugstores and select doors in department stores such as J.C. Penney, Marshall Field's and Dillard's. While company executives declined to disclose sales projections or an advertising budget, industry sources estimated that because of the company's sizable initial distribution, the new collection could generate retail volume of up to $100 million in the first year. Sources estimated that Hallmark is backing the brand with up to $2 million in print and TV advertising. While the media schedule has not been completed, TV ads are expected to break at the end of this month and run through the end of May. Print advertising is expected to appear in April or May publications, Drummond said. The Nature's Sketchbook bath and body line will consist of 5-oz. bottles of Bath Gel and Hand-Body Lotion, each selling for $3.95; a 1.1-oz. envelope of Bath Seeds for $1.95; Fragranced Soap for $1.95; scented candles for $10.95 each, and a tin of Potpourri for $9.95. Each form of the product will be available in two fragrances: Orchard Fruit and Meadow Bouquet. Hallmark has also created gift sets. One set contains Orchard Fruit Soap, bath gel and body lotion packaged in a crate for $12.95. The Meadow Bouquet version, which is also $12.95, will be contained in a basket. A collection of four soaps in a crate or basket will be $9.95. According to Drummond, Hallmark is planning for the bath array to be merchandised in the same display as the cards and gift items. "I can't say for sure, but I think it is possible that Hallmark has a slam dunk on their hands," said industry consultant, John Horvitz. "To start off with, Hallmark has the real estate--10,000 doors is a substantial launch pad. And this real estate is also high-traffic." He added, "Bath and Body is largely an impulse-buy category, and Hallmark is an impulse retail operation to start with."
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