CHICAGO--The Exclusively HBA trade show is developing a foreign accent. Beauty manufacturers exhibiting at the show, held here from Wednesday through today, reported that many retailers and distributors from abroad--including some from China and Russia--were among the visitors to their booths. "We have a high representation of retailers from other countries," said Jay Spaulding, principal and chief executive officer of Exclusively HBA. "What is happening is that people are realizing there are business opportunities with [health and beauty aids] outside of the U.S." Yongmi Snapp, director of the Korea Export Section for SuperValu of Minneapolis, a grocery wholesaler, added, "We're getting more interest internationally for cosmetics, especially low-priced lines." Johanne Meloche, for example, vice president of cosmetics and exclusive brands for Le Groupe Jean Coutu, based in Longueuil, Quebec, said she was looking for many new business opportunities and cosmetics ideas to bring to her stores in Canada. Missing, however, were many of the largest American retailers, except for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, Ark., and Target Stores, Minneapolis. Several of the absent chains said they passed on Exclusively HBA in favor of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' Marketplace Meeting in June. But Spaulding said that when final attendance figures are tallied, he expects more than 600 buyers will have attended the show over the three days, about the same number as last year. Many were representatives of closeout operations, distributors and wholesalers. In excess of 260 purveyors of health and beauty aid products were at HBA, a drop from last year's 315 exhibitors. But the lack of power players didn't discourage some suppliers. "We get a lot accomplished," said Mark Laracy, president of Parfums de Coeur, based in Darien, Conn. "We see some people we don't get to see at [NACDS] Marketplace, and we have more time in each meeting." Fred Kamis, Eastern region manager for Pavion Limited of Nyack, N.Y., agreed, saying, "You get quality time at this show. Instead of the 15-minute intervals at Marketplace, you can have a half-hour with people. If a retailer comes prepared to our meetings here, we can get a lot done." While some grumbled that Wal-Mart's presence at the show almost forces them to attend, for others, just a chance to sit down with the mighty chain was enough. Although many suppliers hold off revealing new products until Marketplace, there were many new items on display. Among the trends were products intended to slim thighs, extend hair, reduce wrinkles via vitamins and smell like Calvin Klein's CK One. Several companies were also approached by chains about producing private label bath lines. Thigh creams, which made their debut at this show last year, remained a major emphasis, with at least eight suppliers displaying a cellulite-reducing formula. An-Kar Products Inc. of Torrance, Calif., one of the mass market thigh cream leaders, has extended its ATC Thigh Cream with a new roll-on delivery system that resembles a deodorant. "You can take it with you, and it doesn't get on your hands," said Howard Kay, the company's executive vice president. The 3-oz. roll-on has a suggested retail of $9.95. While touting his new product, Kay admitted that thigh cream sales had flattened over the last few months, but added, "Summer is coming and that's when sales really pick up." An-Kar also showed an anti-wrinkle system called Dermanova, which features both a skin cream with alpha-hydroxy acids and nutritional tablets to be taken orally. The product is already getting attention: Sav-On Drug recently featured Dermanova in a full-page ad at a suggested retail of $19.99. Tristar Products of Laureldale, Pa., had a mini beauty parlor set up where a beautician was applying the company's new hair extensions to a model. Tristar has secured a license from Revlon to use the name Unforgettable Hair for the extensions, which are available in eight colors. Unforgettable Hair can be washed, cut, set, permed, colored, heat-styled and blow-dried. It is available in a single extension that can be sold on a peg wall for under $10 as well as in kits that do a full head of hair. Tristar will be promoting Unforgettable Hair through a two-minute infomercial set to begin airing in April. The parade of CK One versions also continued at Exclusively HBA. Among the brands displayed were Delagar's Gender One, Parfums de Coeur's U You, CE Only from Tristar Products, DQI One from Designer Quality Impressionists and Parfums Visions International's Chromosome XX YY, the first alternative of CK One to hit the market, just before last Christmas. Parfums Visions, based in Edgewood, N.Y., is also expanding with a new scent called Sexy Vanilla. "It is not an alternative," said Gary Savage, the company's president. "Vanilla is the hottest category in mass and this joins products like Coty's Vanilla Fields and [Renaissance's] French Vanilla." Savage said Sexy Vanilla will be priced at $9.99 for a 2-oz. bottle. Parfums Visions is also introducing Rendezvous, an alternative to Lanvin's ArpAge. A 3.3-oz. eau de parfum will be priced at $12.95. "We're trying to bring excitement to the mass fragrance market with quality products at good prices," said Savage. "The mass consumer deserves the same quality as the department store shopper." Cosmyl of Coral Gables, Fla., was displaying its Crebel bath line, a mass market version of its pricier Cosmyl bath assortment. The company said it is getting interest from mass marketers not only in its branded lines but also in development of private label products. "Eckerd has already done it with 14 stockkeeping units," said an executive at Cosmyl. A spokesman at Eckerd confirmed the company is marketing the line under its own label, Paul Milan. With a private label collection such as this one, the chain can make higher margins in the bath category. "There really aren't national names in bath; people make their selection in the store based on presentation and price," the Cosmyl executive said. Despite the recent shakeout in the mass market bath category, many new bath players were displaying their wares at the show. One of them, Globalux Inc., of St. Laurent, Quebec, has a line called Rain Forest. "We think the U.S. market is still huge," said Frank Vella, vice president of operations. "Americans still don't know about gels and things like that, and they are turning to the bath and shower to pamper themselves." Another new product unveiled at the event was Light Activated Nail Treatments from Ardell International Inc. of Los Angeles. After applying the product, the user puts her hand under a light bulb to make her nails harder and stronger. A 13-ml. bottle will retail for $4.95. Parfums de Coeur displayed a new end-aisle "topper," a display that can be shipped to stores with products in it. It can then be opened at the store and placed directly on top of the shelf at the end of an aisle. "It holds 60 stocking stuffers at $4.95 apiece," said Laracy. "It is an easy way to have a good-looking presentation." Del Pharmaceuticals of Farmingdale, N.Y., featured a new tinted treatment for fever blisters and cold sores. "Because of the tint you can avoid the embarrassment of a cold sore," said Peter Liman, vice president of marketing for Del. "It is a cosmeceutical, and it can be clip-stripped in cosmetics," he added, referring to putting the product on display in the beauty department. The Ontario-based Blossomville Cosmetics showed its new cosmetics kits with brushes, eyeshadows and lip liners. 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