AT THE COUNTER

Byline: DAWNYA PRING / RUSTY WILLIAMSON / AMY ROUTON / ROBERT SHAROFF / KATY STANLAKE

While most in the department store skin care business have turned to alpha-hydroxy acid as their chief star-making ingredient, Clarins was among the last to enter the AHA game.
Finally, in February, the company launched Bio-Ecolia, but took special pains to downplay any potential irritation due to the acid ingredients. At the same time, Clarins continues to use the claim of natural, plant-extract ingredients to lure customers into trying its other star products, like Multi-Active Night Lotion.
To investigate how Clarins salespeople are pitching the French skin care brand to today's well-educated consumers, WWD dispatched reporters to stores across the country and in London for first-hand encounters. The results, compiled here and on page 22, are positive: High marks were given to the sellers for their knowledge and pleasant demeanor.

LOS ANGELES
Occasionally I tear myself away from my Clinique Daily Eye Benefit cream and bravely invest in a new product, hoping to find that miracle cure for my premature crow's feet.
The other day, in need of a little cheering up, I ventured to the nearest department store. I wandered around the cosmetics department of Bullock's in West Los Angeles, then approached the red and white Clarins counter.
For at least 10 minutes, I lingered there alone, testing all the lotions, gels and creams. When the Clarins saleswoman finally approached me in her bright red blazer with lipstick to match, she apologized for not being there sooner and explained that she had been on her break. I told her I was interested in finding a new eye cream to wear under makeup.
"Well, um," she said. "We have these three eye creams."
I examined the sophisticated little white bottles with gold trim while she stood there in silence, resting her elbows on the counter and staring into space.
"What eye cream would you suggest for my skin type?" I asked. I felt rude, as if I were disturbing her.
"Well, what type of skin do you have?" she asked.
I told her that I thought my skin was dry. She didn't agree with my personal diagnosis. My skin looked dehydrated but not dry, she corrected. She then began to remind me of the glories of drinking lots of water and geared me toward products for "normal" skin.
But then something happened. She saw me glance over at their new body toning products. Instantly she came alive.
"Have you ever tried any of these?" she asked, with enthusiasm. I explained that I was unfamiliar with this type of product, but that they sounded interesting. With newfound energy, she began to explain the virtues of Clarins' different body toning products, which she claimed would "smooth out sponginess" and "contour" my body.
When she enticed me to finally pick up a large tube of an anti-cellulite treatment, she practically squealed with excitement and notified me that this was her favorite beauty aid. Her enthusiasm made me listen intently to her scientific explanation.
She dabbed a little of the clear product, called Firming Fitness Gel, on my hand, explaining that the little red and blue dots suspended in the gel were fruit acid and witch hazel extracts, which help in breaking up that "spongy" skin nobody likes. She explained that I should rub the gel on my "problem areas" when I work out, so not only would I be working on my body from the inside, but from the outside as well.
"You'll feel the skin tighten instantly under the gel, and then you'll really know it's working," she said triumphantly. Because of the saleswoman's contagious enthusiasm, I made what for me is an unusual purchase: I bought the $40 anti-cellulite gel instead of the $20 wrinkle cream I was hoping to find.
The clinical-looking bottle made me feel as if I had made a smart purchase. Clarins claims that if used properly, the product will reduce the appearance of cellulite by about 11 percent. If that's the case, I'll definitely be back for more. I am, of course, still looking for my miracle, under-eye wrinkle cream.

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