ATLANTA--New formulations, shades and more simplified products have resulted in strong performance for color cosmetics in the Southeast. Retailers are increasingly relying on in-store events and makeovers to lure customers who are hungry for information as well as product. At Rich's, the color category has had high single-digit increases year-to-date, with similar increases expected for the rest of the year, according to Pat Joyce, vice president and divisional merchandise manager. Foundations have been the strongest category, driven by new formulations, including SPF factors and oil-free products. "All the vendors have come out with something new," said Joyce. Estée Lauder's Compact Finish has been particularly strong. Recent launches have included Origins' new color line, Prescriptives Extraordinary Lipsticks and Clinique's Soft Finish Foundation. Prescriptives Color 95, put on counters just last month, is "blowing out," with immediate reorders, Joyce said. She added that lipstick sales had been boosted by the new tendency to merchandise by color, rather than by formulation, which has been adopted by several vendors. "This makes shopping for lipsticks much easier for customers, and addresses the way they shop," Joyce said. "It simplifies things." Similarly, Arden will merchandise all foundations under the Flawless Finish name. Rich's has had success with direct-mail programs that invite customers in for samples. A recent Clinique promotion, What Price Great Color, which offered an entire face of color for under $35, was well received. In-store makeovers are now a standard part of doing business, said Joyce. At Birmingham, Ala.-based Parisian, color cosmetics has shown 30 percent increases year-to-date, with that percentage expected to continue through the year, according to Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager. Neutrals, accented with color on the lips, are driving business in all areas, said Koch. "It's a look that has been well-accepted by the consumer," he said. "It fits in well with ready-to-wear color palettes." Parisian has introduced a steady stream of special events, with in-store makeovers that include printed promotional pieces to reinforce the methodology of color application. Best-selling lines include Lauder, Clinique, Lancôme, Prescriptives, Elizabeth Arden and Princess Marcella Borghese, which Koch said had an "outstanding spring." McRae's in Jackson, Miss., reported year-to-date color increases of 10 percent. Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager, attributed the strong color sales to key items such as Clinique's Long Last lipstick and Prescriptive's Extraordinary Lipstick. "Both have good shade range and formulations," he said. Evans said that customers had responded more to color than neutrals. "Neutrals haven't been as big for us as the rest of the country," he said. "Southern women always respond to color and reds." As an example, Evans pointed out that Prescriptives new Color '95 had "blown out the door." Total Prescriptives business has shown a 65 percent increase year-to-date, also based on the strength of Custom Blend powder and other personalized products, he noted. Evans said that vendors had done a good job in filling consumer needs in products and formulations, but were somewhat lacking in addressing the issue of value. He said that customers were price-conscious and had responded to multi-benefit products, value sets and sampling, but were also willing to spend more money for products that were proven performers. Clinique is McRae's best-selling line, based in part on sharp prices, said Evans, followed by Lauder and Lancôme. New launches for fall include Lauder's new Double Matte lipstick and Blushing natural cheek color and Lancôme's new Intencils mascara. Evans said that in-store educational events had boosted sales, such as a recent Prescriptives event that featured a classroom-like setting.