NEW YORK--Buoyed by standout single items from most of the industry's major players, the skin care category is growing by leaps and bounds, according to retailers here. While basic regimens are also holding their own, the strong sales are being driven by star products, many of them alpha-hydroxy acid-based exfoliators and moisturizers, which are luring customers into the stores. "Treatment products have been driving the cosmetics business this year. We're ahead substantially," said Rita Burke, senior vice president for cosmetics and fragrances at Macy's East. "There are key items within each brand that are the driving factors, and most of them are either new or new and improved. Companies have had key items in the past, but now they're aggressively getting behind them with advertising. "These products aren't one-shot deals, either," Burke added. "People are returning to the counters because they're seeing results within three to four weeks." Ed Burstell, cosmetics and fragrance buyer at Henri Bendel, said the store's treatment business has been showing "solid double-digit" gains so far this year. "New products and new formulations are driving the business," he said. "People are always on the lookout for what's new. And it is individual products that are standing out, rather than entire regimes." Burstell said that among the key items that have been driving sales at Bendel's are Chanel's Lift Serum ExtrÅme and Active Body Moisturizer, LancÖme's Bienfait Total and Prescriptives's All You Need. "Shiseido added an antioxidant to Bio-Performance, and it's done really well," Burstell added. Louise MacKenzie, vice president and general merchandise manager, noted that these products have been helping boost treatment as a percentage of Bendel's beauty business. "We've always done a disproportionately high percentage with color [cosmetics]," she said. "But skin care has grown dramatically as a whole. These single items have been a big part of it." At Macy's, Burke listed EstÄe Lauder's Fruition and Resilience, Clinique's Turnaround Cream, Prescriptives's All You Need and Line Preventor 3, LancÖme's Renergie and Bienfait Total, Lift Serum ExtrÅme, La Prairie's Age Management Series, Starting Over from Origins, Lancaster's Skin Therapy and Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide as key products that are enticing consumers to visit the skin care area. "It really covers a wide range of brands," she said. "I would say the trend started about a year ago, with Fruition and Turnaround Cream. But now these products are the real story of the moment." As for best-selling brands, Burke said the big three--Lauder, Clinique and LancÖme--are still at the top. "No changes there," she said. The retailer also noted that the standout products are not enticing only women into purchases. "Even the men's business is in on the act," she said. "Lift Off [from Aramis] and Turnaround Lotion [from Clinique] are still very strong. "People have been trying to do this for years, but nobody has ever really succeeded," she added. "But maybe these new products have laid the groundwork for the men's business." Looking to the future, Burke predicted that the next wave in treatment launches will be offshoot products, capitalizing on the name recognition and strength of today's star items. "Companies could expand on the success categories," she said. "All the alpha-hydroxy products are still doing well, so we might be seeing versions for the eyes, for the body and so on. We've already seen Turnaround Cream and All You Need for different skin types." While lauding the achievements of the recent crop of solid stand-alone products, Burke said attention still has to be paid to a basic skin care routine. "One product alone doesn't promise everything," she said. "For the best results you have to have a whole, basic regime. A lot of it comes down to training--the salespeople have to know how to approach it." At Bendel's, Burstell said the skin care line from MAC, a company more known for its makeup, is providing "an exception to the star system." "It's just a basic regime that they're introducing to their color customers," he said. "But it's been a real winner." He noted that the basic lines of other brands have also benefited from the attention-getting items. "We're seeing it with Shiseido and some others," he said. "The rest of the line gets a pick-me-up."
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"