CHICAGO--The alpha-hydroxy acid trend continues to dominate sales at the treatment counters in Midwest stores. Newcomers such as LancÖme's Bienfait Total and Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide have taken their place on the stage alongside established acid- based stars such as Clinique's Turnaround Cream and EstÄe Lauder's Fruition. Overall treatment sales are strong, with stores reporting percentage increases in the mid-single to high double digits, compared with last year's figures. Sales of treatment products are doing "exceptionally well" at Mercantile Stores, based in Cincinnati, with year-to-date sales gains in the high double digits, according to Joanne Hickey, the chain's merchandise manager. "Alpha-hydroxy acids and moisturizers are driving the business," she said. The top sellers at Mercantile are, in no particular order, Fruition, Turnaround Cream, Bienfait Total and Alpha-Ceramide. The latter two were just launched in the spring. Among the major launches coming up this fall at Mercantile, Hickey said she was looking forward to Clinique's Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin. Hickey noted that repeat business continues to be strong for the alpha-hydroxy products. She said, for example, that Fruition's large-size pump bottle, retailing for $70, accounts for about 40 percent of Mercantile's Fruition business. Furthermore, she said, alpha-hydroxy sales are not taking away business from other treatment products in a line. "Alpha-hydroxy helps you shed dead cells, which means you should treat the new skin, so you still need creams and moisturizers," she said. "At night, many women will use another nighttime moisturizer." Alpha-hydroxy is still the big news at Halls Merchandising Inc., Kansas City, according to Cheryl Holland, vice president and merchandise manager. Overall, the treatment business at Halls is ahead by 8 percent, and a 10 percent increase is projected for fall, Holland said. This spring, the store launched Chanel's Lift Serum ExtrÅme and Bienfait Total, both of which made it into the top five sellers. Other launches included Alpha-Ceramide and Erno Laszlo's AHa Revitalizing Complex. Bestsellers at Halls, a specialty store that does not carry Clinique or Lauder, are LancÖme's Renergie Eye Cream, La Prairie's Age Management Series and Prescriptives' All You Need, Holland noted. "We're getting a lot of repeat business on all those lines," she said, noting that women did not seem to be concerned about the risks of the products. "People are more interested in the results," she said. Women are also increasingly looking to simplify their beauty regimens, Holland added, and multipurpose products such as All You Need, which contains both an exfoliating acid and a moisturizer, are meeting that demand. Slated for fall launches at Halls are Donna Karan's Formula skin care line, Clarins's Multi-Active night cream and a line extension in the Age Management Series. The treatment business at Jacobson's is ahead by a mid-single-digit percentage and is projected to grow to the high single digits for the remainder of the year, according to Irene Price, cosmetics buyer. The Jackson, Mich.-based chain launched Bienfait Total and La Prairie's Alpha Hydroxy Complex this spring, both of which are doing well, she said. Other top sellers are Turnaround Cream, Fruition and Chanel's Night Lift and Day Lift. Coming up for fall, Jacobson's will launch Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin; a new, larger Bienfait Total, which will retail for $47.50 for 3.4 ounces; Clarins's new Multi-Active night cream, which is projected to add another 5 percent to Clarins's total skin care sales, and La Prairie's Age Management Intensive Repair System. The La Prairie launch includes an invitation for women to bring in empty alpha-hydroxy bottles from any manufacturer, fill out client registration cards and get 30-day trial samples, Price said. Price said big-selling star products such as Turnaround Cream and Fruition help boost business in those lines because they are incremental sales rather than substitutions, and may actually help remind customers they need other products from the lines. At Younkers, based in Des Moines, treatment sales are ahead by high single digits through the spring and are predicted to go into double digits for fall, according to Jan Greteman, divisional vice president of cosmetics. Greteman said Bienfait Total was one of Younkers's most successful spring launches, Alpha-Ceramide is also doing well and Turnaround Cream is continuing strong. She said fall launches at Younkers would include Elizabeth Arden's Spa Skincare and Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin. At Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott, skin care business is "very good," according to Nancy Schmidt, divisional merchandise manager, with the top lines--Lauder, Clinique and LancÖme--ahead year-to-date by a double-digit percentage. Carson's does not compute a figure for its overall treatment business. Among bestsellers are Fruition, which accounts for 6 percent of Carson's total Lauder business; Clinique's three-step cleanse, tone and moisturize system and Turnaround Cream, which accounts for 25 percent of Clinique business, and LancÖme's Renergie, said Jill Radi, assistant treatment buyer. Alpha-Ceramide is also doing well, Schmidt added. Sales of alpha-hydroxy products were barely dented by recent bad publicity about potential risks and side effects, Schmidt said. Carson's is launching Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin this fall. "The cosmetics companies are really focusing on treatment," said Radi. "The treatment customer will be your loyal customer, whereas fragrance or color may be more fickle."
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