DALLAS--Color is bright at Southwest beauty counters, with retailers reporting gains of 9 to 20 percent compared to last year's figures.
Because of new launches and a swing away from nude, matte faces, color is expected to turn in similar results through the fall and fourth quarter.
Stores projected a return to the Eighties-era focus on smoky eyes with heavy eyeliner, joined by rosy cheeks and softly gleaming mouths.
Absent, though, will be the heavy, caked looks of that decade, replaced by a shimmery, dewy texture.
Chanel is going retro with a new item called Eye Essentials, set for October debut, that includes cake eyeliner along with mascara and three brushes. It will retail for about $50.
Other debuts include Ultima II's Cheek Shine, formulated to add sparkle and glow to the cheeks. It can be worn over blush or alone. Touche, a creamy powder makeup from Flori Roberts, will also hit counters this fall.
"Shimmer and sheen are throwbacks to the Eighties," said Sara Swanson, color and treatment buyer at J.C. Penney Co. Inc., here. "Customers want something between matte and frost."
Swanson said color generates about 60 percent of combined color and treatment business at Penney's, with color ahead between 10 and 15 percent, depending on the brand. The fall season and the fourth quarter are planned similarly.
"Ultima II is definitely driving the business," said Swanson. "It's in 620 Penney's stores and is really drawing new and repeat business."
Ultima II's Lipsexxxy, Eyesexxxy and Falsies Mascara, including the new waterproof variety, are bestsellers. Expectations are high for the firm's new Cheek Shine, as well as the new Iman brand.
Other best selling brands are Charles of the Ritz, Color Me Beautiful, Flori Roberts, Colores Para Ti, Fernand Aubrey and Payot.
At Specialty Retailers Inc., Houston, a 240-unit department store chain operating under the names Beall's, Fashion Bar, Palais Royale and Stage, color cosmetics are trending up about 8 percent against last year, said Peggy Hutson, color and treatment buyer.
She projected gains of 10 to 12 percent for the rest of the year, citing fresh color stories and a bevy of new items.
Color cosmetics generate about 70 percent of combined color and treatment business at SRI.
"Color is back, but not heavy and opaque," said Hutson. "It's bold and uncomplicated--intense colors with a transparency."
Best selling vendors at SRI are Ultima II, Elizabeth Arden, Fashion Fair, Flori Roberts and Colores Para Ti.
"Anything value-oriented will drive business, especially sets," said Hutson. "Customers also want quick fixes, be it Ultima II's Lipsexxxy and Eyesexxxy or maybe a new compact."
At Balliet's, Oklahoma City, Okla., a women's specialty store, color and treatment each generate about 50 percent of the total beauty business, said Melba Allard, cosmetics manager.
Color sales are up against last year by 20 percent and should remain ahead by that pace through the year.
"The return of color to the face is lighting the path to the beauty counters," said Allard. "And the fact that the shades are rich and beautiful make buying something new that much more alluring."
Chanel, Alexander De Markoff and La Prairie are best selling color vendors at Balliet's.
John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Neiman Marcus here, declined to discuss numbers, but said the color business is very strong.
Best selling vendors at Neiman's are Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Prescriptives, Estée Lauder and Lancôme.
The chain also will launch Chanel's new Eye Essentials kit this fall.
"Eye products and lipstick business is great," said Stabenau. "The focus on the eye is big for fall. Red lips will be important."

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