ATLANTA--Southeast retailers are gearing up for a fall launch schedule highlighting the next generation of alpha-hydroxy acid products: formulas for specific skin types. While stores reported moderate sales increases year to date, they are looking to these new products and line extensions to spur sales more. At the Parisian in Birmingham, Ala., Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics, said the newest wave in the acid craze will be products designed for specific skin types, such as oily or dry. "Skin type-specific products are not a new trend, but it is new to the AHA category," Koch said. "Manufacturers are taking current technology and making sure it's developed to reach specific customers." Prescriptives, for example, experienced a sales increase when the company targeted its All You Need to different skin types with an oil-free version and a dry skin cream. "I think the customer appreciates that approach," he said. Both Princess Marcella Borghese and Clinique are targeting their new fall products to specific skin types. Clinique is launching Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin, and Borghese is introducing an alpha-hydroxy night cream in three different formulations, one each for normal, oily and dry skins. Koch is gearing up for several other treatment launches this fall, including Clarins' Multi-Active night product, an acne product from Erno Laszlo and Spa Skincare With Vitamins and Minerals from Elizabeth Arden. Manufacturers are doing a good job of introducing items that enhance their treatment lines as a whole, he said, adding, "I think there's a great effort to educate the sales staff how the new product relates to what's on the line. There's no single product that's the answer to all skin care problems." Parisian's treatment business overall has experienced double-digit increases year to date, he said. Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide was a particularly strong launch, Koch said, pointing out that the store's Arden treatment business is up by a double-digit percentage this year. Other best-selling treatment products at Parisian are EstÄe Lauder's Fruition, Advanced Night Repair and Resilience; LancÖme's Beinfait Total and Renergie, and Clinique's Turnaround Cream. Pat Joyce, divisional merchandise manager of Rich's in Atlanta, agreed that products directed at specific skin types are the next step for the acid category, offering as key examples the upcoming launches of Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin and the Borghese items. "With AHA products, if you have dry skin, you need a special product," Joyce said. "There's a perception that women don't think they need the product if their skin is dry and flakes off anyway." The category is not overcrowded, Joyce said, since each product has at least maintained its sales. Joyce added that each additional product in the category has recruited new customers. The acid items consistently account for 5 to 20 percent of sales for each line, she said. "Basically, the customer is looking for results, and that's why the products have been so successful," she said. Joyce noted that Rich's has always picked a key item from a line, such as an acid product, and promoted it heavily. That kind of "star system" has not adversely affected the rest of the line, she said, noting, "I don't think it's a trade-off at all." Rich's sales are ahead by a low double-digit percentage year to date. Bestsellers are still the acid group, including Fruition, Turnaround Cream and All You Need. LancÖme's Renergie is also selling well, Joyce said. But new products, such as Erno Laszlo's acne product, may steal some of the spotlight. "It's an interesting item," Joyce said. "It's kind of like the thigh cream; it doesn't steal from anyone else, and with all the technology behind it, it sounds like it's going to work." Joyce said Arden's new Spa Skincare line also has strong potential. Aimed at a younger customer and offered at moderate price points, the regimen is similar to Clinique's three-step system. "We're targeting the cosmetics department plus our junior customer," Joyce said. At McRaes in Jackson, Miss., sales are running 9 percent ahead year to date, according to Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager. He also is banking on Arden's new Spa program to add momentum. "They've realized that their Sunflowers customer is a new customer, and they are trying to get them as a treatment customer as well. I think it's a smart move," he said. Arden's Alpha-Ceramide, however, has not lived up to the store's expectations, Evans said, due to a lack of training of the sales staff. "I think the product is a bit confusing to the customer," he said, noting that Arden is "going back and reworking the training.". LancÖme treatment sales, however, are up 45 percent this month, which he attributes to the launch of Bienfait Total, a liquid moisturizer. "They started off slow in May, but our big launch kicked off this month [June] and it's really taken off," Evans said. Evans was optimistic about the launch of Clinique's Turnaround Cream for Dry Skin. Although he said it may not be a big money maker, the product will fill a needed niche. "It's more of a complement to the line," he said. "I think it is going to add on a new customer." Manufacturers need to focus on developing products that clearly fit into the existing lines, Evans said. "They need to be careful in picking products that are going to grow their businesses," he said, pointing out that the sales associates need to be trained to sell multiple items per transaction and not only the one "star" product. For now, the acid products continue to be McRae's bestsellers. Evans agreed skin-type specific formulas are the next step: "They are still going strong, and this will help the products better meet the customers' needs."
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