SOUTHWEST SURGES; GAINS OF UP TO 15%

Byline: RUSTY WILLIAMSON

DALLAS--The skin care business is glowing at Southwest beauty counters, with retailers projecting sales gains of 5 to 15 percent through the end of the year.
Single items, as opposed to multi-product regimens, continue to drive the treatment category, with acid-based products, eye creams, day and night lotions, moisturizers and hand creams among the bestsellers, the retailers said.
The merchants noted that summer sun worshipers here typically pay penance come fall and intensify their treatment regimens, and the bounty of autumn skin care launches should provide plenty of new options.
Prescriptives' Extra Firm lotion, La Prairie's Age Management Intensive line, Charles of the Ritz Line Refine for Eyes, Ultima II's Glow face cream, Fernand Aubrey's Double Care ISD 26 acid-based gel, Color Me Beautiful's Proof Positive regimen and Payot's Cure D'Oxygenation Luminergie collection to fight free radicals are set to hit beauty counters this fall, retailers said.
The launches will be underscored by multiple-vendor beauty focus events planned by some stores.
Prescriptives' Extra Firm lotion will launch exclusively at Neiman Marcus this fall. It will retail for $55 and will be promoted in an advertisement in Allure's August issue, according to John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at the specialty store.
Also this fall, the 27-unit chain will launch La Prairie's Age Management Intensive, a three-item collection with products called Serum, Emulsion and Line Inhibitor.
Stabenau said treatment sales are ahead by at least 10 percent so far this year, and forecast a similar pace for the rest of the year.
Best-selling skin care brands at Neiman's include Chanel, EstÄe Lauder, Prescriptives, Sisley and La Prairie, he said.
At J.C. Penney Co. Inc., skin care gains of at least 10 percent are projected for the summer season through the holiday period, said Sara Swanson, color and treatment buyer.
"[Individual] items are the real focus in skin care right now," she added. "Customers are going for products that work, and they're willing to use items from various lines in their regimes."
Best-selling treatment items at Penney's include Ultima II's Brighten Up Tighten Up for eyes and Smart Move day lotion; Flori Roberts' My Everything Cream; Charles of the Ritz's Revenessence; EB5's fade cream, and day and night creams from various vendors.
Leading skin care brands at Penney's include Payot, Ultima II, Charles of the Ritz, Flori Roberts, Color Me Beautiful, EB5 and Fernand Aubrey.
Penney's hopes to give skin care an added punch in October with a two-week department-wide beauty promotion called Basic Images. The event will include several vendors and will proffer special values as well as sample and gift sets.
The chain will promote the happening with a Sunday preprint in Oct. 2 editions of newspapers, with a target of 20 million homes.
Penney's also expects to boost its treatment lineup with the July 10 launch of model and actress Iman's color and treatment line in 200 stores.
Iman is set to make personal appearances for a month, starting July 12, in 30 stores in 14 markets.
On the launch pad, Penney's has a lengthy list of new items set to hit counters this fall.
Payot, available in 105 Penney's units, will launch Cure D'Oxygenation Luminergie in October. Retailing for $50, the product is aimed at fighting free radicals.
"Vitamin therapies, 'oxygenating' the skin and fighting free radicals will probably be the next waves in skin care after the alpha-hydroxies," predicted Swanson.
In August, Penney's will launch Flori Roberts' Advanced Formula My Everything Cream, an alpha-hydroxy product with 4 percent glycolic acid.
In September, Penney's will introduce Fernand Aubrey's Double Care ISD 26, an alpha-hydroxy based gel. It will retail for $65 and will be packaged with Aubrey's Persistance night cream, as the two are designed to work together.
Also in September, Penney's will launch Ultima II's face hydrating cream called Glow, with a retail tag of $20. It is supposed to enhance the effects of color products, Swanson said.
September is also the kick-off month at Penney's for Charles of the Ritz Line Refine for Eyes, formulated to camouflage dark shadows, help eye shadows glide on more easily and even out the skin tone around the eyes.
It will retail for $15, as does its lip counterpart called Lip Refine, which was introduced earlier this year.
Starting in October, Penney's counters will be home to Color Me Beautiful's revamped alpha-hydroxy line called Proof Positive. The line will have five products, retailing from $13 to $22.50.
At The Village Pharmacy here, alpha-hydroxy business is booming, said Wilhelmina Von Heflick, cosmetics manager.
"Customers keep coming back for more," she said. "Repeat business is very strong."
Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide is a best-selling acid-based line, she said.
Other best-selling skin care vendors are Mustela, a treatment line for babies that is being snapped up by adults with sensitive skin; La Via Lattea, an Italian line made from milk; L'OrÄal's PlÄnitude; Kalemata; Sans Complice, and Aida Grey.
The Village Pharmacy is getting strong initial response from Ahava, a skin and body care line from Israel formulated with ingredients from the Dead Sea. The line launched this summer.
The line retails from $5 for a soap to $32 for an eye cream. Other items include a cleanser, three toners, hand and foot creams, masks, body mud, night cream and Dead Sea salts.
Von Heflick said her skin care business is ahead 5 percent for the year and that the category is expected to generate about 30 percent of the store's total beauty business this year.
"September will be a big month," she predicted. "Women here still love the sun, and when fall comes they'll be in here trying to assuage some of the damage they've done over the summer."
At Balliet's, a women's specialty store based in Oklahoma City, Okla., skin care is ahead 10 percent compared with last year and is expected to move ahead 15 percent through the fall, according to Melba Allard, cosmetics manager.
The store bolsters its skin care business with frequent beauty clinics and seminars, Allard noted.
Best-selling vendors include Erno Laszlo, La Prairie, Chanel, Alexandra de Markoff and La Mer.
This fall, Balliet's will launch La Prairie's Age Management Intensive and Laszlo's Bea Complex, a product for oily skin.

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