BODY & BATH WORKS CHASES ACID WAVE

Byline: Julie L. Belcove

NEW YORK--Bath & Body Works plans a January launch of an alpha-hydroxy acid line, at a time when prestige treatment companies are already looking for the next big thing. Bath & Body Works, the most profitable division of The Limited Inc. last year, recognizes its Renewing Skin Care line is part of the second, or even the third, wave of acid products to hit the market, according to a spokeswoman. But company executives believe they still can capture a significant consumer base of women and men.
The line consists of cleanser, toner, day lotion and night cream, each containing acid. The company is targeting the products at a wide age range--from teenagers with acne problems to middle-aged customers seeking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and to add moisture.
Although some of Limited's apparel chains have been struggling, the four-year-old Bath & Body Works has been growing at a rapid clip. Same-store sales gained more than 40 percent in the first and second quarters of 1994, according to the company. Third-quarter increases were more than 35 percent.
Bath & Body Works' overall sales are expected to more than double this year to about $260 million from $120 million in 1993, according to industry sources. Sales in 1995 are projected to hit $475 million.
Executives at Bath & Body Works and Gryphon Development, the cosmetics and fragrance manufacturing arm of Limited, declined to discuss volume projections for the Renewing line. Industry sources, however, estimated the line would do $10 million to $20 million in retail sales in 1995.
The chain now operates 300 stores in the U.S., up from 193 at the end of 1993. The stores are primarily in malls; most are freestanding, but some are located within Express women's apparel stores.
Leslie H. Wexner, Limited's chairman and chief executive officer, earlier this year said Bath & Body Works had the potential to become a 2,000-unit worldwide chain. His global dream began to become reality in October, when Limited teamed with Next PLC to open four stores outside London. A fifth U.K. store is scheduled to open today. In a somewhat unusual move for Limited, the bath chain did not test the Renewing line in its stores prior to announcing the launch. The company did test the products for efficacy, but normally it also conducts sales tests. A spokeswoman said executives felt confident of consumer demand for acid-based treatment.
Price points on Renewing are slightly above mass-market treatment lines, but still well below most department store brands. The cleanser and toner will retail for $11.50 each for a 5.1-oz. bottle. The day moisturizer will be priced at $12 for a 3.5-oz. bottle and the 2-oz. jar of night cream will sell for $14.
The new line makes use of Bath & Body Works' down-on-the-farm, heartland image with a label featuring fresh peaches and the promise of "peaches-and-cream skin."
Renewing will be the chain's second major launch in a year. Last summer Bath & Body Works introduced Health & Beauty Farm, a spa-like group of masks, lotions, scrubs and gels with a country feel.
In keeping with Limited's general practice, a spokeswoman said Bath & Body Works has no plans to advertise Renewing, but the company would probably launch the line with a special promotion.

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