NEW YORK — Sharps, a new men’s product line, is aiming to garner customers by taking the barbershop concept to specialty stores, gyms and department stores.

The company, which describes its products as “head-to-toe prep for guys,” is positioning itself as an “antigrooming” line.

“We chose [the barbershop] because it’s the best language to speak to the mainstream guy in America. The barber is about value, convenience and a sense of community,” said Oliver Sweatman, co-founder of Sharps. He noted the brand is “cloaked in a barber tradition” but is infused with modern ingredients, marketing methods and distribution.

Sharps was founded in early 2002 by Sweatman, age 32, who founded Spring Street Advisors LLC, a merchant banking practice that focused on emerging beauty and wellness companies, and Larry Paul, age 34, who served as general manager of Bliss SoHo and director of retail and merchandising at Blissworld.

“We’re really about being your own guy,” added Paul, a barber and graduate of Atlas Barber School in New York, who designed the products. The items were inspired by the simplicity of a barbershop and are younger in attitude and grooming than traditional grooming lines.

The product lineup consists of six stockkeeping units in three categories: hair; shave, and face and body. Each category is represented by a different image, which appears on the packaging. For the face, represented by an image of a white goat, there is Kid Glove Shave Gel, $12 for 5 oz., and Kid Glove Hydrating Gel, $16 for 2.5 oz. The hair category, with an image of an astronaut, consists of Mission Control Conditioning Shampoo, $12 for 8.5 oz., and Mission Control Guck-in-a-Puck, $14 for 2.6 oz. The face and body offerings boast a black-and-white image of a geisha and include Happy Me All Over Wash, 8.5 oz. for $12, and Happy Me Pit Guard, $10 for 2.5 oz.

The packaging was designed by Pandiscio Co. to “inspire people to spurn convention and try something new,” according to the company.

“We wanted to offer all the ingredients that the prestige lines have and make it as accessible as possible to the guy that’s looking for specialty products,” said Sweatman. “Our intent is to be the opening price point at specialty distribution, because we believe that’s where the market is moving.”Though Sharps executives declined to comment, industry sources estimate the line could generate retail sales of as much as $1 million in 2004.

The line launched in June 2003 with the shave gel in 10 locations that included Jeffrey and Bigelow. The line, including the additional five stockkeeping units, will debut in August in all Barneys locations, as will products for holiday in late October. Plans are to be in abut 50 doors by yearend. Rather than focusing on traditional classic specialty store and department store distribution, the brand is searching out “environments where guys feel comfortable,” such as gyms, barbershops and “guy-friendly” salons, as well as specialty and department stores that are “forward thinking and making an effort to attract the young, fashionable customer,” said Paul.

The company is currently developing a number of follow-up products in each category, added Paul. “As men get used to taking care of themselves and learn how to use our core products, we’ll bring them up a notch and introduce them to the next level,” he said.

— Kristin Finn

P&G, Valentino Venture

PARIS — Procter & Gamble and Valentino have joined forces on the beauty front.

The two firms said Wednesday that they have signed a licensing agreement involving P&G Beauté — P&G beauty unit’s fine fragrance division — designing and marketing Valentino fragrance and beauty products globally.

The agreement goes into effect Friday. Other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We took a long look at the marketplace and identified Valentino as a unique opportunity for us,” Hartwig Langer, vice president of P&G, told WWD in a telephone interview.

He explained the brand acquisition is important for global growth. “We have great success with Hugo Boss as well as with Lacoste. Hugo Boss has become a market leader in the men’s segment in most European countries — excluding Italy. We believe it’s number three there, while it’s number one [elsewhere] in Europe.”

And, alongside contributing what he called “a very strong global Italian name,” Langer said he expects Valentino will also add muscle to the women’s fragrance side of P&G Beauté’s business.Valentino, he continued, “is an ideal compliment to our existing portfolio.”

News of the P&G-Valentino deal came one week after Valentino ended its fragrance and cosmetics licensing agreement with Unilever Cosmetics International.

— Jennifer Weil

Madina Milano to Close

MILAN — In the wake of consistent losses, Intercos has decided to shut the doors of its Madina Milano cosmetic store in New York’s SoHo district.

Having just returned from overseeing Intercos’ new plant construction in Shanghai, Intercos chairman Dario Ferrari said the SoHo store was a “disaster from start to finish. It was not the right timing — we opened the store six months after 9/11 and it never recovered after that. It doesn’t make any more sense to keep it open,” Ferrari said.Ferrari also added he was happy with Madina Milano’s success in Italy and Asia and that the company would be refocusing on making Italy the center point of the brand.

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