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Critical Mass: Kohl’s Highlights Its Spa Offerings

At the seven-month-old Kohl’s store in Hillsborough, N.J., the entrance features private label brands Bodysource Spa Bath and Body Products.

HILLSBOROUGH, N.J. — Shoppers in need of a last-minute Mother’s Day gift don’t need to look far at the seven-month-old Kohl’s here. At the entrance of the bustling store is a display of Bodysource Spa Bath and Body Products, a new collection from Kohl’s proprietary beauty brand.

Kohl’s has quietly been expanding into more beauty products over the past few years, especially exclusive brands such as Bodysource that yield good margins and loyal shoppers.

Realizing that consumers are often looking for more than just traditional fragrances for holidays, Kohl’s decided to extend its Bodysource collection into spa. Mother’s Day is still a big fragrance-buying time — twice as many Americans plan to buy fragrance products for Mother’s Day than Christmas, according to Kohl’s executives. The only difference is the fragrance forms have changed.

“Bath and body items are more prevalent in American homes than ever thanks to the growing availability in nonboutique stores and attractive pricing,” said Rick Leto, executive vice president of merchandising at Kohl’s, who oversees bath and body products. “These are personal gifts that are appropriate for many gift-giving occasions. People love them because it makes gift-giving easy. It’s a great way to say you care about someone.”

The Spa line features a revitalizing scent comprising green tea, lemongrass and soy protein. The products are designed to pamper those with busy schedules — the typical Kohl’s consumer. The line includes a Revitalizing Shower Gel, a Skin-Balancing Lotion, Hydrating Body Mist, Re-Hydrating Body Cream, Skin-firming Treatment Lotion, Purifying Body Mask, Deep Cleansing Massage Soap, Foaming Mineral Bath, Calming Tub Tea and a Pillar Candle. Prices begin at $9 for a lotion and range up to $25 for a gift box containing several of the items.

Kohl’s would not comment, but sources said the entire Bodysource franchise could achieve sales of at least $10 million.

The success of the Bodysource collection is also encouraging Kohl’s to expand into men’s products. “We’re seeing more men making bath and body products a part of their health and fitness regimen,” said Leto. In the fall, Kohl’s will roll out Bodysource Blu. A unisex scent that promotes healthy skin and is expected to be purchased by men and women.

Sources said Kohl’s is working on other proprietary brands, even, perhaps, a skin care and natural products collection.

Kohl’s stores are filling in a market hole between department stores and discounters. Although the stores are apparel oriented, the beauty selection is often beefed up around seasonal events such as Christmas or back-to-school. Moderately priced national brands are featured and, in beauty, those include Neutrogena and Coty’s The Healing Garden. Well-known brands in other categories include Mudd, Skechers and OshKosh.

Kohl’s, with annual sales exceeding $7.5 billion, is the nation’s 37th largest retailer and now has 492 stores in 34 states.

Saks Incorporated’s $12 million purchase of mall-based Club Libby Lu proves that although sales of products to tweens and teens may be leveling off, there’s still plenty of potential left in the youth market. Opened three years ago, Club Libby Lu was the genius of former Claire’s executive Mary Drolet. Rather than merely stocking the same items all youth stores had, Club Libby Lu became an interactive store where kids can make their own potions. Girls can have birthday parties at the store and mix up their own custom formulas. While many other beauty stores targeted at young girls all have the same merchandise, customers can only get their secret formula at Club Libby Lu.

The company’s management also has been able to refine the format quickly to reflect shoppers’ needs. For example, footage devoted to dress-up costumes was edited to make more room for beauty. Since tweens are fickle, fast-paced changes are a must. Saks plans to expand the 11-store chain, while adding Club Libby Lu departments to six of its Saks Department Store Group stores.