NEW YORK — Mass marketers hope a trip to Rite Aid can be as pampering as a day at Bliss.Spa products — once relegated to only fine salons and spas — have hit the mass market. Spa-inspired launches were among the highlights at last month’s National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Marketplace meeting in San Diego. The items include everything from at-home manicure solutions to body exfoliators. "I’m impressed with the number of spa items, and it could give a much needed boost to the bath category," said Kathy Steirly, vice president of beauty merchandising for Eckerd Drug. During a tour of a new Ulta store, company president Lyn Kirby echoed the same sentiment. "One of the hottest new categories for us is at-home spa items, such as paraffin dips."Although consumers are attempting to pinch pennies, many still want pampering — but at a price. "People are looking for escapism. If they can’t hop on a plane, they can take 60 seconds and apply a manicure treatment, rinse it off and have soft hands. It is a way to get away from the grind," explained Richard Goldberg, owner and president of Progressive Beauty Brands. Progressive Beauty Brands had a bustling exhibit at NACDS with retailers such as Duane Reade’s Marti Bentley stealing a moment from the grueling pace of the show to enjoy a treatment with a new item called Spa Solutions, a salt-based nail and foot treatment. Spa Solutions consists of a two-part skin renewal treatment — one with shea butter and one with olive oil teamed up with the salt base. Suggested retails approach $20,and Goldberg said buyers were not resistant to what would have been a high ticket for a mass store just five years ago. "People realize they could go to a salon and pay $30 for this service or do it at home and enjoy the same benefit," he said. There are also open-stock items within the line priced from $4.99 to $15.99. Spa Solutions joined other spa-infused items on the exhibit floor including Sweet Spa from Norstar and Cutex Essential Care Advanced Nail Polish Remover Pads from Medtech. Sweet Spa, a sugar-based manicure in a bottle, was first introduced via infomercials and is now sold at retailers such as CVS and Walgreens. Another important introduction is Freeman’s entry into spa with value-priced items such as Spa Pedicure To Go and Ultra Thick and Rich Body Butter.Cutex Essential Care is a nail polish remover that also strengthens and nourishes nails. "Consumers have concerns about the negative effects of nail polish remover on their nails and cuticles, yet they also want a product that offers convenience and fits easily into their busy lifestyles," said Diane Manwaring, Medtech’s senior vice president of marketing. A package of six packets sell for about $2.99. To help build awareness for the item, Cutex is launching a Hand Model Contest in conjunction with Parts Models, a modeling agency specializing in specific body part modeling.The product is also enjoying a boost from a TV commercial, which shows that the spalike treatment is to be used at home. And now the Essential Care platform is being extended in September with new Cutex Essential Care Liquid Nail Polish Removers, for consumers who prefer the liquid form. While many of these spa products are item based, New Dana Corporation is working on a 24-stockkeeping-unit collection of spa products, called Frills, under its New Cosmar division. New Cosmar is known for its nail care products, and Frills is an extension of that heritage that will allow the company entrée into other related categories. "We knew salon and spa items were growing at a rapid rate and had penetrated areas such as foot care and depilatories," explained Sharon Ganley, director of New Cosmar. "We looked at how we could translate that into our specialty of hands and feet. The result was Frills, which will bow in the first quarter of 2003."Cosmar hopes retailers create room near nail care or cosmeceuticals for Frills since the products are related to nail care. Another company on the spa scene is Coty, which added a Spa Therapy collection to The Healing Garden earlier this year. "Whether they visit spas or not, women associate the experience with a private moment," said Anastasia Ayala, senior vice president Global Fragrances at Coty. "We wanted to bring that spa experience home."Rite Aid is becoming a movie star. A fictional basketball star visits a Los Angeles-area Rite Aid in Bow Wow’s new film "Like Mike." And, Rite Aid employs Jennifer Aniston in her upcoming flick "The Girl Next Door." Maybe the prospects of working near the likes of Aniston will solve pharmacies’ recruiting woes."

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