NEW YORK — Retailers and manufacturers are hoping that a new era has begun in men’s toiletries.

While men’s fragrances, buoyed by a succession of strong introductions, continue to grow at a double-digit rate, the skin care category also seems ready to take off.

Strong sales of new items like Lift Off from Aramis and Turnaround Lotion from Clinique, both acid-based exfoliating moisturizers, and Ralph Lauren’s Polo Sport, which includes the Water Basics line of skin care products, are evidence that men may be shedding their traditional resistance to treatment.

According to Bob Wiser, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and accessories at Gottschalks in California, the men’s fragrance business is as good as ever.

“Last year we were up in the teens, and this year has been even stronger,” he said. “As of February, we were up in sales 29 percent.

“Lift Off is very exciting, because it’s the first time we’ve seen an individual treatment product really take off in the men’s category,” Wiser added. “We’ve had such success with Lift Off that I believe the customer is now ready for another infusion of treatment products.”

Rita Burke, senior vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Macy’s East, said fragrances and skin care are still generating momentum.

“Men’s fragrance sales continued to exceed plan, both in the first three months of 1994 and at the end of 1993,” she said. “In comparison to women’s, men’s fragrance is stronger.

“The power launches seem to be coming from the men’s category,” she continued, noting that Calvin Klein’s Escape for Men, Lancaster’s Zino Davidoff and Polo Sport have all cracked the top 10. “Women’s had many launches in the second half of ’93. Only a couple of them really made it to the top 10.”

In addition to solid fragrance launches, Macy’s has enjoyed a boom in men’s treatment, in the form of Polo Sport, Lift Off and Turnaround Lotion.

“Lift Off came out of nowhere and is performing unbelievably well,” Burke said. “Initial sales results have surprised us all.”

She added that Turnaround Lotion, which had just arrived on counter, was selling about as well as Lift Off and Macy’s was trying to highlight the products in-store.

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With Lift Off apparently off to a strong start, WWD sent reporters to stores across the country to investigate how Aramis is marketing the product to men. Their reports are collected in the At the Counter section, which begins on page 34.

Also included, starting on page 22, is a sampling of the gifts that will be available for Father’s Day, a holiday that is still immensely important to the men’s business.

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