CHICAGO — One of the hottest topics at the recent Exclusively HBA show was whether the event would be viable now that it has been rescheduled from fall to spring.

Judging by remarks from manufacturers and retailers, the health and beauty aids trade show will live at least another year.

Competition from other trade shows, such as the National Association of Chain Drugstores, had threatened the survival of Exclusively HBA, prompting organizers to move the fifth annual HBA show to March.

The three-day show, held at McCormick Place, ended last Friday.

Most vendors and buyers agreed that the new timing is much more convenient, but a few exhibitors complained that traffic was slow.

“The timing change is the saving grace for the show,” said Ric Clarke, senior over-the-counter buyer for Revco. “Now we’re planning for the new fiscal year and the timing is perfect.”

“The change in timing is better in terms of the rest of the shows. We didn’t go [to HBA] in September because it was so close to the timing of NACDS in San Diego,” said Roger Grueneberg, senior buyer with Shopko Stores of Green Bay, Wis.

While putting on a new show in less than six months was a little frantic, Jay Spaulding, the show’s chief executive officer, said he was pleased with the overall results.

Spaulding acknowledged some slippage in the number of exhibitors, which, at 315, was about 20 fewer than last year’s show in Detroit. More than 70 of the exhibitors were new to the show, he noted. Cosmetics, beauty and skin care companies accounted for about half the booths.

Buyer registration was just over 600, about 9 percent off the previous show, Spaulding said. About 26 percent was from drug retailers or wholesalers, and 21 percent was from discount stores. The rest were representatives of food stores, specialty wholesalers, warehouse clubs and military stores, he said.

Major retailers in attendance included Wal-Mart Stores, Target, Shopko Stores, F&M and Walgreens. Kmart was absent.

Buyers said they were looking mainly for new products to stimulate consumer interest. Skin care, thigh creams, natural and aromatherapy products and salon-style nail care were all named as key areas of interest.

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“I’m looking for anything new in the last four to five months. Hand and body lines and anything to do with skin care are the fastest-growing areas in HBA,” said a senior buyer for Target.

He noted that the hottest trend in mass-market skin care is alpha-hydroxy acid. In bath and body, he said, natural products with fruit and herbal flavorings, such as Freeman’s line, have been doing well.

Jeanne Hess, Wal-Mart’s cosmetics buyer, cited thigh creams as a hot new category.

“It’s the only new news in skin care and cosmetics,” she said.

Hess also noted that the show’s early date was more conducive to buying holiday merchandise.

“I’m looking for something new, fresh and wild,” said Michael Lovsin, one of the owners of Shoppers Drug Mart, a 700-store drug chain based in Toronto.

He noted that a key in Canada is herbal, aromatherapy and homeopathy products and said he would be launching Del Laboratories’ Naturistics line in his stores this year.

Merchants from Walgreens, based in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, decided to attend the show for the first time because it was being held locally, said Steve Lubin, divisional merchandise manager.

Another Walgreens buyer said she was looking for unique cosmetics items and salon-type manicure products.

A sampling of the new products featured in the show included:

  • Pacific World Corp.’s Nailene two-in-one nail kits containing both natural and french tips for $6.95.
  • A set of six aromatherapy candles for $6.99 from BioSource, a San Diego firm. Each candle is said to impart a different mood.
  • Western Pleasure, a Chaska, Minn., hair care line based on baking soda and mayonnaise and priced at $3.89.
  • European New Thigh Contouring-Creme, an anticellulite item from Rebekah, Seattle, priced at $16.95.
  • A nonsmearing liquid lipstick called Ever Color from Cosmo Cosmetics in Los Angeles that will retail for $5.95.
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