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HOUSTON — It wasn’t just the pounding rains of Edouard that put a damper on retailers’ spirits at the Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing Cosmetics and Skincare Meeting held here Aug. 3 to 6, but also the grim economy that has shoppers holding back on beauty purchases.

Even with rebate checks, consumers kept their spending limited to basics in July, said retailers, who added for the most part they missed their July sales goals.

This story first appeared in the August 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But, retailers are always an optimistic crowd and many came to the show looking for something to change their outlook.

The meeting, the second beauty-related Efficient Program Planning Session this year, is traditionally somewhat lighter in attendance than the winter show. And storms delayed or halted some executives from getting to the Hilton-Americas hotel (manufacturers noted that retailers Duane Reade and Katz were originally scheduled). Those who did get there, however, praised the facility as “perfect for ECRM.”

Since EPPS is close in time frame to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Marketplace meeting held at the end of June, many of the larger chains passed on attending. “We didn’t see the big three,” said one vendor. “But it was well attended by regional chains,” said Marc Orlinsky, vice president of sales for Prestige Cosmetics.

And, buyers and suppliers were quick to add that although the show was a bit quieter than usual, it was still an efficient way to reach several chains. “If you had something unique, you really stood out,” explained Brandyn Stugart, vice president of sales for Jane & Company. For her firm, it was a great chance to give buyers a glimpse of a new line called Aquaceuticals while also showing that the company is jumping on several hot trends, such as new mascaras.

Mascaras are indeed one of the brisk growing segments in beauty, and Prestige introduced two new mascaras as well as Total Intensity Eye Pencils as the industry gears up for bold eye looks for fall. Orlinsky also used the meeting to show 2009 promotional prepacks, such as Love and Kisses, a new moisturizing lipstick; Summer Perfection, a mix of lip gloss, cheek stain and mascara items, and Brow Essentials, a kit for shaping and coloring the eye brow. Keeping its strength in bronzers, Prestige touted a larger bronzer compact and brush.

The focus on eyes is not lost on American International Industries, which launched its new line of premium faux eyelashes called Duo. Duo Eyelashes are high-quality eyelashes handcrafted using sterilized European human hair that is said to be softer and more easily shaped than traditional hair. Suggested retail is $10, and buyers said interest continues to climb in false lashes. For those who don’t want to go the faux route, the company launched Ardell’s MagicLash Growth Enhancer, which can remedy skimpy lashes. According to the company, stress, aging, even something as simple as an eyelash curler, can cause damage over time and even can result in lash loss.

One hot new line to debut at ECRM was Almay Pure Blends—a new natural makeup line chains think can gives Physicians Formula a run for its money. An added upscale boost: Pure Blends has a hang tag instead of blister carding.

Bonne Bell, which was not at Marketplace, showed it is getting aggressive in driving girls to its beauty wall. According to Scott Sumser, vice president of retail marketing and North American sales, Bonne Bell has many new launches to highlight its unique position in drugstores with its strong heritage built by products such as Smackers, while bringing incremental sales via value-added collections. Also, he said Bonne Bell will continue to spend behind print and TV and plans for a new Web site.

Sometimes in tough times, truly unique companies provide retailers with that extra something special to get consumers to buy. That was what attracted several buyers to Demeter, a company known for its offbeat scents in department and specialty stores such as Sex on the Beach and Dirt. The company is expanding its presence into mass (some chains offer a limited assortment of the existing scents) with unique body lotions, bath gels and fragrance products under the Tootsie Collection with scents inspired by Tootsie Roll, Dots and Junior Mints.

In skin care, Added Extras said its Aquafina skin care and new Aquafina premium bath and body gel is meeting with great success in the market. A commercial starring Debbie Matenopoulos is building interest in the brand, said vice president Michael Kaplan. For kids, the company exhibited its new Hello Kitty license as well as Mr. Men and Little Miss from Cartoon Network.

Advanced Beauty Systems agreed that bath is getting more consumer interest, especially niche items such as its Dr. Teals as well as its Bodycology. “We especially see a great response to our Epsom Salts,” said Jordan Morrow, product director. “And Bodycology is a strong positive influence in the bath category.”

The bath category had been in hot water as chains overassorted and lost focus. In the past year, leading companies such as Rite Aid and CVS have tried to revitalize bath with new lines and a greater point of difference. Buyers said those efforts are starting to pay off. “Or,” concluded one buyer, “maybe we are all so stressed we’re relaxing with more baths.”�

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