NEW YORK — Despite the unexpected death last summer of ECRM founder Charlie Bowlus, the company’s cosmetics, fragrance and bath meeting held last week in Denver was a hotbed of product innovation packed with buyers in bright moods.

“The show has been run very efficiently. A true testament to Charlie’s legacy and how well Mitch has transitioned in to the role without missing a beat,” said Shawn Haynes, vice president of sales for e.l.f., referring to Mitchell Bowlus, who has stepped into his father’s role. Beauty is just one of the categories hosted by ECRM, which features meetings where buyers and sellers meet in 20-minute one-on-one sessions.

Robert Wallner, senior vice president of sales for Milani agreed. “Charlie’s untimely passing has not impacted the mood of the show or the quality. He vision, dedication and focus have made ECRM the success it is. I personally believe his legacy will stand the test of time and continue to dominate.”

Mitch Bowlus confirmed the event was busy and called the attendance “awesome.” Melinda Young, vice president of category development for health and beauty care for ECRM said attendance was up on both the retailer and vendor sides, with a third of the manufacturers new to the show. “The location (Denver’s Hyatt Regency) got great reviews and we are glad we missed the snowstorm,” she said of the two feet of powder that covered the city the day after the show concluded. Registration data shows more than 100 retail companies with several executives in attendance and in excess of 118 suppliers.

The mood of those attending reflected an overall uptick of customers to stores. In fact, this year marked a return to the show for some. “We did not attend the show last year but did the year before. I am told this show has a better attendance than last year, up double digits. For us, the show is exceptional, with many new business opportunities. If we are able to land just a few, we will have had a fantastic show,” said Wallner. Retailers attending included Walgreens, Dollar General, Meijer, Ulta and a cadre of Canadian chains.

ECRM’s Young said her survey of retailers revealed many were finalizing holiday planning and were impressed with the quality of innovation. e.l.f., fresh from a robust gift season at Target, debuted its lineup for 2012. “We are showing holiday, back to school, spring sets and our year-round core set collection. We are also showing our Spring 2012 planogram and our spinner racks. We have had an excellent reaction to our holiday program for 2012 and expect significant growth across all channels of retail,” said Haynes.

Beyond holiday, retailers and manufacturers said nail continues to be a hot category. Red Carpet Manicure’s Bruce Kowalsky said the response has been so strong to the at-home gel manicure system that the color range has expanded by 18 shades. Additionally, Red Carpet will be showcased at the Grammy Gift Lounge in Los Angeles on February 9 to 11 where celebrities at the Grammys will have an opportunity to indulge in nail art. A team of celebrity manicurists will be on site with Red Carpet Manicure’s AMOR 24, an exclusive 24-karat gold nail polish to treat presenters and performers.

Other standout new items at ECRM included Milani’s 12 new products including a full-cover shimmer lip gloss, a superpigmented eye shadow, a total-cover mascara, an illuminating face powder and a new high-speed, fast-dry, one-coat formula for nails. Cosnova also took the opportunity to look for more distribution opportunities for its essence brand, which is now rolling out to Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada.

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