Byline: Rose-Marie Turk

LOS ANGELES — With West Coast men now asking for unisex fragrances, bath gels, eye creams and moisturizers, retailers say the long-promised toiletries bonanza could be just around the corner.
Pointing to changing demographics, Ray Stuart, men’s fragrance buyer at Macy’s West, noted: “We probably do 5 percent of the total fragrance category in men’s skin care products. The boomers are aging now. They’re very interested in health care, skin care, fitness. There’s a whole awareness out there. I don’t think we’re at the crest yet. I think we’re building.”
Cleansers and alpha-hydroxy acid-based items from the Aramis Lab Series line are the chain’s most popular men’s treatment items. And while men still shop Clinique and Estee Lauder counters, Stuart said the need to go outside the men’s section is lessening as the industry becomes “more concerned about what works on men’s skin types.”
Women, however, still account for 60 percent of the chain’s fragrance purchases. Men’s bestsellers include the Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein fragrances, Armani, Aramis, Drakkar Noir and Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger.
Predicting a repeat of last year’s three percent growth for the entire department, Stuart said launches of Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio Pour Homme, Nautica Competition and Claiborne Sport are highly anticipated.
He also expects two new Lab Series treatment products to be “hot”: an eye cream that is just hitting the market, and Stop Shine, an oil-reducing moisturizer out in July.
Despite such products, Stuart predicts men will never go for all the bells and whistles that lure women. “Men like a simple regimen,” he said. “They like to shave, cleanse, protect. If it gets complicated, they won’t go for it.”
Men do buy into the three-step Clinique program (scruffing lotion, soap and moisturizer), according to Robert Wiser, divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics and accessories for Gottschalk’s, headquartered in Fresno, Calif.
Clinique’s Post Shave Healer, M Shave and Turnaround Lotion have a following, along with the Aramis Lab Series — but Wiser is still waiting for the big sales boom.
“Over 20 years ago, when I came into the business, people in the industry said the men’s skin care category would be as big as women’s and cars would be obsolete [because] we would be flying helicopters,” he recalled. “I’m still driving a car and men’s is only a tiny percentage of what women’s is.
“There’s still a major education process that needs to be done — advertising and more in-store events. Aramis is fairly active with in-store events, but outside of them, no one is,” he continued.
Wiser said the men’s department had a 12 percent sales increase in 1996 and he anticipates growth of 10 to 15 percent this year.
The biggest fragrance launch this year will be Acqua di Gio Pour Homme, he said, noting strong sales of Tommy, Hugo, Aramis, Drakkar Noir, Cool Water, Ralph Lauren’s Polo and Polo Sport and Calvin Klein’s Eternity, Obsession and Escape for Men. He also cited the “shared fragrances,” CK One and CK Be.
Marykaren Lotorto, men’s fragrance and cosmetics accessories buyer for Bon Marche, based in Seattle, Wash., said that only good things are expected for Armani’s newest men’s fragrance. “The women’s [Acqua di Gio] was so successful, so we’re all banking on the interplay.”
Based on the success of Curve last fall, she said,”We expect the new Claiborne launch to be very strong as well.”
Calling the “scuba look” of the upcoming Nautica Competition scent “unique, very young and very sporty,” she surmised that “with the success of Nautica Competition ready-to-wear and the immense advertising campaign for the ready-to-wear, we’re expecting it to follow suit.”
Lotorto noted that men are more loyal to their products than women. And men, she added, are buying more of their own fragrances and toiletries these days.
“Aramis Lab Series,” she added, “is a skin treatment brand that continues to grow and gain market share.”
The chain’s most popular men’s skin care products are moisturizers with built-in sunscreens. She cited Face Fitness by Polo Sport and Lift Off by Aramis as examples of “very successful” products from companies “that keep it pretty streamlined.”
At Homebody on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, owner Terry Sullivan sees her merchandise mix as “very much in the feminine domain.”
“But the masculine niche continues to grow,” Sullivan said. “So, probably 15 percent is clearly masculine, and then we have product that bridges gender.
“It seems like a leap in awareness among men,” she continued. “They don’t just have to make do with Irish Spring.”
The French brand Cote Bastide, colognes and aftershaves, is a top-performer, along with various foreign and domestic soaps, gels and candles. “Of all the fragrant candles we sell, about 30 percent are bought by men,” Sullivan noted.
In May, she launches Spiritbody, a private label, unisex line of eight combined-note fragrances and 20 essences to be used for custom-blending or as single-note scents. “I’m really going after the masculine market,” she explained. “I’ve tried to design a line with everyone in mind. So you can smell like a rose or do sandalwood, or put them together, which is a lovely combination.”
When it comes to men buying women’s treatment products in her store, Sullivan and her sales staff see a pattern: “They do not buy eye cream, I can tell you that. But they will buy our facial moisturizer. It’s very light, greaseless and absorbs quickly. We decided those are the characteristics that make it acceptable to men.”

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