NEW YORK — Though retailers and vendors are still reeling from the poor showing of the fragrance category this past Christmas, one bright spot that did emerge was the continued strength of the skin care business.
Stores across the country report that treatment continues to lead the department, with alpha-hydroxy acid-based and antioxidant products still generating a high amount of consumer interest.
At the same time, the marketing strategy for many manufacturers has changed. Whereas in the recent past, the bulk of skin care efforts centered on the promotion of entire regimens or multibenefit products, prestige vendors are now more focused on specific products with very specialized functions.
“Over the past 10 years, consumers have evolved from being brand-loyal to product-loyal; they are really not as a whole looking to buy synergistic systems like they used to,” said Karen Rae Flinn, vice president of fragrance and treatment marketing at Lancome. “It is more likely that they will ‘cherry-pick’ items from different lines to customize their own regimens.”
“Women are loyal to a product, not a line,” agreed Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Chanel. “But they are always looking for something that is better. We all used to be so regimen-focused, but now the trend is on single products.”
Advances made on the technological front are one reason for the shift.
“We have discovered that you can’t possibly get the best results if you try to throw it all in one product,” said Dianne Osborne, vice president of skin care marketing at EstAe Lauder USA. “For the last few years, we have been focused on what we call precision skin care products. We are finding that you get the best performance with greater specificity, accuracy and more focused technology.”
The trend toward natural products represents another hot spot. Leading the way in the department store arena has been Origins, a division of Estee Lauder Cos., which has been touting itself as an entire “lifestyle brand.”
To gauge how Origins gets its message of well-being and environmental consciousness across, WWD sent reporters to a variety of locations to case the scene at the counter. The results — most of them quite positive — appear beginning on page 20.

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