VITABATH NATURALS EXPANDS FRANCHISE

Byline: Jenny B. Fine

NEW YORK — After exceeding sales expectations with its Vitabath Naturals line, Tsumura International is hoping to maintain the momentum with the launch of a new fragrance grouping.
The Tropicals collection, consisting of four new scents, will roll out to Vitabath Naturals’ full distribution of about 2,000 department store doors, including Macy’s, Burdines, Lord & Taylor, Foley’s and Hechts, later this month.
Company executives hope the addition will further solidify Vitabath Naturals’ positioning as the department stores’ answer to retailers such as Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop and H2O Plus.
“There are numerous bath stores in every mall, and we want to give the [department] stores a line that can compete with their neighbors in the mall,” said Alfonso Lopez, president of the consumer products group of Tsumura International. The strategy appears to be working. Tsumura executives claim that Vitabath Naturals, which was introduced in 1994, will generate about $25 million in retail sales this year.
In contrast, they said, the Vitabath line, which is sold in about 5,000 doors, will generate about $35 million in retail sales, while its VitaSpa line, distributed in 800 doors, should do about $8 million to $9 million at retail this year.
The four fragrances in the new Tropicals group are Tropical Sensation, Mango Grove, Kiwi Coconut and Guava Surprise. An 8-oz. body gel and body lotion will retail for $9.50 each, while a 4.2-oz. glycerin soap sells for $3.50. With the additions, Vitabath Naturals will consist of over 80 basic stockkeeping units and 16 fragrances. In addition to body gel, body lotion and soap in each scent, the line includes bath salts, body splash, scented candles and lip balm.
Rather than advertise the Naturals line and its new extensions, the company will concentrate on in-store promotional events, particularly gift sets, to drive sales.
“We don’t feel consumer advertising works, because bath products are an impulse-driven purchase — not destination shopping,” said Susan Wells, vice president of marketing. “A lot of the business is driven by gift sets, because they are [value-oriented] and reusable.”
For the Tropicals launch, the company has packaged two 2-oz. bath gels and two 2-oz. body lotions in a wooden crate, to retail for $10. In addition, all of the fragrance groupings are introduced regularly in seasonal gift sets, such as products contained in a ceramic flower pot.
Tsumura executives said they also rely on the right in-store placement to maximize sales.
“If the products aren’t merchandised properly and are relegated to the bath area or sheets and towels department, the customer gets lost,” said Wells. “When we’re in cosmetics and accessories, the customer is walking by and will touch and smell the products, and if that grabs her, she’ll buy it, because they’re impulse price points. But she has to pass by it — it has to be in a high traffic area.”
In addition to the Vitabath products, Tsumura International manufactures three home fragrance collections — Claire Burke, Fitz and Floyd, Greenleaf & Whittier; Rigaud scented candles; the Pierre Cardin, Royal Copenhagen and Bridges fragrances, and children’s toiletries.
The firm projects its 1996 retail sales will be in the $200 million range.
(Howard Hirsch has been let go as president and chief executive officer of Tsumura International. See story, this page.)

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