Byline: Cara Kagan

NEW YORK — Following a year of decelerated growth, Prescriptives is sending in the reinforcements to regain sales momentum.
In April, the Estee Lauder division will stage one of its most ambitious launches. It will introduce Px As Needed, a cluster of six items designed to act as quick fixes for problems such as blemishes, extremely dry skin and undereye damage.
The new products represent a departure for the company, which for the last two years has been focusing on reducing its total number of treatment items and streamlining the skin care regimen it promotes at counter. The trimming effort culminated last March with the launch of Prescriptives Daily, a routine of three products that highlight three phases of skin care — cleansing and refining, moisturizing and exfoliating and repairing and protecting.
Previously, the same regimen required six different items. As a result of the comprehensiveness of Daily, the company phased out 14 treatment items and reduced the average price of a Prescriptives skin care regimen from $150 to $98.50.
This elimination of stockkeeping units is considered to be one reason for a blip in the company’s red-hot track record.
Last year’s estimated wholesale volume of around $110 million represented a sales increase in the low teens, sources said. The company in the past has usually scored gains in the high teens.
“Not only did we reduce our overall sku’s by close to a quarter, we also did not open any new doors or raise any of our prices in at least five years,” said James Bunn, the soon-to-depart vice president and general manager, who noted that Prescriptives is still distributed in just under 650 doors. “So the growth we had is pure growth.”
After more than two years as the head of Prescriptives, Bunn is moving to Clinique International as vice president, field marketing for department store markets.
Daily seems to have recovered from whatever initial growing pains it might have had. Bunn noted that over the last six months, the company’s sell-through in skin care has increased by 40 percent, and the collection is expected to represent 28 percent of overall sales this year. He predicted “conservatively” that total sales would increase in the high teens this year.
While he declined to elaborate, sources estimated the division would achieve 1995 wholesale volume of about $130 million, giving Daily a volume of $36 million.
Px is expected to generate at least 5 percent of total sales, which would make skin care about a third of total business, or $43 million.
Prescriptives executives do not view Px as a reversal in its strategy of simplifying its skin care assortment, but as a way of reinforcing its core product group.
“Prescriptives Daily took care of the skin’s basic daily needs, but in reality, women have specific, more problematic concerns that require a little additional help,” said Jane Hertzmark, vice president of marketing. “We are introducing these products as a collection to get across to people that they are only to use what they need, when and if they need it. We felt that if we launched these items as single entities, they would send the message that we were introducing another step in Prescriptives Daily.” The new items are: a 0.5-oz. tube of Eye Specialist, for $32.50; a 1.7-oz. jar of Insulation antioxidant vitamin cream for $40; a 1-oz. bottle of Blemish Specialist for $16; a 3.6-oz. tube of Purifying Scrub for $18.50; a 1.7-oz. jar of Flight Cream for $28, and a 1.7-oz. jar of Comfort Cream for $37.50.
Px will take Prescriptives’ typical soft-sell approach several steps further. The line will not be nationally advertised or sampled, although Eye Specialist and Insulation will have cooperative campaigns in several markets.
“Advertising Px could send the message that this is a new line that should be used instead of Daily,” Bunn said. “We are marketing the line much like the way people care for their teeth. Brushing and flossing are like the ‘Daily’ routine. But cavities, on the other hand, require some extra attention: As Needed.”