RETAILERS LOOK TO TREATMENT FOR A LIFT
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — With the holiday fragrance season a memory, department store retailers have turned their attention to skin care, which many now consider the bedrock of the beauty business.
The first quarter is also traditionally when the major manufacturers unveil their key introductions, and this year is not an exception.
“Every major line has a major treatment introduction,” said Arnold Orlick, executive vice president and general merchandise manager at Bloomingdale’s.
He said vendors like to have new products on the counter when gift-with-purchase promotions break in late February and March.
Orlick said cosmetics and treatment at Bloomingdale’s posted a 7 percent gain in December, and he is planning for a spring increase in the low single digits.
Unlike the Christmas fragrance business, which has been developing later and later in the year, the treatment market has been jelling earlier. Estee Lauder, for one, has begun launching skin care products in December, even with the fragrance season not yet concluded.
Two early winners this season have been December launches by Estee Lauder USA and Prescriptives at Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s.
In an attempt to turn its best-selling Resilience moisturizer into a franchise, Lauder introduced the product in an oil-free lotion and also added a Resilience eye cream.
In its first 3 1/2 weeks at Dayton Hudson, the eye cream generated sales of more than 1,000 units — at $42.50 for a 0.5-oz. jar — according to Allen Burke, the chain’s divisional merchandise manager.
Meanwhile, an eye cream from Prescriptives called Eye Specialist was launched at the store Dec. 15 and produced sales of more than 500 units at $32.50 each.
“That is a lot more than we had expected to sell,” Burke said of both items, adding that Prescriptives is carried in only half his doors.
Burke, who said he expects a spring increase in the mid-single digits, said he also is impressed with the first 10 days of selling Lancome’s Expressive eye treatment, introduced only in the Marshall Field’s stores.
Meanwhile, limited quantities of the Prescriptives eye cream were a sellout at Saks. A spokeswoman at Prescriptives said the company sold a total of 20,000 units for its entire distribution across the country.
“Spring is going to be tremendous,” said Deborah Walters, divisional merchandise manager at Saks. She added that treatment showed gains in the low teens in November and December.
Among the introductions she feels strongly about is Lauder’s anti-cellulite cream, ThighZone, a 6.7-oz. product for $55 that is due in March.
“It’s going to be incredible,” Walters said, citing Christian Dior’s success last year with a similar product, Svelte.
She also has high expectations for Chanel’s Day Lift Plus and Night Lift Plus, and expects La Prairie’s Age Management Intensive products, launched last September, to continue showing strength.
Retailers also noted that Lancôme, whose new Expressive also sold well at Saks, has two major upcoming launches — Maqui-Libre foundation and Hydracontrole Oil-Free Fresh Gel — and will add its own anti-cellulite product, called Reflexe Minceur.
Also in the pipeline from Lancome are a self-tanner, Gel Autobronzant Rapide, and a cream version of Bienfait Total.
The treatment category, spurred by the continued strength of alpha hydroxy products, continues to gain in importance. Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager at the Parisian, said, “We believe that consumer loyalty is concentrated in the treatment business.”
Ed Burstell, buyer at Henri Bendel, said his skin care business has continued to grow every season since the store opened in 1991. Neither is there a letup in the consumer’s fascination with alpha hydroxy acids, he said, noting, “These people are clamoring for higher concentrations.”