Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Estee Lauder USA thinks it has found a new wrinkle in anti-cellulite creams.
The company’s introduction next month of a new cream, called ThighZone, could help add some bulk to what has been a quicksilver category.
In addition, Lauder’s rival, Lancome, will introduce another anti-cellulite product, Reflexe Minceur, in March, adding more marketing muscle to the category. Lancome previously had a similar product.
Thigh-slimming creams, mostly marketed by French companies, have been on department store shelves for years. Among the most notable has been last year’s hot seller, Svelte by Christian Dior. Clarins USA made a splash five years ago with its version of an anti-cellulite cream.
Joseph Horowitz, president of Clarins, speculated that the”two giants,” with their powerful presence in stores and huge ad budgets, might stabilize the market, which is known for fluctuating sales.
“The category is always exciting for women who are looking for a miracle,” Horowitz observed, noting that repeat sales are usually “a fraction” of the initial purchasing because miracles are hard to come by.
“[The anti-cellulite creams] launch like rocket ships, then settle down to more moderate levels,” Horowitz said, adding that a company can “easily” do 5 percent of its skin care volume with one of these products the first season. But in the second year, its share might settle down to 2 or 3 percent.
By any measure, however, said Horowitz, it’s “an important product.” He drew a parallel with sun care, which was pioneered by Clarins, but exploded after major competitors entered the market.
Lauder executives declined to project volume targets or break out advertising budgets. But industry sources indicate that the company is shooting for a first-year volume of $22 million at retail. The promotional budget, which includes a TV and magazine campaign, will total an estimated $4 million to $5 million.
The product consists of one stockkeeping unit, a 6.7-oz. lotion priced at $45. As a special launch promotion, the company will sell two bottles for $80, a $10 savings.
According to Dr. Daniel Maes, vice president of research and development at Estee Lauder worldwide, it takes an average of 12 weeks, or anywhere from eight to 16 weeks for a user to get optimum results: a significant reduction in the appearance of cellulite on the thighs and buttocks.
Macy’s West in San Francisco will be the national break store with an initial introduction Feb. 19. The products subsequently will roll out to Lauder’s more than 2,000 doors.
Robin Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Lauder division, said a TV campaign, consisting of 10-day flights in every major market in the country, was necessary, due to the demographics of the target audience.
“This consumer is very broad-based in age and economic situation,” Burns said. “She may not be a department store customer. She may not be an Estee Lauder customer.”
The target age is also broad. Dominique Szabo, senior vice president of product development for Estee Lauder worldwide, said that in France, young women aged 15 and 16 regularly use anti-cellulite creams as part of their skin care routine.
Burns maintains that Lauder is only now launching an anti-cellulite product — after years of watching one competitor after another market similar products — because the company recently discovered the technology to convince executives the product would deliver.
“We don’t put our credibility on the line lightly,” she added. “We don’t want to market a product that is used only once.”
Burns also stated that this launch is not Lauder’s response to Dior’s introduction of Svelte last year.
“We were three years in development when Svelte was launched,” she said.
Lauder found the technological key to ThighZone when the company was researching its 1993 treatment entry, Resilience. What sets ThighZone apart from some other products is the focus on problems of skin, rather than fat. The primary aim is to strengthen the damaged defense mechanism of the skin layers that allows fat to ooze through, bulging under the skin.
The product is meant to reinforce and rebuild the elastin support system with Centilla Asiatica, a plant grown in Madagascar, and milk proteins, according to the company. A blend of botanicals and marine extracts are designed to enhance continued production of elastin and collagen. A blend of fruit acids has been added to improve skin smoothness and tone.
Diane Osborne, vice president of skin care marketing for Estee Lauder USA, said, “We are rebuilding the support structure of the skin, and that takes time.”
The double-page magazine ads show an abstract photo of a woman’s reclining body.
The 30-second TV spot takes a more tongue-in-cheek approach and was apparently inspired by some recent automobile commercials. It shows a clear glass marble rolling up and down the contours of a woman’s body, down the leg, bouncing onto the floor and coming to a stop at the bottle. The tag line: “Nothing handles the curves quite like it.”