Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — Banana Republic hopes its first skin treatment initiative will give its already healthy personal care business a growth spurt.
Skin:Nutrients, the specialty-store chain’s newest bath and body line, is its first treatment-oriented personal care collection. While the company has offered seasonal bath and body products in the past, those items were highly fragrant, said Gary McNatton, senior vice president of personal care for Banana Republic.
According to McNatton, Skin:Nutrients is intended to offer benefits-enhanced skin care to customers. “We’ve been in personal care since 1995, and our client is ready for us to move to the next level,” he said. “This is a whole different thought from fragranced items. We talk about benefit first, not scent. And I love the name, because it says exactly what it is: something healthy for your skin.”
Skin:Nutrients includes five daily-use products and two spa specialty products. The everyday products are: Moisturizing Body Creme, a blend of chamomile, glycerin and grape-seed oil, $18.50 for 13.2 ounces; Gentle Body Cleanser, with algae extract and macadamia nut oil, $16.50 for 8.8 ounces; Revitalizing Body Scrub, with pineapple and papaya extracts, $16.50 for 6.4 ounces; Nourishing Hand Balm, with grape-seed and safflower-seed oil, $12.50 for 3.3 ounces; and Massage Bar Soap, with wheat bran, hemp-seed oil and vitamin C, $9.50 for 4 ounces. The specialty products are: Soothing Bath Soak, with Dead Sea salts, $19.50 for 17.5 ounces; and Renewing Salt Scrub, a combination of Dead Sea salts, hemp-seed oil and vitamin C, $18.50 for 12 ounces. An eighth stockkeeping unit, the Travel Set, includes 2-oz. tubes of Gentle Body Cleanser, Moisturizing Body Creme and Revitalizing Body Scrub, and retails for $24.
Robin Forbes, senior director of personal care for Banana Republic, is perhaps most excited about the hand balm, which she expects to be the line’s star performer. “We think we could become a destination for this product, it’s that good,” she said.
Skin:Nutrients will have a multitiered launch schedule designed to arrive in 150 Banana Republic stores by August 1, said McNatton. “It’s a soft launch until we get into the summer months,” he said. About 80 locations will serve as test stores; they will start stocking the products today. By Feb.15, the test group will have the complete line. From February through the end of July, the balance of the stores will get the collection, which will also be available at and through the chain’s 800 number.
“We made a decision to roll out slowly, to make a more dramatic presentation in-store with more inventory,” said McNatton. “We decided to choose the stores carefully and strategically to make sure it has impact. I hate going into stores with wimpy presentation.” Among the stores getting the collection first are the chain’s Rockefeller Center in New York and Santa Monica, Calif., outlets.
While McNatton wouldn’t comment on the chain’s first-year sales target, industry sources estimated that it would do $12 million to $15 million at retail in that period.
No national advertising is planned at this time, although McNatton and Forbes have big in-store plans for the line. It will be featured in store windows at about 75 Banana Republic locations and, beginning on Feb.15, anyone making a purchase will be given samples of the scrub, the hand balm and the shower gel. McNatton estimates that the chain will distribute some 250,000 samples in 30 days. In addition, customers spending $16.50 or more on Skin:Nutrients in the same period will be given a free, full-sized hand balm. “It’s a great way to get customers to try more than one product — and we expect that we’ll get them back after they try the products,” said Forbes.
There are also plans to motivate salespeople. “Anyone can sell a fragrance, but Skin:Nutrients requires a little bit of training,” McNatton said. To insure that consultants get that training, they will be given a quiz on the line. Those who pass will receive a gift, an entry into a grand-prize drawing to take place at each store and 60 percent off the products.
While he hesitates to use the word unisex — “I don’t think it’s a relevant word anymore,” he said — McNatton expects the collection to appeal to men and women, although he did say that women from ages 20 to 40 are the line’s primary target. “Men who are savvy will use any product that will help their skin,” he said. “Women are who we really are targeting here.”

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