Byline: Chantal Tode

There’s no discounting the clout of the big-name designers when it comes to holiday sales in the beauty department. But for the many women who will have spent a whole year leading increasingly demanding lives, will the same old megabrand perfume bottle or gift set be enough?
Maybe not. That’s why vendors and retailers are counting on the trend toward unique beauty items to create excitement and newness. The best presents, they say, will be those that are meant to lift the recipients’ spirits. Thus, gift items that promise to make consumers feel good — from beautifully molded perfume bottles, to ultra-convenient makeup compacts, to bath sets in pretty, decorative tins — should make this a healthy selling season for retailers.
“People are looking for gift ideas in makeup, skin care and bath that represent a lifestyle, and are special,” said Heidi Manheimer, vice president at Web site operator “The focus is on people who are busy and need to get special things.”, which was new to the scene last year, will focus heavily on “unique” gift sets this year and expects to see strong sales as a result, said Manheimer.
Tom Petrillo, Aveda’s senior vice president of sales and distribution management, also points to the growth of unique or customizable gifts as an important factor this year. “People are concerned with fulfilling a lifestyle dream and will be looking to different products to help them do it. If anything, gift certificates will be the hot commodity, because they offer the opportunity for ultimate customization through choice.”
Alina Roytberg, co-owner of Fresh, which manufactures a wide range of fragrance and makeup-related products, agreed that beauty-related gifts adding something to a person’s life will be an important focus for seasonal sales.
“The trends that are driving beauty sales this holiday season are easy application, quick-fix products and small indulgences,” she stated.
This reflects the continuation of recent moves away from the big-name designer fragrances that were overwhelmingly popular as gifts in the early Nineties. Still, several brand powerhouses are expected to figure heavily during holiday. In particular, retailers picked out Calvin Klein’s Truth and, in drugstores, Adidas, as likely hot sellers.
On the other hand, Manheimer and other retailers offered Antonia’s Flowers as a good example of the type of beauty item that offers something different. They gave the line’s new custom-molded pink, amber and green bottles rave reviews.
“Antonia’s Flowers’ new bottles are going to do fantastic,” said Jennifer Shestack, the fragrance buyer at Bergdorf Goodman. Shestack’s other best bets include custom-blended scents from Creed, the new Serge Lutens line and Santa Maria Novella, a brand that carries lots of soaps, potpourri and candles.
It’s Antonia’s Flowers’ romantic, old-world feel that consumers are attracted to, said company owner Antonia Bellanca. Women want “perfumery the way it use to be,” she stated, adding that “everything in the line has been lovingly put together by real hands — not machines.”
Three scents — Floret, Tiempe Passate and Antonia’s Flowers — will be available, each in its own handmade box and will retail for $125.
San Francisco Soap, a drugstore line, will also harken back to the good old days with bath gift sets packaged in decorative tins that have a nostalgic theme.
“The bath packs that San Francisco Soap have put together this year will be a big hit,” said Karen Durham, divisional merchandise manager and buyer for fragrance at the Duane Reade chain. “The collectible tins are different enough to draw some attention.”
For those who don’t have time to look back, a large selection of new makeup compacts or palettes designed for ease of use will be high on wish lists.
“Palettes are more and more popular, which is driven by the convenience factor,” said Mariam Naficy, co-president of the beauty e-retailer, who expects Nars to be a big seller in this category. This fall, the line will introduce two new palettes — Emotional Rescue and Rapture — that contain mix-and-match blushes, eye shadows and lipsticks in plum and berry shades.’s Manheimer has high hopes for new eye palettes and lip palettes from Paula Dorf and lip compacts from Shu Uemura in shades of bordeaux and rose.
Each of the Paula Dorf kits is meant to coordinate with a different hair color and comes in daytime and nighttime versions. Daytime eye kits and lip kits for blondes, brunettes or redheads will be available as well as more vibrant sets for nighttime use, each priced $35.
As consumers’ lives show no sign of slowing down in the near future, neither do sales for aromatic bath products and other fragrance-related items that promise the opportunity to relax in style, retailers said.
Maree Lavo, the vice president and department and merchandise manager for cosmetics at Barneys, expects this category to ring up big sales. “Any auxiliary products to fragrance, especially candles and sachets, are going to do really well,” she said, adding that those at the top of her list include candles from Red Flower and Kiehls and hanging, scented sachets from L’Artisan.
“Bath was our biggest seller last year” during the holiday season, said Durham, who expects San Francisco Soap and Healing Garden to drive similar results in the category this year.
More related to bath than traditional fragrances are single-note scents, especially fun impulse items from brands such as Demeter. Retailers said this segment will be strong this year.
For the upcoming season, Demeter will introduce a range of new holiday-themed scents based on the success of its Snow scent, which made its debut last year. The 1-oz. Pick-Me-Up spray colognes will include Bonfire, Christmas Tree and Mulled Cider.

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