Supermarkets are gravitating to the firming proposition in skincare.
It's part fashion, healthy lifestyle and aging demographics that have spawned the firming factor in skincare formulas. The benefit to retailers is a sales and profit boost from new stockkeeping units introduced in popular-priced brands.
"Skin-firming lotions promise to erase lines and wrinkles. It's aimed at females and preserving perpetual youth. Sales indicate it's not a bad decision. It's a viable option," said John Raley, senior buyer for health and beauty care, Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif.
One buyer, who declined to be identified, noted the increase within the last year in the number of new SKUs devoted to firming. "Firming has become a more important issue in skincare for many consumers, especially the aging baby boomers," she commented.
Chicago-based Information Resources' latest sales figures for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 10 show revenues up in facial moisturizers, 2.5%, hand and body lotions, 6.5%, and skin fade/age/bleach creams, 34.5%. These segments total $1.7 billion in mass-market channels. The most dramatic growth has been in the fade/age/bleach creams -- a $369 million segment that is up not only in dollars but also units, 23.9%. Some of the top selling brands in this segment such as L'Oreal Plenitude Revitalift, Nivea Visage Q10 and St. Ives Swiss Formula have introduced firming products.
The seeds for firming may have been planted with the cellulite craze of the '90s when numerous thigh creams began appearing on mass-market shelves to help alleviate the skin dimpling caused by fat cells. University Medical Products, Irvine, Calif., successfully built its product line from a popular thigh cream and has taken firming to the face and now to the body with BodyLift, launched early this year.
"We've taken the ingredients -- retinol A and vitamin C -- used in our Face Lift line to firm our faces and stimulate collagen and elastin growth to the body," explained Caroline Francis, director of sales. The four-item line is typical of how firming formulas are appearing across all skin segments. Besides body lotion, the line also includes hand cream, body wash and foot spray, all priced at $6.99.
At that price point, retailers are working on a 35% profit margin, according to Craig Newness, vice president of North American Sales for University Medical. "We are perfectly positioned for grocery because retailers are looking to take typical hand and body price points over the $5 range and stretch their customer," he said.
One of the first suppliers to bring firming body products from prestige beauty to mass market is Wilton, Conn.-based Beiersdorf with its Nivea Visage Q10 line formulated with coenzyme Q10, a substance in skin that deteriorates as one ages. The line's cream sales were up 121% to $24.9 million for the year ending Sept. 10, according to IRI. At $6.99 Nivea Body Skin Firming lotion was added last year. It has become the top seller in the hand and body category, according to industry observers.
"It was important to market this as part of a healthy lifestyle," said Susan Savoie, Beirersdorf's vice president of marketing for consumer products. "It definitely improves the elasticity of the skin, but it has to go along with exercise and healthy living." Today's fashion trends reveal more skin, so healthy looking skin has increasingly become a consumer goal, she further noted.
Savoie said firming products have given a boost to the skin category that for years has been centered on dry skin. "Firming has brought a whole new benefit to the body. Products can not only moisturize but they can improve the firmness and elasticity of the skin. Consumers want this. It's a good value, even though slightly higher priced."
Such specialty items as those found in the Visage Q10 line position mass retailers at the high end in beauty, said Savoie. By merchandising these items, "it says 'we're committed to bringing the latest innovations to our customers."'
"Grocery stores need to recognize that they can be a destination for beauty, which starts with skincare," said Paula Gendel, vice president, L'Oreal Plenitude skincare, New York. Last month, L'Oreal added its Revitalift Slim with Par-Elastyl and caffeine complex. The product helps firm the face, neck and jawline. "We believe slimming will increasingly become part of good skincare habits for maturing skin."
"We have to put out new products," said Raley. "Part of my job and part of the manufacturers' job is to understand the trends and what products customers want to buy and when they want to buy them."
Most in the industry agree, however, that firming is not simply a trend that will fade away. "The audience is significant," said Peter Augustine, vice president of sales, E.T. Browne Drug Co., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., which makes Palmer's Cocoa Butter. It also added a firming lotion to its line. "Women are in food outlets more than any other outlet. It's convenient [to offer these items to grocery shoppers]."
"These products are doing well in their second year. It doesn't appear it's a six-month trend. One class of trade isn't driving them, so everyone can take advantage," said Laurie Schulte, marketing manager for Alberta-Culver USA, Melrose Park, Ill., which introduced St. Ives Moisturizing Firming Body Lotion this year. "Firming is for everyone and the appeal is broader than we expected."