Fall 2013
Bath and Body Perks By Lin Grensing Pophal

Looking for a product category that’s sure to make a splash? Look no further than bath and body care. This strong performer, retailers say, always cleans up well.

There’s a shift afoot in the bath and body market and it’s one that’s trending along with consumers’ overall interest in everything natural. No longer simply looking for products that smell nice, today’s consumers prefer bath and body products that do something—like reduce signs of aging, firm skin or help correct uneven skin tone.

So says Spirit Demerson, president and founder of Spirit Beauty Lounge in New York City. Having studied art and cosmetology, Demerson creates many of her own organic fragrances, lotions and scrubs, and thereby takes the confusion and guesswork out of buying organic bath and body (and beauty) products. Demerson confirms that she is seeing a trend away from mainstream bath and body products to those that are more corrective or treatment-oriented. “They’re looking for not just a lavender-scented body oil, but maybe a lavender-scented body oil that helps with pigmentation or ingrown hairs, or skin firming,” she says. “People seem to be a lot more aware of how they can use body care products as skin care for the body.”

DirtyKneesSoapCompany1-Roshan Roghani, the director of sales and exports at Camille Beckman Corporation, in Eagle, Idaho, says that quality natural and eco-friendly bath and body products are definitely trending. The Camille Beckman products are made with herbal extracts known for healing benefits. Roghani adds that consumers are looking for products that are made in America and the philanthropy of a company that gives back is also a consideration.

Angie Cavaiuolo, the owner of Handmade Natural Beauty in La Crosse, WI, says that she has noticed an increase in demand for dual-purpose products—shaving soaps, or shampoo bars, for instance. Cavaiuolo notes that fun products are also very appealing as gift items: soaps shaped like desserts, for instance, which may range from cupcake soaps, to bath truffles.

Natural ingredients in products like milk soap and coconut soaps (a nice alternative for vegans) are also very popular. She finds that consumers are leaning toward “fresh and fruity, and clean scents,” as well as herbal ones. Clean scents are also what customers can expect from Thymes’ extensive bath and body product lines. The company’s Clary Sage Tea line, for example, “is a modern botanical blend crafted to invigorate the senses,” says Natalie Broderick, marketing assistant at the Minneapolis company. The line has nourishing Assam black tea and fresh clary sage leaves with hints of lavender and rosemary sprigs and undertones of creamy amber and soft sandalwood.

Overall demand is strong which is driving more gift shops to carry these products in their stores. But just stocking these items is not enough; they must seek ways to help consumers engage with these products.

Splashy sales

Isola-Salt-ScrubVABody care products sell best in environments where consumers can see, feel and try out the products, stresses Demerson. They don’t sell as well in the online space. Seeing, smelling and trying the products is an important part of the sales process.

“For us the big factor is testing,” says Roghani and in-store experiences really lend themselves to this. “We encourage all of our stores to keep open samples and we encourage them to put a little hand therapy on the hands of every single person that comes in.” Whether someone was originally coming in to buy the products or not, “probably about 80 percent of them end up buying,” she says. “If you have a good quality product or a great scent or something that really makes you stand out, you need to make sure those products are actually getting on people’s bodies and that they’re able to try them.”

Testimonials also drive sales, she notes, and staff play big role. “We offer promotions where all of our stores get a big package of our products at a discount so they can try them all. We find that this really increases sales because it allows them to say ‘I recommend this’ or ‘this is what I use for this’.”

PeaceoftheEarth-Williams agrees. “When a retailer actually uses our products and they can personally attest to what makes them different from all of the other brands that has been helpful. We have been very good about sending out samples so all of our retailers can try for themselves. Then when they actually buy something they can already say that they believe in the product.”

Packaging also can play a role in drawing attention and boosting sales, says Cavaiuolo, especially when consumers are buying the products as gifts. “Packaging with ribbons, tulle, lace, specialty papers, buttons, rhinestones and other embellishments like that make the products ideal for gift-giving. A person is more likely to purchase a beautifully packaged artesian swirled soap as a gift and opt for a more natural looking soap with simpler packaging for themselves.” In addition, she says, when customers come into the store they are often interested in other products within the same line, so putting together a gift assortment is often appealing.

Another approach that Cavaiuolo has taken is to provide a blending bar in her boutique—a place where consumers can mix scents they like and do some experimenting. Making it easy for customers to try the products is also helpful. “I have a little vanity room in my boutique where they can take soap samples and try them right on the spot.”

Merchandising is everything, stresses Roghani. “Let the products you’re selling in your store speak for themselves based on your presentation.” In addition to manufacturing their products, Camille Beckman also has a factory gift shop in Eagle and that’s the approach used there, says Roghani. “Almost all of our sales and all of our sales increases have been generated that way.”

Changing needs

Library-of-FlowersLollia-copyFor those in the bath and body space the ability to continually meet consumers’ changing needs is critical. Innovation is important, but can be challenging in the bath and body arena, says Roghani. One recent innovation for Camille Beckman was the introduction of card inserts—they’re like oversized matchbooks offered with a wide range of hand therapy fragrances inside. They were made specifically to slide in as gifts with cards, she says. “We’ve been doing this for the last year and it’s been a really exciting new addition.”

Clara Williams is the owner and founder of skinnyskinny in Brooklyn, NY. The “skinny” refers to the fact that products are “skinny of all filler ingredients.” “We make organic bath and body care products and everything is made in small batches, in-house,” says Williams. At skinnyskinny, says Williams, they are introducing a number of new product offerings. The popularity of organic dry shampoos has prompted the company to launch some new hair pomades. They will also be introducing a massage oil, some new facial serums and are experimenting with some all-natural deodorants. “I just want to continue to broaden our product line, because I believe in it and all of our customers believe in our products so I want to broaden that so we have a more complete line of body care, from head to toe.”

SoapstoLiveBy3-Innovation can also apply to the way the product is distributed. Roland Neel is president of, and Betsy Slocumb is national sales manager for, Private Label Products, Inc. in Macon, GA, a firm that specializes in providing quality custom-labeled bath products for customers ranging from gift shops to realtors and even large retailers. In these days of “showrooming,” where consumers are increasingly going online to buy products instead of frequenting local outlets, Neel says his product is “Google-proof.” The exclusivity of just being able to get the product from “Isabelle’s in Dallas, Texas,” and nowhere else, creates a sense of exclusivity—and drives demand, he says. The company’s shea body butters have been particularly popular he says. That is in line with the “big trend for natural smelling fragrances and fragrances found in nature,” that Slocumb has noticed. Another unique product offering is a sugar scrub made from Demerara sugar, “which most people know as sugar in the raw,” Neel says.

The wide range of products available, means that both retailers and consumers have a lot to choose from. Bath and body products are a great addition for gift shops says Roghani, because “every woman needs them.”

And, like Demerson, she is also seeing a shift in demand away from the less expensive, more commercially available products to ones they can trust. “Consumers are really looking at the quality of the product,” says Roghani, and they are looking for products whose manufacturers are very transparent about how they make the products and what is in them. A lot of shops are bringing these kinds of products in because they make a nice addition to the others they sell. As always, bath and body products add a splash of luxury and fun to your bottom line.

Lin Grensing Pophal

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance business journalist in Chippewa Falls, WI. She writes about marketing and business management issues for national and trade publications and is the author of Marketing With the End in Mind (IABC, 2005).

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