Fall 2006
Good, Clean, Fun By Emily Lambert

Indulge Yourself

“Coconut Papaya” and “Peach Mango” may sound like delicious ways to indulge your taste buds, but in this case they’re the flavors of today’s bath-and-body products—tasty treats of soaps, lotions and body scrubs in decorative packaging that nourish body and soul, packed with aromas and benefits too good not to share. These pampering goodies make perfect gifts, no matter the season. Retailer Jim Buley, owner of Stonecrop in Maple Grove, MN, knows this well. He will tell you that about 40 percent of his customers’ bath-and-body purchases are made as potential gifts.

Increasingly, bath-and-body items are being marketed as providing a luxurious and indulgent experience. According to Soap, Perfumery & Cosmetics—an international magazine for the cosmetics industry—a bath or a shower is being marketed as an experience rather than just a necessity, and the products themselves have become less about their functional benefits and positioned more as treats for pampering (“Cleansing for the masses,” February 2004).

From body sugar scrubs with natural oils and exfoliating extracts, to body washes full of vitamins that help skin retain moisture, products come loaded with promises and in an array of tantalizing perfumes. “Women got in the habit of jumping in the shower. But now they’re taking baths—not to get clean, but as time for themselves,” says

Victoria Seaman, creator and owner of Bubalina Bath & Body Products in Las Vegas. Her company’s products include body lotions, body butters, sugar scrubs and bath/shower gels.

Melinda Taschetta-Millane, editor of Skin Inc.—a Carol Stream, IL-based business publication for the salon, spa and skin-care industry—sees this “me-time” trend in the spa industry as well. “The desire for relaxation and pampering has deepened over the past five years and is broader-based,” she says.

It’s all in the numbers

Don’t just take their word for it; the numbers speak for themselves. According to Information Resources Inc. a Chicago-based provider of global market information, soap sales (including liquid) increased 3.3 percent, to $1.6 billion, from 2004 to 2005. Meanwhile, hand and body lotion sales increased 12.3 percent, to $830.1 million, and the skin-care category (including facial cleansers, facial anti-aging products and facial moisturizers) grew 8.3 percent, to sales totaling $1.8 billion. Soapwire, a newswire for the natural personal care products industry, recently publicized a study conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute, a market research firm specializing in the health and wellness industry. The institute found that sales of natural/organic personal care products in the United States grew to $5 billion in 2005, an increase of 22 percent over the previous year.

Taschetta-Millane says this surge in demand for products made with natural ingredients (as opposed to chemicals) can be explained by consumers’ increasing concerns about health and fitness. “It is no wonder that the use, and demand for, natural products is on the rise. Today’s consumer is a savvy consumer. They are well-educated and know the benefits of organic ingredients,” she says.

Taschetta-Millane adds that natural products, — products derived from nature — are all the rage today in spas and in the consumer market. According to her, the list of hot ingredients in the bath-and-body industry is long: honey, milk, aloe vera, lime, coconut, mint, cucumber, ginger, papaya, lemongrass, coffee and even chocolate.

The products offered by Moon Valley Bees & Botanicals, a manufacturer of natural bath and beauty products in Arlington, WA, include many such natural ingredients. Products are made with honey (believed to attract, absorb and hold moisture), rosehip seed oil (believed to help with scarring and wrinkles) and orange fruit oil (believed to promote circulation).

Ed Coleman, president of Caswell-Massey, a manufacturer of personal care products in Edison, NJ, reports “a very strong market acceptance” for his company’s newly introduced line of olive-oil products, which it promotes as “gourmet skin-care.”

Increasingly, consumers are also seeking out products that are good for the environment and the community. Sandy Maine, owner of SunFeather Natural Soap Company in Potsdam, NY, says her customers are asking more questions about where the raw materials to make products come from, how they were processed and who produced them. “Artisan-made goods are on the upswing, as well as organics artisan producers pay much attention to the wellness of the workplace and community,” she says.

This attention is evident in SunFeather’s embedded soap line, created so that leftover soap scraps do not go to waste. Because of the soap line’s success, the company now needs to make scraps to make the soaps. The recently launched Pink Ribbon line, of which a portion of sales proceeds are donated to breast-cancer research and awareness, has also been well received.

‘Scent’sational appeal

Smell is a powerful sense, one that often evokes pleasant memories from the past. It’s not surprising, then, that fragrance is important to the appeal of many bath-and-body products on the market. Retailer Joyce Kaminkow, owner of Annapolis Country Store in Annapolis, MD, has found that fragrance always sells first.

At Thymes, a company in Minneapolis with 23 years of aromas under its belt that distributes to more than 5,000 retailers around the world, Eucalyptus is the longest-standing and top-selling fragrance collection. Thymes offers 24 products with the scent in its bath-and-body line. Jill Gerard, the company’s marketing director, says Eucalyptus is a favorite because “it’s very natural, fresh and herbal.” Lavender is another strong seller, and Thymes’ recent launch of Kimono Rose has been one of its most successful ever. Scented products include a bath salt envelope, bar soap, liquid foaming bath, body wash, body lotion, candles and a sink set (a caddy filled with hand wash and hand lotion). Fruits & Passion, a company headquartered in Candiac, Quebec, with more than 2,000 points of sale in the United States, keys in on unusual fragrances—like “Moringa,” a seed from an African tree, and “Monoi,” a flower from the South Pacific—to separate itself from the competition. “Fragrance is very important to us,” says Heather David, director of business development for the United States. That’s obvious when you take a whiff of the company’s recently introduced floral collection. “When smelling our fragrance, it is almost like smelling the actual flower,” says David. Although the products are just hitting the stores, strong sales have been noted for the eau de toilette, shower gel, body lotion and body souffle (a thicker lotion).

Wholesalers offer lines for both men and women. For instance, at Caswell-Massey, “Almond & Aloe” and “English Lavender” are top-sellingfragrances for women, while “Sandalwood” and “Greenbriar” are top-selling fragrances for men. Scent demand can also vary depending on the season, notes Victoria Seaman, of Bubalina Bath & Body Products. Around Valentine’s Day, Bubalina’s “Chocolat” is particularly popular, in the summer “Tropical Lime” heats up, and during the winter holidays customers can’t get enough of “Cranberry Brown Sugar.”

The choices offered by many gift shops are equally dizzying. To increase sales, retailer Betty Hines, owner of Home Inspirations, in Columbia, MD, uses testers, opened bottles of lotion kept around so that customers can sample products before purchasing. She says testers win people over. They can be the difference between customers thinking about a purchase and actually making it. For retailers carrying bulk soaps from SunFeather Natural Soap Company, the testing experience goes further. Customers not only can see and smell the soap; they can cut their own bars.

SunFeather’s unit, created for in-store use, holds 21 to 40 bulk soaps, and is equipped with a cutter made of piano wire. Bulk soaps have been among SunFeather’s top-selling products for years. “It’s popular because of the experience,” says Amy Dougan, vice president of sales and marketing.

The demographics dirt

Just who is buying these fragrant luxuries anyway? Coleman, of Caswell-Massey, says customers are often baby boomers. “Generally it’s a woman, who is educated with an above-average household income,” he says. “They also tend to be career-oriented, in a family with modest to low presence of children.” With these baby boomers aging and trying to fight the clock, the market is strong for products with sunscreen and those like Caswell-Massey’s eye pads, which reduce eye puffiness. “We’re expanding our product lines into sun protection as [a way of] anti-aging,” says Coleman.

Coleman says that men, too, are looking for high-quality personal care products, and that the market for men’s products is growing dramatically. Men’s products constitute 40 percent of Caswell-Massey’s business, he says.

Gift-store retailers may also want to include products for the baby in the house. Caswell-Massey introduced “Baby Shea” in its shea butter line due to the market demand for what he labels a “high-quality, natural baby product.” The Baby Shea line includes baby body wash, cradle cap lotion and diaper cream, all in pastel packaging. Moon Valley Bees & Botanicals also keys in to products tailored for the little one, with a teddy-bear shaped lotion bar called The Baby Bum Bar. Filled with organic red palm oil and chamomile essential oil, it was created to soothe a tender bottom. There is also SunFeather’s Little Cherub Bumps & Bruises Balm Wand, with arnica, to relieve life’s little injustices.

Splashy gifts

Women, men, babies—that’s not all. Bath-and-body wholesalers and retailers are focusing on niche markets, like those who enjoy cooking and gardening. SunFeather’s line of Chef’s & Worker’s Skin Care products includes odor-eliminating soaps and moisturizing balms and lotions for rough hands. After conducting research where participants consistently ranked gardening as their number-one leisure activity, Thymes recently added a gardening line of lotions, creams, scrubs and soap pebbles.

There’s no question that bath-and-body products are a popular choice for gifts. “[Bath-and-body gifts] send the message the person is special and should take time to do something nice for themselves. They’re meaningful,” says Jill Gerard, of Thymes.

Whether they’re clean and sleek or feminine and flirty, bath-and-body products come in an array of attractive packaging, so gift-wrapping becomes optional. Bubalina’s packages are adorned with watercolors—actual artwork that has been scanned and placed on the product. “When they [customers] see [our products], they’re not too expensive and yet perfectly packaged,” says Seaman. Kim Denend, co-owner of Moon Valley Bees & Botanicals, credits the moon-shaped face on the company’s lotion bar for its gift-giving success. “[Customers are] attracted to it. It works. It’s whimsical. It’s a good gift to give,” she says.

And then there are the ever-popular gift sets. Thymes’ Kimono Rose set, which includes a bath salt envelope, body wash, body cream and an eau de parfum roller ball, has been tremendously well-received, according to Gerard. The company is adding it to six other collections. Aromatique, a wholesaler in Heber Springs, AR, sells a gift package called “Thinking of You,” which includes lotion, candle and shower gels. The package is the second best seller in its bath-and-body line. (Body lotion is number one.)

For Home Inspirations’ Betty Hines, though, it’s customers who are devoted to one brand, seeking tried-and-true products like Magno soap, who are her bread and butter. One couple loves Magno (a black soap from Spain distributed by Caswell-Massey) so much, they buy 12 bars at a time. Being the only Caswell-Massey retailer in Columbia has its advantages, says Hines, since customers specifically seek out Caswell-Massey products.

As with any other product, it’s all about knowing your customer, and your competition. But unlike with others, retailers have the power to captivate three out of five of a customer’s senses. Customers see the product, smell the product, and in most cases feel the product. And this can be quite an enjoyable experience. After all, not many can resist the heady aromas and the desire to be pampered.

Emily Lambert

Lambert, a regular writer for GIFT SHOP, resides in Philadelphia. She can be reached at emilylambert@comcast.net.




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