feature story

personal care
with a purpose

To survive and thrive in 2006, florists will have to change directions and point toward creating experiences, value and strong customer relationships.

by CHRIS GIGELY


Reports of a slumping personal care category seem to be greatly exaggerated. Statistics show sales declines in 2005, yet industry experts insist the category is still hot. “Many [specialty gift] retailers have either added or expanded in this category,” says John Saxtan, editor-in-chief of Giftware News, a trade publication covering the specialty gift market.
However, in its report, “The U.S. Market for Bath and Shower Products,” research firm Packaged Facts revealed that the overall personal care market has declined 12 percent from 2000 to 2004. The report also shows that consumer demand for bar soaps, body wash, bath additives and other items will keep falling from a high of $2.6 billion in 2000 to $2.18 billion in 2010.
The good news is that those numbers largely reflect sales of plain old personal care products sold in supermarkets, drugstore chains and other mass channels. The more creative and innovative items sold by gift retailers, florists and other specialty retailers are expected to stay strong.
“There have been a lot of tiny companies jumping into bath and body,” says Meredith Schwartz, an editor who covers personal care for Gifts & Decorative Accessories, another industry publication in the specialty gift industry. “There’s a lot of turnover among manufacturers, but there’s still a lot of the product at trade shows. And many retailers are carrying it, and it’s selling.”

Trend One: Organic
The flood of manufacturers means faster product innovation, and “organic” is the buzzword of the moment. TerraNova’s new “Organic Oasis™” line, for instance, features soaps, lotions, creams and scrubs, with at least 70 percent of its ingredients grown by earth-friendly methods. The company presold it last summer, debuted it at the New York International Gift Fair in August and has had trouble keeping up with demand ever since.
“Typically, our production runs are in batches of 2,000 to 2,500,” says Mitchell Merrick, national sales manager at TerraNova. “We sold out of the first batch in about a month.”
Organic Oasis packaging and merchandising pumps up natural, organic ingredients such as tiare flower (Tahitian Gardenia), white tea, green coffee and yerba maté. The use of consumables such as coffee and tea is no coincidence. The emergence of organics in personal care follows the growing demand for organic foods.
“Two years ago, [TerraNova owner Cathy Saunders] saw that organic foods were gaining momentum and seemed to be the only growth category in grocery,” says Mr. Merrick. “She translated that to bath and body.”
But while organic foods have made their way into the mainstream, organic personal care products still haven’t come across the radar of the chain stores and mass merchants. The product is ripe for specialty retailers right now.
“[Organic] is still a small percentage of the market, but it’s growing fast,” says Ms. Schwartz. “It started out with small, idealistic companies, but now the larger companies are getting in because they don’t want to lose sales.”

Trend Two: Cosmeceuticals
The organic trend is tied loosely to an overall wellness movement in personal care that has given birth to another trend Ms. Schwartz calls “cosmeceuticals.” “These products claim to calm you down or wake you up or get rid of varicose veins,” she explains. “They solve problems. Product that was the realm of the drugstore market is now getting high-end packaging for the gift market.”
Personal care giant Crabtree & Evelyn, for instance, has released a new collection called “Remedy.” As the name implies, the line cures everything from wrinkles and dark eye circles to chapped lips.
“Aging baby boomers are trying to hold back the wrinkles, and younger people are taking better care of their skin,” says Mr. Saxtan, explaining the cosmeceuticals trend.
Overwhelmingly, however, sales are coming from the boomers, and Mr. Saxtan has them pegged. Boomers are motivated to look and feel healthy but not necessarily to turn back the clock. They’re buying cosmetics, soaps and cosmeceuticals to feel better about who they are.
Cost does not seem to be an issue for consumers looking to care for themselves with products like these, says Ann Culligan, marketing manager at Lactoprot USA. “Everyone’s lives are so busy and hectic,” she says. “People try to pamper themselves whenever they can, and price points really aren’t much of a factor. Scents play into it, though. That’s why we’ve gotten into green tea, white tea and ginger, and other scents that strongly relate to relaxation.”

Whether enhancing beauty or saving the environment, the hottest personal care items have some added value. And these products promise to keep specialty retailers’ sales and the category as a whole buoyant throughout 2006.
 

Chris Gigley is an author, speaker, and freelance writer who has covered the gift and stationery market for nine years. He resides in Greensboro, N.C.



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