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Innovation spurs sales of bath accessories

New and innovative lines of decorative bath hooks are luring customers to stores and reeling them in to the cash registers with cart fulls of bath accessories.

"It's explosive what's been happening with bath hooks and rings," said Frank Scalice, president of the bath division of New York-based Town & Country. "In terms of offerings from manufacturers like us and consumer response, shower curtain hooks and rings have become increasingly popular, and as a result we are seeing an explosive interest in bath accessories overall."

For bath accessory manufacturers, shower curtain hooks and rings are responsible in a big way for motivating and steadily increasing consumer interest in the entire category. And for many manufacturers, more consumer interest doesn't just equal more sales but also broader distribution.

"We just submitted to a mid-tier retailer-one that never before discussed bath accessories beyond the basic tissue box, wastepaper basket, tumbler, soap dish, toothbrush holder and lotion pump-whole new lines of bath products like bath trays, jars, votive candle holders, guest paper towel holders, bowl brush holders and more decorative hooks," said Rick Lipton, national sales manager for Creative Bath Products, based in Central Islip, NY. "They are all clamoring for decorative hooks, potpourri dishes, and even something as funky as little trinket boxes or ring dishes. They want something different because their customers are interested."

Lipton explained that consumers are looking for unique looks, product and construction. Among Creative Bath Products' new offerings for the April market is a magazine rack that coordinates with a new plastic bath ensemble.

"One of the main reasons for the increased interest is that people are just doing more accessorizing," Lipton said. "The market has gotten looks that are very unique-primitive, high-end, metals and special glazes. People want more quality and more offerings."

Town & Country is expanding its lines with more products made of resin, acrylic and combination constructions, like metal with plastic, metal with ceramic and metal with wood. "Ceramic and plastic used to be the primary constructions," Scalice explained, "but now materials are broadening with the lines. Consumers want more variety and better looks."

Panache for the Bath, which was established one year ago in New York, caters its product lines to shoppers of mid-tier to high-end stores.

"The consumer has stepped up her level of quality and taste," said Norman Harris, president and ceo. "The category is growing and it has room for more people. That's why I opened my own company after working [within the category] for 40 years."

For Panache, the top selling bath accessory is the lotion dispenser "because people can also use it for soap and it can go in other parts of the home besides the bathroom."

For Town & Country, which serves the mass, mid-tier, specialty and department store retail levels, growing popularity in bath accessories has prompted broader distribution and higher price points.

"Some of our mass retail partners are starting to include our more upscale bath accessories in their offerings with higher price points, and it's going very well for us," Scalice said. "It is an education process because the consumer has to learn that these stores are starting to expand their offerings and price points. But they quickly find out, and they are responding."

Croscill's bath division earned $70 million in 2001 in ensembles alone, said Patrick Clemente, assistant product manager.

"Last year was better than the year before, and each year gets better and better," Clemente said.

Carl Legreca, vp merchandising and marketing for Croscill's bath division, said the division-established five years ago-"has grown double digit every year."

"This year, if business continues the way our first 2 months have gone, it will be phenomenal," Legreca added. "Last year we were 40 percent ahead in bath accessories. This year already we're 46 percent ahead in sales. The growth is phenomenal."

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