ONCE UPON A TIME, being a yuppie meant owning a Cuisinart and a cappuccino machine. But now, according to trend forecasters, big spenders are investing in status items for the bedroom and bath.
Marketing specialists see a move to bringing services home through the use of personal-care appliances. It is part of the home-focused phenomenon called "cocooning," says Faith Popcorn, the New York-based marketing analyst who discovered and named the trend.
"Individuals, especially those with children, don't want to go out of the house if they don't have to," says Popcorn, whose firm, BrainReserve, periodically surveys some 2,000 consumers on marketplace choices. "That's why you see more people investing in Jacuzzis and professional-type equipment for their workouts. Facial steamers are an example of the kind of product that enables you to do something you'd prefer to do at home."
Susan Howard, a vice president at Yankelovich Clancy Shulmann, a marketing and social-research firm based in Westport, Conn., explains that "personal-care items are becoming very important because women and men realize that appearance is a key to success. So they indulge without guilt in a designer bathroom outfitted with elegant, high-tech devices."
But Howard says today's customer won't settle for run-of-the-mill products. "Seventy-five percent of the younger baby boomers are employed, many in demanding jobs. They don't fall for gimmicks; they don't have time for things that don't perform. To succeed with these consumers, an appliance absolutely must work."
Many market observers agree that the demand for high-performance products exceeds supply. Items such as Epilady, a $70 electric-razor-size alternative to salon leg waxing, are rare finds, says Patty Payne, divisional merchandise manager for Bullock's. "The results are similar to what you'd see after having your legs waxed. The difference is that you don't have to make an appointment, drive to the salon and pay for the service."
In Bullock's since August, the product has sold so rapidly that, Payne says, "Epilady has opened our eyes to the idea of more grooming products."
In Sharper Image stores and catalogues, the personal-care category is growing, according to L.A. store manager Meredith Mitchell. The $39 Freedom Blade, a submersible electric shaver designed to be used with shaving cream, has sold more than 1,000 units in eight months at the L.A. store alone, she says.
Sharper Image also sells a $745 tanning "solarium" and a $1,695 pad that provides a computer-controlled acupressure massage--both designed to bring spa quality home.
More affordable, perhaps, are items that can be purchased at drug and department stores, such as Norelco's $65 Rotatract 950RX shaver, which allows the user to shave while recharging. Another is Clairol's $40 Foot Chargers, which massage the feet in slippers that look like astronauts' boots.
A $99 toothbrush may seem excessively expensive, but the pricey Interplak is designed to reduce periodontal disease by scrubbing off plaque. According to Arnold Orlick, general merchandising manager of J.W. Robinson, which carries the brush, "Interplak can remove up to 98% of the plaque in one's mouth. Regular brushes usually cannot reach between teeth and below the gum line."
Hammacher Schlemmer stores and catalogues offer many unusual items, including a $100 talking scale and $349.50 whirlpool bathtub converter, as well as a $40 facial sauna by Bernhard Industries that stands 3 1/2 inches high. Conventional saunas are at least four times as tall, according to inventor Bernard Frank.
The new home-grooming market is wide open for savvy inventors, Howard says. "If someone came up with a product that provided a great home haircut or manicure," she says, "he or she would make a fortune."
Model: Meg/Elite Models L.A.; hair: Howard Barr/Cloutier; makeup: Lucienne Zammit/Cloutier.