By  on March 25, 1994

NEW YORK -- Ralph Lauren's newest men's fragrance, Polo Sport, was introduced a month ago amid snowstorms. It is now blossoming with the possibility of launch records.

Although executives dec-lined to share the sales figures, sources indicate that Cosmair Inc., Lauren's fragrance licensee, which reportedly first projected less than $35 million for Polo Sport this year, has raised that to $40 million.

That would set a volume mark for Lauren's fragrances by edging out the previous leader, Safari for Men, which reportedly chalked up $38 million at wholesale in the 12 months following its September 1992 introduction.

That, in turn, had eclipsed Lauren's Safari for women, which generated an estimated $25 million following its February 1990 launch.

Volume for Polo Sport is being stoked by a strong TV and print ad campaign, estimated by industry sources at more than $20 million, including contributions from retailers.

"This is a major effort," said Jack Wiswall, senior vice president and general manager of the Ralph Lauren Fragrances Division. "It is the biggest in support and the biggest in results."

Nearly as dramatic are the initial reports of strong sales of the line's treatment items -- what Cosmair calls "skin fitness" products. These items, dubbed "Water Basics," include a $12.50 Face and Body Cream moisturizer, a spray hair gel for $12.50 and a $10 weatherproof lip balm.

Those items had raised eyebrows in an industry that has known mostly frustration from past efforts to sell skin care to men.

Wiswall said the ancillary products accounted for 39 percent of unit sales, roughly doubling original expectations.

Mary Hayes, vice president of sales, pointed out that Cosmair had little competition because men's fragrances usually are not introduced this early.

"This gave us the opportunity to own the store," Wiswall added.

"Polo Sport is off to a colossal start," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager of Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's.

"We made our March plan in the first three weeks and there are five weeks in the month. We couldn't be more pleased with the results. They could be number one for the year."As did other retailers, Burke cited the strong visual presentation with Polo Sport's coloration of white and blue, with accents of red. But he gave more credit to the 2.25 million scented strips that Dayton Hudson disseminated with its four-color newspaper inserts at the launch.

"It's fabulous," said Arnold Orlick, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Bloomingdale's. "It's the home run of our men's fragrance business.

"It definitely will be in the top three for the year," he predicted, without elaborating. Orlick said he had expected the ancillary items to account for perhaps 10 percent of sales.

"It's closer to 25 to 35 percent," he said, noting that the success of Polo Sport's skin conditioning products and a hot new item from Aramis, Lift Off, hints that men are now more comfortable with skin care products.

The ancillary products, Orlick suggested, will attract more new customers than might be lured by just adding another fragrance.

Michelle Williams, merchandise manager of fragrances and cosmetics accessories at the Federated Merchandising division of Federated Department Stores, said the Burdines of Miami, Bloomingdale's and Seattle-based Bon Marche divisions are running at least 35 percent ahead of their launch plans, and Rich's, Atlanta, is 25 percent ahead.

Williams attributed at least some of the success to the effort by Cosmair to make the in-store fixturing and product presentation harmonize with the colorful sports-oriented advertising.

"It fits their advertised image," she said.

Williams also reported higher-than-expected sales of the skin fitness products, particularly the "surprisingly strong" movement of the lip balm.

"The nature of the products is different and unique," she said, adding that Cosmair's freestanding and countertop open-sell units also provided stimulus. "The line is priced right and the consumers understand it," Williams added.

Rita Burke, senior vice president of cosmetics at Macy's East, stated, "Based on the initial sales results, they will be, without a doubt, one of the top five fragrances of the year."

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