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Cardin Adds Auchan Hypermarkets to His Outlets

PARIS -- Pierre Cardin, who shocked the French beauty industry last year by expanding distribution of his prestige fragrances and cosmetics to the Carrefour hypermarket chain, is making another foray into the mass market.<BR><BR>He signed a deal last...

PARIS — Pierre Cardin, who shocked the French beauty industry last year by expanding distribution of his prestige fragrances and cosmetics to the Carrefour hypermarket chain, is making another foray into the mass market.

He signed a deal last week with Auchan, a French chain of 49 hypermarkets, and immediately began rolling out his distribution.

Cardin declined to predict sales, but said Auchan will retail his cosmetics and fragrances at prices ranging from $17 to $25.

Cardin’s beauty products are retailed at substantially lower prices in hypermarkets than in perfumeries or department stores like Galeries Lafayette.

“We can sell in hypers for almost 45 percent less,” Cardin said. “We can sell more cheaply because we don’t have any middlemen. And we just get one single big check, so you don’t need a huge accounting staff.”

He should know. Last October, Cardin became the first designer to retail his products in the French mass market, when he signed with Carrefour, a chain of 122 stores that in 1992 rolled up a volume of $22 billion.

His opening order, which went on sale Nov. 2, was for 35,000 items, totaling nearly $1 million at retail. Cardin said he sold 170,000 units in two months, or more than $4 million.

Cardin does an estimated $40 million worldwide in beauty, with most of his European distribution in perfumeries and department stores. He had previously widened his distribution in the U.S., when his beauty products began selling in 500 J.C. Penney outlets last spring.

Cardin’s invasion of the mass market could create some difficulties for other, more exclusive fashion and fragrance businesses. European Union legislation states that prestige fragrance companies may establish strict criteria for distribution and not sell to certain outlets that don’t measure up.

But the industry’s notion of what is unsuitable could be called into question by Cardin’s entry into the hypermarkets.

“I don’t know why some people restrict their distribution,” Cardin said. “When someone gives you a present of perfume, you don’t ask what shop it was bought in. That has no relevance. Perfumes are products, la mode is art. They are completely different things.”

His populist principles, however, do not extend to fashion.

In the same week he signed with mass market Auchan, Cardin announced his ban on all photographers and camera crews at his couture show Monday. He’s restricting access to 180 people — and 10 journalists.

“I’m being very selective about who comes to my show because my clients don’t want to pay for dresses and then see some cheap Sentier version before theirs has been delivered,” said Cardin, referring to the sweatshop area of Paris.