NEW YORK — Retailers equate the name “Coty” with a license to make money.
For the most part, launches from Coty, whether a new fragrance or the introduction of The Healing Garden, have been welcomed with open arms — and shelf space.
“We always looked forward to Coty fragrance launches,” recalled Jeanette Solomon, a former buyer with the now-defunct K&B drug chain. In her 30 years of buying, Solomon has witnessed many Coty successes, such as Stetson and Exclamation. “They’ve really never had a failure.”
In the Seventies and Eighties the mass market fragrance business was robust and led by a host of companies such as Coty, Jovan, Dana and Revlon. Even with a multitude of competition, Coty was the brand to watch.
In the late 1980s, a shakeout commenced that virtually left Coty as the only major mass market fragrance company in the fight. At that time, Walgreens’ top fragrance merchant, Steve Lubin, lauded Coty for sticking with the trade channel and the industry.
Coty’s biggest payoff came in 1993 when its marketing team hit upon the runaway success of Vanilla Fields. Vanilla was emerging as a hot ingredient, and Coty was first to put it into a scent. “It was a fragrance that brought everyone into stores,” said Sally Yanke, buyer for Medic Drug. Vanilla Fields initiated a boom in vanilla scents, and the fragrance was a top performer for several years.
Although it’s hard to top a Vanilla Fields, Coty continues to be ahead of consumer trends in scents. Today, subtracting out diverted brands, Coty is the biggest fragrance marketer in mass stores.
Coty’s brands secured a stellar reputation under the watch of former chief executive officer Jerry Abernathy. “Jerry knew everyone,” said Solomon of the former executive. Reached recently in his retirement, Abernathy discussed how mass retailing of just 10 years ago was a different world than today. “Buyers made more gut decisions,” he said. “Today the numbers rule.” The fact that results made it difficult to gamble on new fragrances made it harder for any company other than Coty to enter the marketplace. Coty continued to serve up the marketing money needed for new launches while competitors fell by the wayside.
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