By  on May 27, 1994

NEW YORK -- Ralph Lauren is looking for a little elbow room.

As Lauren's fragrance volume has soared, rivaling some full-line cosmetics companies, the company has been feeling a little squashed in the fragrance bar. Now the Ralph Lauren Fragrance Division of Cosmair is determined to claim its own space on the retail floor.

Lauren is not alone. Calvin Klein Cosmetics, considered the leader among fragrance-only manufacturers, is trying to disentangle itself from the knot of scents at the fragrance bar with a freestanding merchandise unit for CK One, its bi-gender scent that will be launched this fall.

Guerlain also is devising a plan that would provide for perhaps 50 to 100 of its own fragrance-only counters in department and specialty stores that do not carry its full range of makeup and treatment, according to Patrick Waterfield, president and chief executive officer.

The manufacturers can make the issue sound quite simple: If they produce the volume, they merit the space and location.

But in vendor-retailer relations, space and location are the primary points of contention. Retailers dealing with already crowded cosmetics departments point out that the average space has not gotten any larger in recent years, even while more entries vie for position.

"Space is a precious commodity to us," said Michelle Williams, merchandise manager at Federated Merchandising in New York.

Traditionally, only full-line beauty companies -- those that sell color cosmetics and treatment as well as fragrance -- have operated their own counters. Fragrance houses generally have all shared space at the fragrance bar, a situation that leads to constant battles for linear feet of counter space and a heavily trafficked location.

But over the last several years, the industry has watched Klein and Lauren build fragrance volumes that overshadow many full-line vendors. The two companies are often among retailers' top five or six beauty vendors.

Although the companies do not disclose volumes, Klein's worldwide total has been estimated at over $400 million and Lauren's at $250 million.

"We've become, in a lot of stores, not only a major fragrance player, but in the context of the whole cosmetics department, we're a major player," said Jack Wiswall, senior vice president and general manager at Lauren. "I think retailers have just now recognized how big the Calvin Klein business got and how big the Ralph Lauren business got."

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