By  on March 25, 1994

NEW YORK -- The Fragrance Marketing Group is trying to straddle the mass-class divide.

As the lines between those outlets continue to blur, the Miami-based firm is pursuing a strategy of selling some fragrances to both kinds of stores. Only the promotions will be different.

FMG's full department store distribution is now 1,200 to 1,500 doors, according to the company, with some fragrances being held to 100 to 300 doors on an exclusive basis. The mass outlets range from 3,000 to 4,000 doors, including national department stores, drugstore chains and mass merchandisers.

A case in point is the Jacques Bogart line, currently distributed in department stores and chain outlets. FMG acquired the U.S. distribution rights for the scents Tuesday and will add them to an existing lineup that includes Ombre Rose, Niki de St. Phalle and Maja.

Jacques Bogart, based in Paris, produces fragrances from Ted Lapidus, whose worldwide sales are $40 million, Balenciaga, with worldwide fragrance and fashion sales of $25 million, and Bogart, which has a global volume of $22 million.

The brands, with estimated U.S. sales of $10 million to $12 million, had been distributed here by Houbigant Inc.

While FMG plans to sell some fragrances in both mass and class retail channels, the company intends to maintain more exclusive distribution for other scents. Lapidus's 1993 scent Fantasme, for example, will continue to be sold exclusively at Neiman Marcus.

"We want to provide value-added promotions that are right for each brand and its distribution," said David Alfin, chief operating officer of FMG.

In the mass market, for example, scents such as Lapidus Pour Homme, Witness from Bogart and Balenciaga Pour Homme will be sold in 1-oz. eau de toilettes with additional travel-size bottles of scent attached in what Alfin called "self-service promotions."

In department stores, the same scents will be featured with gift-with-purchase miniatures.

"What is important in department stores is product and sampling," Alfin explained.

FMG will begin shipping its promotions this month in time for Father's Day with a full promotional program put together for Christmas.

"We are creating partnerships that respond to what customers say they want. We aren't force-feeding product," added Allan Katz, senior vice president of sales for FMG.FMG's method of marketing fragrances reflects what Alfin views as shifts in the business.

"There will always be a prestige department store business," Alfin said, while acknowledging the growing importance of mass market chains, including J.C. Penney, Sears Roebuck & Co., Walgreens and Jack Eckerd.

"There is still a customer who shops Saks in the morning, but also Eckerd at night," Alfin said.

Alfin feels that exposing customers -- especially younger shoppers -- to fine fragrances at mass market outlets can encourage them to trade up to new products launched by the brand in department stores. Alfin also credited several mass marketers with elevating the overall quality of fragrance retailing in their stores. Sears and Penney's, he said, have brought in executives who understand the business and are "transforming" the stores into more of a department store presentation.

Retailers also want to participate in promotional programs and point-of-sale merchandise to help build fragrance brands. "From what we've heard," said one merchandise manager for a large drug chain, "we will now be able to sit down and build programs behind these brands rather than just reordering them as we need them. My only question is whether customers recognize these names or not. But one thing is for sure, we need more fragrances to get our business going."

One of the first fragrances FMG tackled after going into business in 1993 was Ombre Rose. Since acquiring it, Alfin said, distribution has been broadened and the customer base expanded to younger shoppers.

Jacques Bogart has been anxious to step up its business in the U.S., according to company owner Jacques Konckier, who noted "FMG makes sense for our business because of the way they are organized to serve both the prestige and popular-priced markets and the way they understand the U.S. business."

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