By and  on June 10, 1994

NEW YORK -- Light isn't just for beer, cigarettes and cuisine anymore.

In a bid for price-conscious and younger consumers, as well as women who may shun heavy or highly concentrated scents, fragrance firms have been introducing lighter products that defy the industry's traditional categories.

Quite often, the new items carry unusually low price points for the department store market and are sold in less-concentrated forms.

In many cases, only eau de toilettes and body sprays are made available, defying the inveterate tradition of offering a perfume strength as the top-dollar item.

The fragrances themselves are blends of fresh, fruity or lighter floral notes.

If it works, these offerings could lure new customers to department store counters and women who avoid classic floral or oriental fragrances or have habitually taken advantage of the lower prices in the mass market.

The new, more accessible items could also serve to maintain a customer base that has been diluted by the lingering recession.

"There's more price sensitivity than ever before," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager for Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's. "Customers are buying the smaller sizes rather than the larger sizes."

Lower-priced lines have also been outpacing the higher-priced ones at Seattle-based The Bon MarchÄ, according to Diane Gates, divisional merchandise manager.

She cited as evidence the success of Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers, launched last year and perhaps the progenitor of the light trend.

"Sunflowers is going after a younger consumer who can't afford a Calvin Klein," noted Gates, adding that Klein's upcoming launch, CK One, will also carry more accessible price points.

"I think CK One is going to be exciting," said Gates. "It's in that lower-price-point category like Sunflowers."

She said she hoped that CK One, which features a fresh, light scent, will help attract "the customer who has not shopped in the fragrance area."

Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager at McRae's, based in Jackson, Miss., agreed. "Price point has definitely made a difference for Sunflowers," he said, pointing to its price of $25 for a 1.7-oz spray, as opposed to other fragrances, which average $35 to $45 for the same size.

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