NEW YORK -- The glow from a surprisingly strong holiday season for the fragrance industry lingered at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Tuesday.
The occasion was the Fragrance Foundation's annual review of Christmas business, where five retailers, representing prestige and mass markets, provided detailed lists of the brands that were the leading lights in the holiday surge.
While most of the speakers reiterated the themes of recovery that were sounded in late December, there was one notable exception: Steve Lubin of Walgreens. Lubin, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics, spoke of a "disappointing and frustrating season."
"We didn't have the support and the launches the department stores had in the last two years," he noted.
In contrast, glad tidings were announced by executives from Frederick Atkins, a buying office based here, as well as three stores: Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's; Kmart Corp., and J.C. Penney Co.
Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at DH and Field's, said his company had shown double-digit growth in fragrance. He noted that consumers' minds were still glued to value and price, and emphasized that, contrary to some opinions, the growing phenomenon of fragrance miniatures is not "trading the business down."
"They have brought new customers to the counter," he said. "They are filling the price-point void that exists between department stores and drugstores."
Burke praised "a group of spectacular launches," among them Liz Claiborne's Vivid, Giorgio Armani's Gio, Donna Karan New York, Giorgio Beverly Hills' Wings, 360O by Perry Ellis, Benetton's Tribu and Elizabeth Taylor's Fragrant Jewels.
Next up was Carolyn Wojcik, divisional vice president for cosmetics at Frederick Atkins. She said fragrance sales during the holiday season were up 8.5 percent, with women's scents up 5.6 percent and men's up 12.1 percent.
Wojcik said $40 was the most popular price point, but $50 has become "a retail price point that is a barrier to consumers."
Lubin said the prestige business was tough at Walgreens, due to competition from other mass outlets that carry class scents. He also bemoaned the lack of newness in the mass market, with Coty's products the exception.
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