By  on September 9, 1994

NEW YORK -- The fragrance industry has long had a problem on the front lines -- beauty advisers, who often provide a vendor's only direct contact with consumers, tend to move to greener pastures before too long.

Now the Fragrance Foundation has implemented a program it maintains will address this issue and give the sales staff more of a reason to stay put.

The Foundation's Fragrance Sales Certification Program consists of a course of study of the world of fragrance, followed by a written examination. Participants who pass the test are awarded the Certified Fragrance Sales Specialist (CFSS) designation.

"The problem has always been that people see selling fragrance in a department store as a dead end," said Annette Green, the Fragrance Foundation's president. "There's no career ladder -- there's no way to move up within the company. I don't have a hard number, but I know turnover must be high.

"We want companies to take a closer look at the people who graduate," she continued. "It benefits the companies because we're trying to establish strong selling techniques, which will help everybody make more money altogether -- and that's the bottom line."

The Certification course begins with the study of a manual and other background materials provided by the Foundation. The literature concerns the historical, cultural and psychological background of fragrances, as well as the details behind product creation and the marketing and selling of these fragrance products.

In order to participate, applicants must have worked in fragrance sales for at least two years and must be recommended by his or her employer or by a specific vendor. A fee of $25 is required for admission to the course.

After learning the relevant materials, participants take the test, which is administered at a number of predetermined sites. The first examination took place in June in Atlanta, Minneapolis and New York City, with the next slated for April in an expanded number of cities.

According to Green, the first graduating class numbered 10 people, two of them men. Of the group, four work at Rich's in Atlanta, five in the Dayton's, Hudson's & Marshall Field's chain and one at Bloomingdale's in New York.Amar Amir-Fazli, who works at Dayton's in Rosedale, Minn., achieved the top score.

"We had a few fail, as well," Green said. "But they can take the test again without having to pay another fee."

After being certified, the "specialists" will receive a newsletter, as well as the latest reports and publications produced by the Foundation.

"Selling fragrance has become very different than it was in the past," noted Green. "It's much more technical these days. You have to sell fragrance the way you sell treatment and makeup. We want to help add a new level of professionalism."

She stressed that interest in the graduates on the part of fragrance manufacturers was essential to the viability of the training program.

"We're very pleased that a lot of vendors are very interested," Green said. "They know the people that are selling are the ones who really know what the customers want and don't want.

"I still like to go to the fragrance bar myself and listen to what people are saying -- what annoys them, and so forth," she added. "It's the same old story: Consumers are confused, and it really helps to have someone to sort it out for them."

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