By  on June 10, 1994

NEW YORK -- Michael Stern still has the instinct.

The man who helped build the Oscar de la Renta business into a pinnacle of prestige fragrance marketing in the Eighties is back with a different task.

He is now attempting to rebuild the Gucci fragrance business in America after becoming the distributor of those brands last October. The Muelhens Group of Cologne, Germany, is Gucci's worldwide licensor.

The first thing Stern did was replace the brand's sales reps with three regional managers in Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. He also added 10 or 11 account executives.

Stern then began reshaping distribution and putting together a fall promotional program as the first step in building retail partnerships.

"My principal interest is in developing credibility," he said. "I plan to merchandise like I did in the old days with Oscar, with attention to detail and attention to the beauty advisers.

"It's a sleeping giant, in my opinion, and just needs to be cleaned up," Stern added, referring to his belief in the magic of the Gucci name.

He pointed out, however, that his work is cut out for him. "Retailers have been burned by mass distribution and there's been a lack of service," he noted.

But in recent months, Stern has gone from store to store, showing his fall program and talking service. "They understand what we are trying to do," he said, "and the attitude is much more favorable."

Three fragrances make up the Gucci stable: Gucci No. 3, a 1985 women's fragrance; Gucci Nobile, a 1988 men's scent, and Eau de Gucci, a lighter, more affordably priced women's item launched last September.

The Gucci No. 3 line consists of 15 items, with prices ranging from $36.50 for a 1-oz. eau de toilette splash to $228 for a 1-oz. perfume. Gucci Nobile has 10 items, ranging from a 1-oz. eau de toilette spray for $29.50 to a 4-oz. splash for $54.

The price points of Eau de Gucci's four fragrance items start at $30 for a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette splash and rise to $45 for a 3.4-oz. spray.

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