By  on February 11, 1994

PARIS -- Guerlain's plans to enter the small but promising children's fragrance market in April has left its competitors wondering whether the French perfume giant will play Fairy Godmother or Big Bad Wolf.

With the introduction of Petit Guerlain, the company will become the first major prestige fragrance house to launch a scent for kids under its own name. As a result, the company will either gobble up share of a fledgling market from other manufacturers or provide the jolt the industry has been looking for since the mid-Eighties, when fragrance marketers first targeted the 10-and-under set.

Bernard Fornas, Guerlain's international marketing director, believes there's plenty of room for growth. "The [adult] fragrance market is in a traffic jam," he said. "Because competition in the children's market is not as great, market leadership is possible quickly.

"Also, it is a niche market, which means you don't compete against your existing lines," he added. "There will be no risk of cannibalizing Shalimar."

Petit Guerlain will be available in both a non-alcohol version for infants and an eau de toilette for children. It will make its debut April 4 in Guerlain's standard European distribution of 12,000 doors and several weeks later in the Far East.

Currently, Tartine et Chocolat, with worldwide sales last year of $8.5 million (50 million French francs), is the European market leader. The line, made by Parfums Givenchy under license from the French children's apparel firm, bowed in 1987 in France.

Fornas declined to reveal sales objectives, but vowed Petit Guerlain would top Tartine's sales in 1994. He also declined to discuss his promotional budget, saying only that there would be "substantial" press campaigns.

Its competitors so far have not advertised extensively.

Although Givenchy distributes Tartine et Chocolat in a handful of European countries -- and several Mediterranean cultures have long traditions of dousing youngsters with cologne after baths to ward off disease -- there's wide agreement that France is the most developed market for children's scents.

Last year, sales in this category in France totaled $21.2 million (125 million francs) with more than half in selective distribution. Tartine et Chocolat claims 60 percent market share, or roughly $6.5 million. That share, however, is likely to change with the entry of Guerlain.

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