NEW YORK — Kenzo is finally coming to America.
The Paris-based firm, whose three scents posted a global wholesale volume of around $50 million last year, will undertake a full-fledged U.S. fragrance launch for the first time in August with Parfum d’Ete.
Parfums Givenchy will handle U.S. distribution of Parfum d’Ete, a women’s scent launched in Europe in 1992. Givenchy will also be in charge of the upcoming introductions of Kenzo’s signature fragrance, which was launched in 1988; Kenzo Pour Homme, launched in 1991, and a third women’s scent slated for a European introduction later this year.
Givenchy and Kenzo are both owned by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“Kenzo is a major player in France and has become a solid niche marketer worldwide,” said Robert Brady, president of Parfums Givenchy’s U.S. branch. “But they also never felt they were quite ready to come here. It’s very expensive to get started in the U.S. because it’s such a large and diverse market, and it’s more difficult to make a typical customer profile.
“Givenchy has shown the ability to launch new fragrances well and profitably — Amarige was profitable from year one,” continued Brady. It was launched here in 1992.
“LVMH has the confidence to put the resources behind this venture,” he added.
Those resources are vast. LVMH acquired 25 percent of the Kenzo fashion and fragrance businesses last May, and took over the rest in June, paying a total of $82 million. The company also owns the Christian Lacroix and Christian Dior fashion and beauty businesses and acquired Guerlain SA last month for $343.5 million in stock. (See related story, page 8.)
“There is a lot of backing now, yes,” said Pierre Broc, president of Tamaris-Parfums Kenzo, the fragrance subsidiary of Kenzo SA. Broc reports to Jean Courtiere, president of Parfums Givenchy.
“But our main benefit will be from using Brady and his team because they have expertise in this market, which we did not have,” he said. “We’re going to use Givenchy’s sales force, but the rotators will be for Kenzo only.
“America is now the number one market in the world,” he added. “We have been a little bit terrified of the U.S. There are too many giants. What we have to do is create a nice little niche.”
The Kenzo fragrances have already been test-marketed in the U.S. in a small number of stores, including Jacqueline in San Francisco, Lily’s in Miami and Cosmetics Plus in Manhattan.
Due in part to a strong showing in the test stores, Parfum d’Ete was tapped to be the first nationwide introduction, despite being the newest scent in Kenzo’s stable.
“It’s also been doing substantially better than the signature fragrance on a worldwide basis,” Brady noted.
He maintained that even though the product’s name translates as “perfume of summer,” its sales will not be clustered during the warmer months.
“We like to think of it as an attitudinal fragrance, not seasonal,” Brady said.
The scent will be introduced in 100 to 150 doors, he said, with distribution kept small until the beginning of next year, when “we might add 300 to 500 doors.”
He said specific launch stores had not yet been settled upon.
“It will have to be quasi-exclusive simply due to the small number of doors,” Brady said. “In New York it will most likely be in an exclusive arrangement, and in L.A. it will probably be semi-exclusive, with two or three stores.
“With the price points we’re carrying, we have to keep it tight,” he continued. “When you get rarified, you have to limit your horizons.”
The Parfum d’Ete prices are slightly above those of Amarige, Brady noted, and are comparable to those of high-end scents such as Boucheron and Tiffany.
The brand will be launched with six fragrance items: a 7.5-ml. perfume for $75; a same-size refill for $52.50; a 50-ml. eau de toilette pour for $52.50; a 100-ml. version for $72.50; a 50-ml. eau de toilette spray for $55, and a 100-ml. version for $75.
A body lotion, at $34 for a 200-ml. bottle, will foreshadow the launch next year of a full bath and body line.
The scent itself, created by International Flavors and Fragrances, is described by the company as a green floral, and the packaging ties in with the theme. The translucent bottles are shaped like leaves, right down to the veins and a bead of glass meant to resemble a drop of dew.
As with Amarige, Brady said, promotional activity for Parfum d’Ete will focus on fragrance samples, with the bulk distributed through scented strips, remittance mailings, store catalogs and in-store personnel.
A new print advertising campaign for the scent will make its worldwide debut at the time of the American launch. The tagline will be “Kenzo captures summer in a perfume.”
Brady would not discuss Parfum d’Ete’s advertising budget, but he did say that “we’ll be working with similar resources to what Amarige launched with.”
Industry sources estimated a minimum of $3 million was spent to back up the Amarige introduction.
Brady also projected that Parfum d’Ete would post a volume similar to that achieved by Amarige in its first year. Sources estimate Amarige, which also had a limited distribution, surpassed its initial projection of $10 million wholesale, ringing up $12 million in sales.
“Kenzo and Givenchy are cut from the same cloth,” Brady said. “That’s why we’re using a lot of the same strategies we used with Amarige. If it worked once, why not use the same approach?”
Next in line for a U.S. launch, Brady said, would most likely be Kenzo Pour Homme next year, followed by either the signature fragrance or the yet-to-be-launched item.
While Kenzo’s strategy is mostly in place, Brady would not comment on rumors that LVMH will attempt to revive the Christian Lacroix fragrance business through Givenchy.
“Je ne sais pas,” he said, although he added that he thought LVMH is primed for some kind of further expansion.
“LVMH is going to be a very active player in this arena,” Brady said. “They like the cosmetics and fragrance business, and they understand the prestige market. The trend of late has been toward consolidation and contraction, but they tend to keep individual brand identities, which is good.
“LVMH is not done,” he added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they make some more moves soon.”