By  on June 3, 1994

NEW YORK -- Mark Kaplan, president of LaLoren Inc., hopes he has found another way to take advantage of what might be a department store lapse.

By capitalizing on a void in department stores four years ago, Kaplan pioneered the mass market bath explosion with his Sarah Michaels product line. He believes he can do the same for home fragrances, a $500 million market that many observers feel department stores have overlooked.

Until now, most home fragrances have been sold via specialty outlets. The mass market has provided an audience, but mostly for home fragrances sold in the housewares department -- air fresheners, for example.

With bath sales hitting a plateau, Kaplan thinks it is time for the home fragrance market to bloom. He expects retailers will give excess shelf space to his new, 48-stockkeeping-unit Sarah Michaels Home Fragrance Collection. Kaplan predicted first-year sales will hit $18 million.

"There's been a shakeout in bath, and many retailers are going with one or two lines," said Kaplan, whose company is based in Stoughton, Mass. "That's freed up space for home fragrance."

Industry experts agree the time is ripe for home fragrance sales.

"Consumers are ready to improve their environment with fragrances. It is a vast, untapped market," said Marilynn Lundy, designer and owner of Environmental Images by Marilynn Lundy in New York.

According to Kaplan, existing mass market home fragrance lines do not contain a full array of merchandise. Other lines in mass distribution include Sinclair and Valentine, Karen Carson and Ben Rickert.

Major fragrance firms such as Coty and Maybelline offer home fragrance items during holiday promotions. The Sarah Michaels collection features potpourri, candles, oils, home sprays, holiday cachepots and scented light bulb rings.

Prices range from $3.50 for a 0.5-oz. oil to $8 for the light bulb ring. Scents include Rose Mist, White Flower, Gardenia, Peach, Callas, Freesia, Apple Spice and Blue Spruce.

Annette Green, president of the Fragrance Foundation, said the mass market is ripe for home fragrance sales.

"There has been an upgrading in the products that are offered. Some items, like light bulbs with scents, are perfect for mass market distribution," she said.

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