By  on June 17, 1994

PORTO CERVO, Sardinia -- With the luxurious Costa Smeralda resort area as a backdrop and two days of circus-like spectacle as a vehicle, the Lancaster Group unveiled plans for its next two fragrance launches here last weekend.

The products, scheduled to bow throughout most of Europe in September, are a women's scent, Sculpture from Nikos Parfums, and a men's item, Heaven from Parfums Chopard.

"These two launches are important to Lancaster because they are the first international launches we've done," said Michael Fuerster, executive vice president of Lancaster Group Worldwide, who is responsible for much of the company's product development.

"Previously, when we launched, we concentrated [first] on German-speaking markets," he said.

Although the two scents won't make Lancaster number one in the international market, according to Peter Harf, the chief executive officer of Lancaster Group Worldwide, they are intended to make sure Lancaster can "play an important role in the beauty business."

To that end, Lancaster plans to throw its full weight behind the brands. To get the program started, the scents were introduced to about 200 journalists who were invited for two all-expense-paid days filled with entertainments as diverse as lavish dinners, trapeze acts and ballet. WWD, as is its policy, paid its own way.

Initially, Lancaster plans to spend around $30 million on advertising and promotional support for each brand.

The company will spend at least another $30 million on each product for the first year following the launch period.

"That seems to be what you need to spend these days," Harf said, adding that the budget will be similar when the scents hit additional markets next year.

Each brand will be promoted with a print ad campaign, scheduled to appear in roughly 50 European publications, as well as a commercial intended for both TV and movie houses.

Some form of scent inserts will be used, Fuerster said.

While Harf declined to give precise volume projections, he said the two new fragrances will be "successful" if they achieve a worldwide wholesale volume of $70 million to $80 million apiece within two or three years.Both scents will begin shipping to European stores in September, with a rollout through October. The products are scheduled to reach 2,300 doors in Germany and 1,500 in France, and will be in 500 to 600 doors in smaller markets such as the U.K., Harf said.

In 1995, Heaven and Sculpture will enter what Harf called "department store markets" -- the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. .

Harf said he wasn't keen on exclusive arrangements in any of these markets.

Exclusivity can have two major drawbacks, Harf said: "You do a significant amount of spending up front for a small number of doors. It also can break the momentum of a launch."

He said he believes in a fast and deep rollout; backing a brand with a powerful image and spending, recouping the financial investment as quickly as possible and then reinvesting.

"The idea of a slow rollout is probably over," Harf said.

He noted that with these two brands, Lancaster is following its strategy of building big equity out of small names, and letting the fragrance build the name's cachet, rather than vice versa.

For example, the company has achieved success with the Cool Water and Zino men's fragrances by Davidoff, a previously little-known Swiss brand. Each item has a volume of well over $20 million in the U.S., according to industry estimates.

"That's what distinguishes us in the international market," explained Fuerster, who said Lancaster's strategy gives it more room for creativity.

Sculpture is the first scent from Paris-based Greek designer Nikos Apostolopulos. A former international lawyer, he launched his first line of men's underwear in 1985. He then expanded to women's lingerie and swimwear, along with sportswear for both men and women.

But Nikos is still a small player in the fashion world; many of the journalists at the Sardinian junket had never heard of him.

Still, that doesn't faze Fuerster.

"When we launched Cool Water, Davidoff had under 4 percent brand awareness in Germany. Now, it has over 60 percent awareness," Fuerster explained.

The scent was developed by Fuerster and the perfumer Jean-Francois Latty of Takasago Europe.According to Lancaster, the top note is composed of bergamot and verbena, with middle notes of rose absolut, jasmine and violet and a base note of tonka beans, orris, sandalwood and vanilla.

Nikos said the scent reminded him of his family home on Patras, Greece. "I always smelled jasmine outside the house," he said.

The fragrance will be sold in a 10-ml. perfume for $24 (40 marks); a 30-ml. eau de toilette for $33 (54 marks); a 50-ml. eau de toilette for $49 (79 marks); a 100-ml. eau de toilette for $60 (99 marks) and a 100-ml. deodorant for $18 (29 marks).

Lancaster's other new project, Heaven, will be Parfums Chopard's second scent. Casmir, a women's fragrance, was launched in 1990.

The new scent is described by the company as a "citrus-amber." It was created by Michel Almairac of Creations Aromatiques, in collaboration with Fuerster.

Caroline Scheufele, the creative director of her family's company, Chopard, said that as Chopard opens more of its own stores, it needs to expand its offerings outside of luxury jewelry and watches.

Chopard already has silk scarves and a line of silver accessories, and Casmir, a men's scent, fills out the offerings, she said, adding that other Chopard perfumes are likely to follow.

Heaven is priced 15 percent higher than Cool Water, according to Julie McGyver, vice president of marketing for Parfums Chopard.

The line includes eau de toilette splashes in 50-ml. and 100-ml. sizes, which will retail for $27 and $42 (45 and 69 marks), respectively. A 50-ml. eau de toilette will sell for $42 (69 marks) and a 100-ml. version, for $60 (99 marks).

A 200-ml. shower gel will sell for $17 (29 marks); a 75-ml. natural deodorant spray, for $17 (29 marks), and a 30-ml. promotional eau de toilette, for $24 (39 marks).

Although Lancaster continues to take risks on relatively unknown names, Harf maintained that since the company is part of the privately held consumer products giant Benckiser, it can take risks that public companies cannot."These are soft assets. Building a perfume is not like building a steel plant," Harf said. "Here, if you make a mistake, you can invest differently and change [direction] very fast.

"It's not like roulette," he added. "It's more like poker. There's a lot of chance, but if you know when it's best to fold or bet, you can win."

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