CHICAGO -- Men's fragrances are having a blockbuster season in the Midwest, with retailers reporting sales gains in the double-digit percentage range.
New products like Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren and Escape for Men by Calvin Klein are helping to drive sales, stores said, but business is also strong with more established fragrances.
A better assortment of gift-with-purchase promotions has also helped fuel growth, retailers said, and men are becoming increasingly confident about making their own fragrance purchases.
"We're getting good growth from existing brands, but excitement and newness is helping drive the business," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager, Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's.
"Polo Sport turned out to be a major-league home run," Burke said. The Minneapolis-based department store chain launched the fragrance in March.
Other strong sellers, Burke noted, include XS by Paco Rabanne and InsensÄ by Givenchy, both launched earlier this year, as well as Lancaster's Zino Davidoff and Escape for Men.
DH/Field's is launching Egoiste Platinum by Chanel later this spring, Burke added.
Year-to-date sales are up by a low-double-digit percentage, Burke said, noting that business has been strong throughout the store.
Another strong seller is Aramis's new alpha-hydroxy acid-based anti-ager, sunscreen and moisturizing product for men, Lift Off. Burke called the item "revolutionary."
"Men haven't really taken treatment seriously before," Burke said. "In order to make the move into treatment, men need a reason and [Lift Off] is it."
Burke said that based on the long-lasting success of women's alpha-hydroxy products, Lift Off should be able to sustain its performance over the long haul.
He also noted a slight change in buying habits: "Historically, women have been the dominant purchasers [of men's fragrance], but I get a sense that progressively more men are buying their own."
He was optimistic that men's toiletries will continue to do well.
"It looks like it will be a very good season," he said.
Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott & Co. is also having a strong men's fragrance season, with year-to-date sales up by more than 30 percent, according to Nancy Schmidt, divisional merchandise manager.She added that she expects double-digit increases to continue through the year.
The chain's top five sellers, in no particular order, are Lancaster's Cool Water by Davidoff, Cosmair's Drakkar Noir and Calvin Klein's men's versions of Eternity, Obsession and Escape.
While newness is driving the business, Schmidt also noted the importance of gwp's, which she said have been much better this year in incorporating more product components in substantial sizes.
She cited a five-piece gwp from Eternity for Men as one shining example.
Schmidt said the timing of gwp's is also important for maximizing sales, both from the store perspective and for Carson's promotional books.
The store was in a good stock position over Valentine's Day, which contributed to a healthy business, she said.
Recent launches at Carson's have included Mediterraneum from Vepro, launched in February with a personal appearance by hunky romance-novel heartthrob Fabio, and Minotaure by Paloma Picasso.
The store is launching XS by Paco Rabanne in May, she said, adding that Aramis's Lift Off has also been doing well.
"It's a terrific product. Even women are buying it because it combines a moisturizer, sunscreen and fruit acids," she said.
Schmidt also noted that more men are shopping for men's fragrances in Carson's larger doors.
Jacobson Stores Inc., based in Jackson, Mich., is experiencing gains in the mid-single digits with the men's category, according to Irene Price, cosmetics and fragrance buyer.
She said strong gwp's are driving the business, citing as examples a travel bag with a selection of products from Cool Water and a set of cocktail glasses from Polo by Ralph Lauren.
Besides Polo and Cool Water, other top sellers at Jacobson's are Klein's Obsession for Men and Eternity for Men, and the Aramis line of fragrances, Price said.
Jacobson's launched Vendetta Pour Homme by Valentino late last year, which has also done well, she noted.
This season's major launch will be Klein's Escape for Men, which is being launched in mid-April with a lot of in-store visuals, modeling and sampling and extensive staff training, Price said.
The addition of the brand should help push the department's sales gains into the high single digits for fall, she added.Price also said she had noticed a major change in the number of men buying fragrance for themselves.
She said the ratio of women to men shopping for men's fragrances had changed from about 65 percent women/35 percent men to around 50/50 in the past few years.
The men's fragrance business is about 10 percent ahead of last year at Halls Merchandising Inc., Kansas City, said Cheryl Holland, vice president and merchandise manager.
She said she expects to maintain the increase for the year.
"When you add new lines, sales jump ahead, but we still do well with the classics like the Calvins, Ralph Lauren and Boucheron," Holland said. "The men's business is also becoming more promotional."
She noted that while gwp's and pwp's are important in women's fragrance, the business is being driven more by classics and exclusives. Gifts are more important in the men's business, she said.
The top sellers at Hall's are Ungaro I and II for Men, Minotaure, InsensÄ by Givenchy and Jil Sander's Feeling Man, distributed by Lancaster.
Also performing well are Calvin Klein's trio, Globe by Patou, Boucheron, Cool Water and Safari for Men by Ralph Lauren.
The store will launch XS by Paco Rabanne in May.
In a move away from the established names in the men's fragrance business, Halls is planning to launch an English line of men's and women's fragrance and bath products called Molton Brown.
"It's understated, with a real quality look," Price said.
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