By  on April 15, 1994

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.

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