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Men’s Flexes Muscles in Fragrance Fray

NEW YORK -- The launch of CK One this fall is one more example of the growing masculinity of the fragrance market.<BR><BR>The scent, from industry powerhouse Calvin Klein Cosmetics, is one of this season's major introductions, and it will be aimed at...

NEW YORK — The launch of CK One this fall is one more example of the growing masculinity of the fragrance market.

The scent, from industry powerhouse Calvin Klein Cosmetics, is one of this season’s major introductions, and it will be aimed at men as well as women.

Although the men’s fragrance category still has a long way to go before it approaches the market share of the women’s, retailers say men’s growth has outpaced women’s for several years.

One sign of the trend is this year’s department store fragrance launch schedule: In spite of the fact that the men’s category in the U.S. is about half as big as the women’s, prestige companies are introducing roughly the same number of major men’s scents as women’s.

According to industry estimates, the total U.S. women’s fragrance market — as measured in manufacturer’s shipments — was nearly twice the size of the men’s market for 1993 in terms of dollars, or $1.9 billion versus just over $1 billion. But that dominance was due primarily to the higher price structure of women’s fragrances.

In terms of units shipped, the two markets are much closer together. The women’s market generated sales of 155 million packages, according to sources, while the men’s totaled 140 million packages.

“I think 10 years ago the disparity was far greater,” said Robert A. Nielsen, president of Aramis Inc. He attributed the increased parity within the industry to increased maturity and sophistication of men in their buying habits.

“Men have become more confident in shopping for themselves,” he said. “They have no problem going in and buying a deodorant or spray or aftershave in a department store.”

Nielsen quoted U.S. Census figures in noting that today there are 30 million men aged 35 to 55, and by the turn of the century there will be 40 million. Estimates vary from company to company on how much of men’s fragrance purchasing is actually done by men, since individual companies do their own market research.

Nielsen estimated that 40 percent of men’s fragrances are bought by men today, compared with only 15 percent four or five years ago.

The market has also changed in that some of this year’s biggest-volume launches — and some of the most creative — are actually men’s.

“For spring, the most exciting thing by a long shot was [Ralph Lauren’s] Polo Sport,” said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager at Dayton’s, Hudson’s & Marshall Field’s. Burke added that the season was the first in his memory in which the top men’s launch was bigger than the best women’s introduction.

“The men’s market has come of age — all the things we predicted 150 years ago have happened,” said Jack Wiswall, senior vice president and general manager of the Ralph Lauren Fragrances division of Cosmair.

Wiswall said that, as forecast, men have begun to “wardrobe” their fragrances and have also caught on to skin care, such as Polo Sport’s Skin Fitness Collection. Both trends, he said, are contributing to the increased use of fragrance.

“It’s a very receptive market at the moment,” he said, noting that the men’s category industrywide had sales gains of 18 to 24 percent in the spring season, while women’s trailed with increases of only 4 to 7 percent.

The men’s business has been growing faster than women’s for 10 years, according to Burke. “Men’s manufacturers have recognized the need to be truly creative and distinctive as a way to rise above the clutter of what’s already at the counter,” he said, noting that many companies are trying to follow in the trend-setting footsteps of Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.

In addition to Polo Sport, 1994 men’s launches that retailers cited as having big potential include Cosmair’s Horizon by Guy Laroche, Halston’s Catalyst for Men, Giorgio Beverly Hills’ Wings for Men, Elements from Hugo Boss, Havana from Aramis, DK Men from Donna Karan and Nicole Miller for Men.

Retailers also said that Calvin Klein’s CK One, the designer’s “shared” fragrance, will have a significant impact on the men’s business as well as the women’s.

Michelle Williams, divisional merchandise manager at Federated Merchandising, said her top five is relatively static, with Polo Sport the most recent entry. The other Lauren scents (Safari and Polo), Calvin Klein’s Obsession, Eternity and Escape for Men, Cool Water, Drakkar Noir, Aramis and Paul Sebastian together do 35 to 40 percent of Federated’s men’s fragrance sales, she said.

But, Williams added, “There’s still men’s business to do in those smaller companies. Men’s fragrance has become more competitive by virtue of how many men’s brands are being introduced and having some success.”

Wings for Men, Horizon and Elements each has a shot at making the top 12 at Federated this fall, she said. She added that the men’s business has come alive in the last five to seven years as companies have begun to assign men’s launches big ad budgets.

“We are getting behind it because as the major cosmetics companies get behind the men’s business — Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Cosmair European, Aramis — and they start to find new products and invest in them, we do also,” she said.

“We’ve had men’s introductions that are very comparable to women’s,” Williams continued, pointing to, in terms of backing and volume, Escape for Men, Safari for Men and Polo Sport.

Robert Cassou, senior vice president and general manager of the European Designer Fragrances division of Cosmair, said the men’s market is a place of much greater competition now than a few years ago, when companies could quickly gain market share.

“The top 10 men’s brands are more solid than they were three or four years ago and less likely to be replaced,” said Cassou, who is in the middle of launching Horizon. “The marketplace was easier to dominate than the women’s. That’s really changing. You have more serious players. I don’t think there is room right now for niche players in the men’s market.” Apart from strong new launches, retailers and manufacturers agreed that much of the excitement in the men’s category has its roots in the shift toward men buying fragrance for themselves.

“Where we used to say 70 percent of all purchases were made by women, part of the incremental business is that men are more aggressive about self-purchasing,” said Sherry Baker, president of Halston-Borghese North America, adding that the male-female split now is closer to 50-50.

“[Men] are less inhibited,” Baker continued. “They really do use fragrance as an accessory the way women do, and they don’t wait to get it as a gift.”

As more men become purchasers, Baker said, the category will become more fluid. “I think men are going to experiment,” she said.

Halston-Borghese is so confident that men are taking an interest in fragrance and buying it for themselves that the company opted to advertise Catalyst for Men in men’s magazines only for the first two months of its launch.

Baker said advertising is a crucial method of getting men to notice Catalyst’s unique packaging, which resembles a chemistry lab’s beakers and test tubes. Women, on the other hand, are more attuned to what’s going on at the fragrance counters.

“I think I’ll get her by the in-store visuals and sampling,” Baker said.

Wiswall said ad placement has been a major part of the shift in the men’s business.

“We’re certainly changing the magazines we’re going into,” Wiswall said. “Historically, when we launched a men’s fragrance, we’d dip our toes in men’s magazines, but the primary advertising was in women’s magazines.”

Now, he said, Lauren runs print ads in all the key men’s publications and buys TV time in the early morning and during news programs, when men are more likely to watch.

Wiswall said that it is prudent to reach out to men because even when they are not actually purchasing the products in person, they are making the decisions.

John Junas, director of marketing for fragrance and the Skin Supplies for Men brand at Clinique, said the growth in the men’s treatment business is rubbing off on fragrance.

When men come to the counter to buy Turnaround Lotion and the rest of the Skin Supplies line, he said, salespeople can introduce them to the company’s new scent Chemistry as an additional grooming step.

“It’s as basic to his routine as shaving and combing his hair,” Junas said. “We’re looking at it more from a treatment point of view.”

In developing the fragrance, Junas said the company was careful to stick to Clinique’s laboratory image, choosing, for example, a “masculine, no-nonsense name” in Chemistry.

Junas said he expects about 60 percent of Chemistry purchasers to be men — about the same proportion as with Skin Supplies. With that in mind, Clinique initially is running its estimated $500,000 print campaign in men’s and dual-audience magazines only.

The excitement in the men’s market might be partly cyclical, those in the industry cautioned, recalling last year’s avalanche of roughly 40 women’s launches. But manufacturers said it is still easier to break through into the men’s market.

“The challenge in the women’s market, being so cluttered and having such a churning of newness, is that you have to be a lot more careful in plotting a course,” Sherry Baker said. “To some degree, the men’s market might be more attractive from a business standpoint.”

Manufacturers and retailers are quick to point out, though, that this year’s action on the men’s side does not mean that they are forsaking women’s.

Jack Wiswall noted that since Ralph Lauren has become more of a force in men’s fragrances than in women’s, the company is turning its attention to the substantial female market with a 1995 women’s launch in development.

“Our challenge now is to get as strong in women’s as we are in men’s,” he said.

Burke of DH & Field’s said that the season has its share of promising women’s launches, including Jaòpur from Boucheron, Karl Lagerfeld’s Sun Moon Stars and Chopard’s Casmir.

And the men’s business is not without its problems. Many complain that the giveaway mind-set has taken over the business.

“I think we have gone over the top of combining men’s fragrance with an item, whether it’s a bag or an umbrella,” Baker said. “You reach the point when you either demean the product, which is damaging, or you lose focus.”

But Wiswall said promotions are a necessary “part of the mix” in the men’s business. Williams concurred, noting that a men’s fragrance needs to be promotional within six months of its launch.

“I don’t think the consumer is necessarily aware of all the newness in the men’s business,” Williams said. “In order to capture their attention, you need to be promotional.”

Nor is everyone enamored of the raw power of the top men’s brands. Robert Brady, president of Parfums Givenchy, asserted that the women’s market offers more latitude for new product entries.

He recalled figures showing that in 1993, the top 15 men’s brands did 63 percent of the total men’s volume and that those brands spent 80 percent of the market’s promotional support. In sharp contrast, the top 15 women’s brands represented 37 to 39 percent of total volume and made 71 percent of market expenditures.

“In the ladies’ market, you have more fragrance niches and a greater possibility of entrance,” Brady said. “The men’s market is more concentrated and more focused. After the top 15, everyone is fighting for last place.”

Aramis’s Nielsen is heartened by the growing sophistication of men, but he also pointed out that the men’s fragrance industry is still struggling to recover from a major self-inflicted wound.

“At some point in the life of Aramis and other men’s brands, the industry dismantled demonstration — maybe 10, 12 or 15 years ago. Men’s companies no longer provided demonstration like women’s brands,” he said, noting it was a key factor in slowing the development of the men’s market. That setback was exacerbated when the department store industry entered the shakeout of the late Eighties and fired even more personnel at the men’s bar.

Nielsen said manufacturers have tried to stimulate the business by investing money in blockbuster launches. But many of those launches are unable to hold their initial volumes for more than a year or two without providing demonstration and service at the counter to explain and push the product.

Aramis, which eliminated virtually all its gift-with-purchase and purchase-with-purchase promotions because the company felt there was more attention on the giveaways than the products, has instead been building up its staff of selling specialists in the stores. The company now employs 1,200, and Nielsen expects the figure to rise to 1,500 next year.

While Aramis is relying more on salespeople, Calvin Klein is moving away from them, having devised a self-service, open-sell strategy for CK One.

Federated is putting CK One in young men’s areas as well as in high-traffic spots on the main floor, according to Williams, who said the open-sell fixtures worked very well with Polo Sport.

At DH & Field’s, Burke said he is “just excited beyond words about [CK One]. It’s so completely on target with today’s customer. It’s what we all need: truly different, a little controversial — the sort of thing that gets people talking.”

Burke said men are ready for a shared fragrance. “I think they’re going to buy it because Calvin says it’s okay and he not only says it’s okay, but he says it’s the thing to do. His authority is just so amazing.”

Sheila Hewett, vice president of marketing and advertising at Calvin Klein, agreed that the advent of CK One could strengthen the masculine accent of the fragrance market because it is a major introduction that is aimed at men as much as women.

“The packaging and bottle are designed to appeal to men,” she said. “It’s not an overtly feminine bottle.”

In the past, Klein’s master brand system has produced men’s fragrances that generate larger volumes than those of their corresponding women’s scents.

“We have noticed that fragrance purchasing habits have changed during the last couple of years,” Hewett said, referring to the findings of focus group studies. “Men have been purchasing fragrances more for themselves, and there has been a tremendous increase in women buying more men’s fragrances for themselves.”

She noted that the new women’s fragrances have been mainly of the floral and fruity variety, and if a woman is looking for oriental or sandalwood notes, they are more available in the men’s category.

“The men’s business is generally growing at a faster pace than women’s, but the base is smaller,” Hewett said, adding that the women’s category, with its constant proliferation of launches, remains the more competitive market, simply because of the large number of introductions.

But the men’s brands tend to have more staying power. “The men’s arena has more customer loyalty,” she said. “Once you break into that category of great awareness, you’ll stay there. Women will go after assortment and fragrance newness.”

That is evidenced in the growth and staying power of the predominant large-volume brands. Hewett noted that previously, “the top five was the top of the cliff and the rest were dropoffs. Now I’d say it’s now the top eight.”