ATLANTA -- According to retailers in the Southeast, some major changes are under way in the fragrance industry.
While stores reported moderate sales increases, retailers were talking about fragrance wardrobes, summer-only scents and shared fragrances - concepts that the merchants hoped would lure reluctant customers and translate into increased sales.
According to Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager at Parisian, Birmingham, Ala., the fragrance business is becoming more of a fashion business.
"We're trying to encourage the customer to build a fragrance wardrobe," he explained.
He pointed to summer-only fragrances as one way to do that, but said it was still too early to predict the success of Escada's Summer in Provence and Lancome's O de Lancome, two scents launched for this year's warmest months.
He also pointed to Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers as a great new fragrance concept.
"It's not just an issue of price, it's a matter of positioning. Everything they've done has been very targeted," he said.
Koch said Parisian has experienced double-digit increases in fragrance sales year to date, and attributed a good portion of the gains to the customer's increased demand for newness.
"I think we are getting into a period of time where women are beginning to understand the fashion cycle of fragrance," he said.
While Koch said customers were looking for newness, he felt there was also still a strong interest in the classics, as evidenced by Parisian's bestsellers list.
The store's hottest fragrances included Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds, Oscar de la Renta, Wings from Giorgio Beverly Hills, Calvin Klein's Escape and Givenchy's Amarige.
Products launched this spring that were doing well include Sublime by Jean Patou and Tendre Poison from Christian Dior, Koch added.
He said he saw the introduction of Calvin Klein's CK One, a unisex item due this fall, as a fascinating concept and a refreshing change.
"They have a great track record, and they understand the customer. I think in the Nineties, we all have to be willing and able to accept change," Koch noted.
Pat Joyce, divisional merchandise manager of Rich's, Atlanta, agreed that change was key in fragrance right now.
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