SEATTLE -- Pacific Northwest retailers have been recording robust men's fragrance increases and expect strong sales through the rest of the year.
At The Bon Marche, the Seattle-based division of Federated Department Stores, volume in the men's fragrance category is up by "strong double digits," according to Diane Gates, divisional merchandise manager.
"[Ralph Lauren's] Polo Sport was single-handedly the biggest reason" for that increase, said Gates. "We started off the season [at Valentine's Day] very strong with the launch of Polo Sport, which was by far the largest men's fragrance launch we have ever had in terms of sales volume."
Following a pre-sale advertising campaign in January, The Bon set up lavish in-store Polo Sport displays on Feb. 17 at the downtown flagship store.
The displays included an eight-story banner, which draped one side of the building. An in-store awning and carpet connected the men's fragrance bay with the nearby men's furnishings area. The visuals ran for two weeks.
Besides Polo Sport, The Bon has also seen strong results from several other launches, including Lancaster's Zino Davidoff, Calvin Klein's Escape for Men, Minotaure by Paloma Picasso and InsensÄ by Givenchy.
Gates noted that currently, The Bon's top-selling men's fragrances, in no particular order, are Aramis, Lancaster's Cool Water, Polo Sport, Klein's Escape, Eternity and Obsession for Men, Drakkar Noir, Lancaster's Joop, Lauren's Safari for Men and Paul Sebastian.
"That group hasn't changed a whole lot, except for Polo Sport. It's just shifted a little bit," said Gates.
In May, The Bon will be launching XS by Paco Rabanne.
Consumer buying trends, according to Gates, have not changed that much.
"The only thing we can really say is that there is a slight trend directed toward more green fragrances; something a little less spicy, a little more natural," she said.
Looking ahead, Gates expected to have "a terrific Father's Day. We think it will be good for the company overall. We're looking for a single-digit increase. We bought a little heavier for Father's Day than we did last year. It's not a huge holiday, but it is significant."The Bon will not make any major changes in its Father's Day promotions, just add to them, said Gates. "We are adding corporate catalogs that will drop early in June."
Still, Father's Day promotions this year "are a lot stronger than last year," said Gates. "Gifts-with-purchase do extremely well at Father's Day."
She cited the strong potential for gift duffel bags from several vendors, including Drakkar Noir, Polo and Polo Sport.
For fall, Gates expects "high single-digit increases," based on the continuing strength of existing lines, along with several new launches: Horizon by Guy Laroche, Boss Elements by Hugo Boss and Wings for Men by Giorgio Beverly Hills.
Sales of skin products at The Bon Marche are getting a boost from male consumers' greater awareness of their benefits, Gates said, noting Aramis' Lift Off anti-aging item represents about 30 percent of The Bon's overall Aramis business.
"People are talking about it," said Gates. "As long as Aramis and the retailers market the product directly to men, rather than directing it to women, there will be a good chance to speak to those men [about the benefits of the products].
"Day in and day out, when they come up to the counter and the fragrance bar, we talk to them about Lift Off," she continued. "I know that Aramis has a strong marketing campaign for fall on this product. We are looking at testing some radio directed toward men, but we haven't picked the dates yet."
Polo Sport's ancillary skin care products are also doing well at The Bon.
"The hair-and-body wash, hair gel and lip balm have been very strong. We've been really quite surprised by how strong they have been," she said.
At The Bay, which has 13 stores in British Columbia, men's fragrances are up 18 percent over last year's sales, according to Wayne Peterson, buyer of prestige fragrances for the Toronto-based chain.
The most recent top-performing launches include Escape for Men, Minotaure, Tsumura's Santa Fe and InsensÄ.
Currently, The Bay's best-selling men's lines are Escape, Eternity and Obsession for Men, Safari for Men, Polo, Cool Water, Sung Homme, Van Cleef & Arpels' Tsar and Drakkar Noir.These lines "are gaining momentum as we speak," said Peterson.
He credited vendors with sparking consumer interest by offering gift-with-purchase "power promotions that are not gimmick-oriented; they are product oriented -- either samples or bags. The customers like that approach."
Peterson said he has seen consumers moving toward fragrances that feature "marine notes. Freshness is what customers want."
As an example, he cited Eau de Rochas.
"It's very fresh and lemon-scented," he said. "People smell it and they feel good. Vendors that offer the traditional heavier men's scents are not doing as well."
He expected The Bay to maintain its strong men's performance through Father's Day, which will be heavily promotional with gift-with-purchase duffel bags, sport bags and knapsacks.
"There is much more value this year in Father's Day scents than last year," said Peterson. "We told Canadian manufacturers that they have to be competitive this year. Another baseball cap is just not going to do it."
This spring, The Bay is launching XS in May and Polo Sport in June.
"We are anticipating that Polo Sport will be the big one. We are very excited about it," said Peterson.
For fall, The Bay will add a big lineup of new fragrances, including Nicole Miller, 360í for Men by Perry Ellis, Wings for Men, Halston Borghese's Catalyst for Men and Boss Elements.
"We see a revitalization of our overall Boss business," said Peterson. "I've seen Boss Elements and I'm very excited about it. We will also relaunch Boss Sport and Boss classic. And we are excited about the new Klein fragrance."
Nevertheless, Peterson is cautious about fall business. "We're coming off last year, when we had two big launches, Escape for Men and Safari for Men. Everybody wants to see bigger and bigger numbers, but in a developed business, it's tough. If we could hit 10 percent, we would be doing great."
Peterson said that Aramis's Lift Off is not yet available in Canada -- "much to our disappointment."
At Troutman's Emporium, an independent department store chain based in Eugene, Ore., the men's fragrance business is seeing robust double-digit increases, according to Carvel Zwingle, senior vice president and general merchandise manager.Elizabeth Taylor's Passion for Men, Halston and Liz Claiborne for Men are all showing strong results.
On the other side, Chanel Pour Monsieur is Troutman's only men's fragrance that is performing under last year's level.
"Up until recently, men's fragrance has been a business that we neglected," said Zwingle. "Our men's apparel business is very strong and is a high contributor to the company. We've just begun to pay attention to men's fragrance and we've been pleased with the results."
Regarding Father's Day, Zwingle said, "I see no reason why Father's Day business shouldn't be even better than last year. The performance trend of our total store business has been very good this spring.
"I would expect double digits out of Father's Day, based on our increased emphasis on that category and the customer's response to it," he added. "We are not doing any major promotions, but we will do some things for men's fragrance in our Father's Day catalog."
For spring, Troutman's will add Cassini for Men. The fall introduction lineup is not yet set.
None of the current lines at Troutman's includes a skin care line, but Zwingle said the chain will explore that category in the future.
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