By  on March 25, 1994

NEW YORK -- Mass market retailers have been grumbling lately when presented with a bevy of new products.

Space is at a premium, they've been saying, and it's costly to reset the shelves to make room for a range of introductions.

But that's not the case with the host of new fragrances due in 1994. After a four-year dearth of launches in the mass arena, buyers are welcoming the burst of activity.

Among this year's launches are L'Oreal's V by Vanderbilt, Procter & Gamble's Navy White, Lady in Red's Beautiful Lady, Revlon's Fire & Ice, a Bonjour fragrance and two unnamed scents from Coty.

Even with this stepped-up schedule, retailers wish there were more new entries to help spark sales, which have been relatively quiet.

"We need a recommitment by major manufacturers to put the pizzazz back into advertising and product launches," said Steve Lubin, divisional merchandise manager for Walgreen Co. in Deerfield, Ill.

Speaking at a Fragrance Foundation dinner in January, J.C. Penney's merchandise manager for cosmetics Ann Gravseth encouraged fragrance marketers to "give the top sellers more competition."

Manufacturers, however, continue to bemoan the exorbitant cost of launching a new fragrance. The stakes are high -- retailers concurred they would ideally like to see spending of well over $10 million -- and the risks are many.

Buyers are clamoring for more mass market scents in the wake of a good, but not great, Christmas where they started to see the erosion of some of the allure of diverted prestige brands.

Although some chains had a terrific year because it was the first time they added upscale fragrances, most mass market outlets have carried prestige products for at least three years and were not able to enjoy the incremental sales increases.

Because new contenders like specialty stores T.J. Maxx and Marshall's entered the designer fragrance fray last Christmas, the pie was merely broken up into even more pieces, according to Lubin at Walgreens.

"Now I know how many department store retailers felt when we entered the market," said Lubin.

Mass merchants were also pressed to compete with extremely strong value pricing at department stores during Christmas 1993.

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