By  on October 15, 2007

A stable of consistent performers.

Despite a rash of new fragrance launches in recent years, the Ralph Lauren Fragrance franchise has maintained a strong presence in the market's top department store rankings, often by introducing updated versions of its men's and women's classics.

As a partner and a beauty licensee since 1984, L'Oréal has launched 22 fragrances under the Ralph Lauren umbrella, which is divided into three main pillars of business: Polo, Romance and Ralph. The scents are sold in 150 countries.

"Ralph Lauren has had a driving role in shaping men's and women's lifestyle and fashion over the past 40 years," Laurent Attal, L'Oréal USA president and chief executive, said in a statement. "As part of this, he has been central in building and developing the aspirational spirit that is the essence of designer fragrances."

Although company executives wouldn't comment, industry sources estimate that last year's annual sales generated about $230 million at retail in the U.S. alone.

According to Karen Grant, senior beauty industry analyst of The NPD Group, despite the launches of more than 700 new prestige fragrances over the past three years, Ralph Lauren Fragrances remains one of the top five businesses in both the women's and men's prestige categories.

"In the men's market, the Polo fragrances resonate with consumers in every region of the country," said Grant, who cited the success of Polo Blue and Polo Black as the number-two and number-three men's fragrances last year in the South Atlantic states, respectively.

"Ralph Lauren continues to be major player in the fragrance arena, and new introductions are successfully driving growth in the category," said Micheline Jordaan, vice president, divisional merchandise manager of fragrances at Macy's East.

Elizabeth Morello, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances at Macy's West, added, "The brand is well positioned for continued growth since it is true to its roots. When launching new fragrances, the company always stays within its classic format — a big reason for their success."

According to Morello, the men's fragrance business is currently growing faster than the women's with the launches of Polo Black, Double Black and Explorer. However, there has been consistent growth with the women's Romance line. L'Oréal says there are plans to expand the women's portfolio next with another new fragrance.Retailers attribute the brand's success to its image and reputation.

"The Ralph Lauren lifestyle, portrayed so vividly in print, has become the image of luxury," said Jordaan. "This aspirational image, combined with a great product, strong packaging and a powerful and national scented marketing campaign, has driven its success."

Betsy Olum, senior vice president of marketing at Sephora, feels that the continued excitement around Ralph Lauren is generated by new product introductions.

At Sephora, Ralph Lauren ranks in the top 20 in men's and women's fragrances, said Olum. She noted that Romance is Sephora's strongest women's scent, while Polo Double Black ranks highest in the men's category. Recently launched Polo Explorer is already off to a good start.

Starting with the classic Polo Green fragrance, Ralph Lauren has built a franchise under its Polo brand. According to a recent August report from NPD, three Polo brands landed in the men's top 10 — Polo Double Black (number five), Polo Blue (number seven) and Polo Black (number 10), with the original classic Green placing in the top 20 at number 16.

Ralph Lauren also has a strong masterbrand with its Romance brands, which ranked as number five as a masterbrand and both the men's and women's scent ranking individually within the top 40, according to Grant.

"Romance remains a strong player, especially within the women's market, and will have leverage during the Valentine's Day holiday," said Grant. "Traditionally, Romance moves up a few rankings with its love-themed brand name. This past year, it actually shot up to number one for February with its 3.4-oz. Limited Edition Valentine's Day eau de toilette, which ranked as the brand's third top selling stockkeeping unit for the month and brought in almost 22 percent of the brand's sales."

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