NEW YORK -- While the mass fragrance market has been lackluster lately, scented products of a different sort are selling quite well.
"Fragrance is probably the single motivating factor behind impulse purchases such as bath and body products," said Susan Swartz, senior cosmetics and fragrance buyer at I Got It At Gary's, Eagleville, Pa.
"It certainly overshadows any therapeutic benefits a product may have," she added. "We have some bath products that are really great for you, but they're slow sellers because they don't smell great."
According to a survey of retailers and manufacturers, fragrances with fruity notes are the fastest sellers, with light florals and ozonic blends coming in second.
"We tend to do better with lighter fragrances because people layer their bath and body products," said Gina Russo, cosmetics and fragrance buyer for The Rx Place in New York. "If you are going to use a shower gel, followed by a scented lotion and body powder, you certainly don't want to use a strong or overly sweet-smelling product. It would be overpowering.
"Lighter florals tend to appeal to a slightly older customer and are more of a gift-giving item," she continued. "Things like strawberry or raspberry tend to be more for everyday usage for a younger consumer."
"Fruity fragrances are something the customer can relate to for everyday usage," agreed Marty Cucinotta, health and beauty aids buyer for Revco of Twinsburg, Ohio.
"Fruit scents are not as distant as some of the other fragrances out there. I think aromatherapy is a limited market. Not everyone knows what it is or is familiar with the fragrances. Everyone knows what fruit looks and smells like."
Fragrance consultant Ann Gottlieb said the direction in bath and body has affected fine fragrance trends in department stores.
"We are seeing fragrances with a fair amount of fruitiness, such as Lancome's Tresor, becoming enormously popular with prestige customers," she said. "The edible part of it is a big issue. There is strong link between the olfactory sense and the taste buds.
"Fruity scents also make it more fun to bathe, since they are less serious than traditional scents," she added. "Since the fragrances are so light, people are much more concerned with the instant gratification of a bath product, rather than its lingering impression. Fruitier scents give more of an initial, bright burst than some of the others. That is what people want in bath products."But of all the fruits, at the moment peaches seems to be the fairest. It is the top-selling flavor in the majority of bath and body brands on the market, including Sarah Michaels from LaLoren and Yardley Bath Shoppe. Among retailers, it tops the list at the Jack Eckerd Corp. of Clearwater, Fla., Target of Minneapolis, and Rx Place, among others.
The popularity of Peach Elegance, Yardley's lone fruity scent and its top-selling flavor, prompted the company to launch an additional fruit line, Raspberry Bouquet, last February.
"Fruity florals remain the strongest-selling fragrances in the industry," said Dan Petchers, director of marketing for Yardley.
While LaLoren's peach is also its best-selling stockkeeping unit, its newest scents will take a different direction.
"Right behind peach are our rose and gardenia scents," said Mark Kaplan, president. "We thought that since we were doing so well with white flowers, we would add freesia and calla lily in March. We find that people like to use Sarah Michaels for gift-giving, and that florals do the best for that purpose."
In addition to traditional fruit flavors, like peach and strawberry, Gottlieb noted that more exotic fruity scents are on the rise.
"I am noticing more sophisticated olfactory tastes developing in the mass bath market," she said. "Apple is giving way to pear, and strawberry seems to be making room for raspberry."
"We are finding that things like kiwi and mandarin orange are starting to do well," agreed Rx Place's Russo.
At Naturistics, Mango has long been one of the best-selling flavors. Because of its appeal, the firm launched a passion fruit variety late last year that is already selling well. Sea Splash, an ozonic scent, is also popular.
"People seem to want bath products to be pleasant, refreshing things to smell," according to Bill McMenemy, group vice president of Del Laboratories Consumer Product Group, which makes Naturistics. Many companies, however, have opted to avoid using traditional fruity and floral fragrances in the hope of distinguishing their lines.
Neutrogena's Rainbath, for one, is neither fruity nor floral."Our signature scent is refreshing and woodsy with a hint of citrus for our shower gel," said Lisa Wallander, director of marketing for Neutrogena. "A lighter variation of this fragrance is in our leave-on products, such as powder and splashes."
Pears Personal Pleasures uses complex fragrance blends with a mild aromatherapy positioning, rather than having one single note stand out as dominant.
The line's three fragrance groupings are Relaxing, a woodsy blend; Refreshing, a citrus floral, and Alluring, an oriental. Each grouping is named for the effect the product is supposed to have on the user's mood.
A fourth fragrance grouping will be shipped in January to give Pears another fruity variation. Called Invigorating, the line will have teal packaging and will be fragranced with a complex citrusy scent.
So far, Alluring and Refreshing are tied for the top-selling spot, with Relaxing the slowest-seller, according to Terry Augenbraun, general manager of Chesebrough-Pond's cosmetics and fragrance division, which markets Pears.
"But we don't know if it is due to the color of the packaging or the scent," he added. "Visuals seem to be almost as important as the scent itself, and people are just beginning to understand the eye-olfactory relationship. Relaxing's fragrance tested very well before the launch. It might be that the line's golden color is not as well received as Refreshing's pink or Alluring's purple."
Because scent seems to be so much a part of bath and body, some companies are actually using their bath lines as launch pads for true fragrances.
Naturistics launched classic fragrance versions of its Sea Splash and Botanical bath scents in 1992. A third fragrance, called Tropics, is based on its Mango bath products.
The fragrances are available in a 0.5-oz. perfume oil for $8.95 and a 1.8-oz. cologne spray for $9.95.
The line was expanded to include White River Musk, a white floral musk, and Mountain Berry, a fruity floral scent with herbal notes, in September.
"We might also be extending our fragrances into traditional fragrance ancillary products, such as body lotions and dusting powders," said McMenemy. "We don't really have things like that in the line right now."By Christmas, Pears will also roll out natural sprays, called Relaxing Intense, Alluring Intense and Refreshing Intense. Each 2-oz. spray will be priced at $9.95.
"We felt we needed a true fragrance to balance out the line and to give women the opportunity for touch-ups during the day," Augenbraun said. "If we had done the fragrance first it would have put the wrong emphasis on the line. People would have cherry-picked the ancillaries and never would have gotten to the line's mood transformation story."
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