Powered by fall’s red-hot launches, the $2.5 billion U.S. fragrance market is turning a corner with the probability of a strong fall in the offing, thanks to a bumper crop of designer fragrances. But after years of steep decline, the market remains mired in problems lurking beneath the newly optimistic surface.
This turnaround in the making seems to have been triggered by a shift in thinking of fragrance manufacturers and retailers alike, both of whom are beginning to test the waters of a fundamental change in strategy. Manufacturers are focusing more closely on classics, which are largely driving sales in this consumer atmosphere of recessionary uncertainty. Thus, the frenetic launch pace has cooled and newness is being framed in terms of core brand values, providing offerings with a familiar resonance. “Everyone has gotten sharper in the execution of launches,” says Donald J. Loftus, leader of Procter & Gamble Prestige. He was referring to an apparent scaling back of introductions to produce more impact—a concept championed by P&G—and giving more visual display weeks in the department stores to existing and classic brands. Loftus notes that last year, P&G launched one women’s and one men’s fragrance. “We’ve had years when we’ve launched 18 fragrances,” he says. As a result, there has been a noted uptick in innovation in the market, and “we are much more positive. It is a good signal for Christmas.”
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