By  on August 7, 2009

Bebe Stores Inc. is getting back into the fragrance game.

The Brisbane, Calif.-based fashion retailer is launching a signature women’s scent Aug. 20 at its 212 U.S. stores in conjunction with its fragrance licensee, New York-based Inter Parfums Inc.

In September, the Bebe scent will be rolled out to 300 Dillard’s locations for a six-month exclusive stay. It’s the first time Bebe fragrances have entered the wholesale arena and is a step Bebe executives hope will build brand awareness. Sales and marketing firm Icon Beauty LLC will handle the Dillard’s initiative.

This is Bebe’s third foray into the fragrance market. The first was a fall 1996 entry called To Be. But the name proved to be too close to Calvin Klein’s CK Be fragrance. The second effort, which came in 2002, was called Bebe Perfume. At the time, Bebe’s store network included about 140 locations and the scent did not perform up to par, according to Manny Mashouf, chairman and chief executive officer of the specialty retailer.

“It was a quiet launch without a huge marketing [campaign] behind it,” Mashouf said during a recent interview. “We didn’t want to spend the money on marketing and the volume was never that great.”

However, “people asked for it after we discontinued it,” he noted, and, more recently — after being asked in what direction the brand should move — Bebe customers named perfume along with shoes and lingerie.

“Throughout the years, we had done surveys at stores and asked Bebe girls what they would like to see in other categories,” said Mashouf. “We have a huge marketing effort behind [the upcoming fragrance launch].”

While neither Bebe nor Inter Parfums provided sales projections, market sources estimate as much as $5 million could be spent to advertise and promote the scent. The fragrance could ring up first-year retail sales of $10 million, according to sources.

When the Dillard’s exclusive wraps up, Mashouf said he would like to target specialty and department store doors with the Bebe scent and mentioned names like Nordstrom, Macy’s and Sephora. He said he believes an ideal distribution base for the Bebe scent would be between 800 and 1,000 stores.

Bebe has 37 international stores in 14 countries and its clothes range in price from about $29 for tops to upward of $350 for leather jackets.

Inter Parfums executives said they anticipate the scent could be carried in 40 countries by 2010.

For Inter Parfums, the Bebe fragrance expands the firm’s specialty stores division, which includes production of personal care products for Banana Republic, Gap, Brooks Brothers and New York & Company.

“Bebe is the latest addition to the portfolio of brands in this business,” said Jean Madar, chairman and ceo of Inter Parfums during an interview in New York.

Fragrance supplier Takasago composed the Bebe fragrance, which is described as a luxurious oriental. To create the scent, perfumer Francis Kurkdjian mixed top notes of mango flesh, sweet pea and leafy tuberose with a heart of black jasmine and night blooming rose. The scent dries down into notes of sandalwood, sultry musk and gold cedar wood.

The scent will come in three sizes, and a shimmer body lotion will accompany its launch. A 3.4-oz. version is priced at $65 and a 1.7-oz. size has a price tag of $49.50. There’s also a miniature, 0.33-oz. version of the scent for $12. The body lotion comes in a 6-oz. tube for $25.

The Bebe bottle is heart shaped and the 3.4-oz. flacon comes with a heart charm that is encrusted with pavé crystals. The 1.7-oz bottle comes with a metal heart charm.

The heart motif has been an important part of the Bebe branding effort for years, executives noted. “The inspiration [for the bottle] was based on the form of the female [body],” noted Kristin Spinn, marketing director for Inter Parfums’ specialty stores division, who added, “Hearts are an iconic aspect of the brand.”

The target audience for the scent ranges from 18- to 34-year-olds, with a “sweet spot” at 24, said Spinn. “They are hip, sexy, cool and romantically playful,” she said of the Bebe consumer.

Plans for the Bebe scent’s national ad campaign include provocative print visuals in the November issues of Cosmopolitan, Elle and In Style. A racy visual showing a topless female model will run in Italian and French issues of Vogue. Outdoor advertising on billboards and bus kiosks are also in the offing.

In addition to the scent, Inter Parfums is launching eye glosses and nail colors for Bebe. “We believe Bebe translates well into color,” said Andy Clarke, president of the specialty stores division.

Added Madar: “We have the right product, timing and distribution. Even though the global economic environment is not great, we are confident we have the base to build a success.”

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