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Bringing Fragrance Back to the Masses

Manufacturers are pulling out all of the stops to revive an anemic mass market fragrance business.

DESTIN, Fla. — Manufacturers are pulling out all of the stops to revive an anemic mass market fragrance business.

The fragrance marketers showing new scents at this week’s Efficient Retail Marketing Collaboration meeting held here are trying everything from going back to classics to mimicking Victoria’s Secret body sprays. Of course, there are still celebrity launches to add sizzle, including the new Celine Dion entry (see related story on page 19) and blockbuster licenses such as Boom LLC’s Hannah Montana and High School Musical franchises. The hopes are that shoppers will once again find the mass market a destination for scents.

Retailers are coming off one of the weakest years for holiday fragrances with many buyers relaying stories of disappointing sell-throughs under 60 percent.

According to data from ACNielsen, women’s fragrance sales for the 52-week period ended Dec. 29 were down 6.9 percent to $456 million. Men’s colognes were down 2.9 percent to $144.6 million and aftershaves declined 5.5 percent to $76 million. All figures are for food, drug and mass stores excluding Wal-Mart.

“The category needs something new,” confirmed Marie-Josee Rivard, category manager for CVS Pharmacy. Rivard was one of many buyers who listened to presentations from manufacturers hoping their new scents would boost category sales.

Dana Classic Fragrances is living up to its name by emphasizing the cachet of classic nameplates including Love’s Baby Soft, British Sterling and Tabu. Powered by strong word of mouth, including countless celebrities who cite Love’s as their first scent, Love’s is playing off its heritage while staying current with new packaging and bath-and-body line extensions. For Valentine’s Day, Dana is promoting a plush bear holding three Love’s items.

Under the British Sterling logo, the company this March will ship No Limit, a fragrance aimed at grabbing the attention of young men who are becoming more aware of the category via body sprays. There will be a Tabu brand extension called Forbidden, complete with a red fragrance stem inside the bottle. A new launch from Dana is Black Lace Sheer Seduction that will retail for $24.99 for a 14-oz. bottle. “It is time to refresh and do something for the category,” said Jeff Roberson, Dana’s vice president of sales. Dana also is boosting its men’s business for English Leather by bumping up food distribution and also by encouraging more merchandising within men’s toiletries.

Mass market offshoots of prestige scents have boosted the fragrance business in the past, and the fragrance firm IPD Inc. hopes that strategy will pay off as its serves up a lighter juice for Gendarme called Gendarme Sport. The original Gendarme is a prestige fragrance favored by many celebrities and created by an entertainment executive, Topper Schroeder, who was encouraged to devise his own scent when he was dissatisfied with market choices. The new Sport option will be available to mass marketers and carry a $24.99 price point.

Agustin Reyes, a perfume company with strong distribution in Latin markets, is hoping lightning strikes twice for the body spray category. Claiming that entries from Calgon and Parfums de Coeur invited too many copycats, which killed off the business years ago, the company believes there is an opportunity once again for less expensive sprays. Company president Agustin Reyes said Victoria’s Secret helped usher in the first round of lighter sprays and is doing it once again, opening an opportunity to lure shoppers to mass who have been buying more expensive options. The entry is called Pure Elegance Body Parfums and there are five scents based on precious gems. “This is designed to bridge the gap between higher-end fragrances in glass bottles and less expensive body mist products,” said Reyes. The suggested retail price is $12.

Banking on its heritage in premium scents, Selective Brands offered some upscale logos now available for tier-two distribution. Among the well-established logos being offered at the show were Benetton, Swiss Army and Ferrari. There is a new Benetton scent and refreshed efforts behind Swiss Army. According to Gregory Black, vice president of marketing, Selective is hoping to build up what it calls its lifestyle division, including these brands as a way to also help retailers “reinvigorate” the category. Selective’s prestige business includes the distribution of top-shelf names such as Jimmy Choo and Zac Posen.

Will any of these initiatives bring shoppers back to mass fragrances? Buyers were the first to admit they didn’t know. But with such a dismal Christmas behind them, they are willing to try new paths. One buyer concluded, “Consumers are penny-pinching, and if there is ever a time they might start looking at less expensive scents, it is now, so we have to give them choices.”