Burberry is hoping a male lover can help in the ongoing turnaround of its beauty business. The British luxury brand will unveil its latest men’s fragrance, Mr. Burberry, in April in the latest phase of its strategy to build a major beauty business in-house after taking back its fragrance and cosmetics licenses two years ago from Inter Parfums. The plan is a risky one — and not without its doubters in both the beauty and financial worlds — but the category was actually one of the few standouts in Burberry’s first-half results earlier this month that were otherwise dismal and saw the company’s shares plummet by more than 12 percent in a single day.
Beauty revenues rose 4 percent in the half, which was on top of a 26 percent increase in 2014 to more than 185 million pounds, or $285 million at current exchange. Fragrances accounted for the bulk of that number.
“The development of Burberry’s beauty division is a key driver for the growth of the business as a whole,” Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative and chief executive officer, said last year. “Within our overall beauty plans, fragrance will play a leading role in driving revenue and raising brand awareness.”
The company is moving on multiple fronts to grow the division as fast as it can. In June, Burberry inked a deal with Shiseido to distribute its fragrance and makeup products in Japan.
The brand is also following up on its launch on sephora.com in August of this year with 40 bricks-and-mortar Sephora doors across the globe this year, with a total of 100 expected by the middle of 2016, said Simona Cattaneo, senior vice president of beauty at Burberry.
Then there is the Burberry Beauty Box, the firm’s freestanding store format that was introduced in London’s Covent Garden in 2013. A Hong Kong unit was added in August. The beauty-focused stand-alones allow Burberry to showcase its fragrance and cosmetics offerings, as well as small fashion accessories, said Cattaneo, adding, “It’s a way to make concrete our vision of beauty.”
Digital engagement is key in these doors, Cattaneo continued. “You have the digital lips and nails bar, you have the [bottle] monogramming where customers can engage by choosing their monogram digitally at the point of sale and sharing it via social media,” she said. Millennials account for an increased focus on digital. “For the beauty, we are targeting a Millennial consumer,” she said. “Not only for sales, but to use them as online influencers to leverage the power of the brand.”
For all the activity, Burberry still has work to do in getting its beauty house in order. Before the company pulled the business back in-house, its fragrances were much more widely distributed, noted Cattaneo. That’s made pluckingall of the products out of the gray market and masstige distribution a massive challenge. “We used the launch of My Burberry to establish what we thought was the right distribution,” Cattaneo said. “We want our fragrances to be aligned with the prestige image on the fashion side, and we felt My Burberry needed a lover [like Mr. Burberry]. But we didn’t want it to be a masterbrand, just a consistency.”
An influential retailer, speaking anonymously, expressed frustration that the store had tried to make past Burberry launches work, but they hadn’t been able to quite click.
Pointing to Burberry Body, done under ceo Angela Ahrendts in 2011 when Inter Parfums SA still had the license, the retailer said “they tried to make the brand more aspirational, like Coco Mademoiselle. But it was too subtle. It was not something that could resonate with the customer.” At the time, Inter Parfums chairman and ceo, said the objective was to create a single fragrance that is a Burberry fragrance leader in every market. The fashion house then had about 10 scent franchises that were successful in different parts in the world. The company has no current comment. The retailer, noted that Mr. Burberry presentation had not been made yet. “Eventually they will get it right. I think it is a great brand.”
A financial analyst, also speaking off the record, said taking the business in house from Inter Parfum “has been a bit trickier than everyone expected. [The house] should be doing better than it is in fragrances.”
The Mr. Burberry launch will be accompanied by a capsule collection of clothing and accessories — including suits, trenchcoats, scarves, bags, accessories and shoes — echoing the strategies for Burberry Brit for men and women and My Burberry for women.
The woody herbal eau de toilette, which Bailey created with perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, has top notes of zesty grapefruit, tarragon and cardamom, a heart of birch leaf, nutmeg oil and cedarwood and a drydown of sandalwood, vetiver and guaiac wood. The ingredients are inspired by the heritage of British male perfumery, noted Cattaneo. “Mr. Burberry is a structure of a classic aromatic fougère that has inspired so many famous fragrances, but this has been totally remodeled and remastered to introduce a radically contemporary creation in its proportions and ingredients,” she said.
The neck of the bottle is tied with the same gabardine material Burberry uses to make its storied trenchcoats, and the cap incorporates the Bakelite Burberry uses for the trench’s buttons.
The scent will be available in 50-, 100- and 150- ml. sizes, retailing in the U.S. for $68, $88 and $115, respectively. It will also be offered in a 30-ml. travel spray for $55 and a 1-liter collector’s edition for $2,000. A grooming line will also be sold globally; it includes such things as beard oil, moisturizer, deodorant, shower gel and aftershave.
Steve McQueen shot both the print and TV ads, which feature Josh Whitehouse as Mr. Burberry, supported in the TV commercial by Amber Anderson (who is also the face of Burberry cosmetics), and a soundtrack put together by Benjamin Clementine. “It’s a great pool of British talent that Christopher put together to tell this story,” Cattaneo said. Both TV and print advertising will begin running globally in April.
Globally, the men’s scent will be sold in about 25,000 department and specialty store doors.
The brand will also launch a new women’s scent in February. The fragrance, My Burberry Black, is intended to be a sensual flanker to the house’s My Burberry pillar, which was launched in September 2014. Perfumer Kurkdjian worked with Bailey to create the eau de toilette, which has a top note of jasmine flower, a heart of candied rose and peach nectar and a drydown of amber and patchouli. It will launch exclusively at Harrods and on harrods. com in February before rolling out to the Middle East in May and elsewhere globally in September 2016. Customers will have the ability to personalize their bottles with up to three initials via burberry.com or at selected retailers.