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Express Reserve

Fashion retailer Express LLC is getting into the fragrance game with the launch of its first scent, a men’s fragrance called Express Reserve, which is due out during the second week of July.

This story first appeared in the April 24, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The idea is to tap into guys who aspire for a reserved table at the hottest nightclub or appreciate a fine liquor, according to David Kornberg, the retailer’s executive vice president of men’s merchandising and design.

“It’s inspired by our Express man, who is confident, modern, cool and stylish,” said Kornberg. “The name is about the rare and select nature of the fragrance — reserve, as it relates to the most coveted and aspirational aspects of something.”

The scent, like Express Men fashions, targets guys in their mid- to late-20s. “He’s already on the career ladder and is aware that fragrance is an important part of grooming,” said Kornberg.

The initiative by Columbus, Ohio-based Express continues a larger trend in recent years — that of specialty retailers diversifying into fragrance as a means of adding incremental revenues and/or expanding a retail brand’s distribution base. For instance, Gap, Banana Republic, New York & Company and Brooks Brothers have all launched fragrances or personal care products in the past few years.

Currently there are no plans for Express, which operates about 540 stores — including 500 doors that carry men’s and women’s fashion — to wholesale the fragrance. But Kornberg acknowledged that if the Reserve scent performs well, the retailer may delve deeper into the fragrance business. In addition to 500 Express stores that will carry the scent, it will also be available at express.com.

Kornberg said that after “extensive consumer research, we discovered our Express Men customer was missing an element — fragrance. It is an aspirational, brand-defining category,” he asserted, “and through this we have the opportunity to provide an incremental business to add value to the brand.”

Firmenich perfumer Richard Herpin composed the woody, spicy cologne, which has a dark-amber color and features top notes of bergamot, green pineapple and Mandarin tea. Heart notes of cinnamon, coriander and laurel leaf dry down into base notes of creamy woods, black pepper, raw amber, dark suede and aged brandy.

The scent will come in two versions, a 1.7-oz. size for $44.50 and a 3.4-oz. bottle for $59.50.

Industry sources estimate the scent could generate first-year retail sales of at least $10 million.

Express, which was acquired by San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital from Limited Brands Inc. in July 2007, collaborated with fragrance consulting firm and manufacturer Batallure Beauty to produce the scent. And, design firm QSLD worked in conjunction with the retailer to create the fragrance’s rectilinear bottle, which features a black cap. Bormioli Luigi manufactured the glass flacon.

In-store sampling with tester units and about 1.5 million scented postcards will complement a direct mail and online promotional campaign.

Also, during the second week of July, bottles of the scent will be given out at any reserved tables at one or two exclusive nightclubs in each of five markets, including the Hamptons in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami and Chicago. Sources estimate the promotional effort could be worth more than $3 million.

Asked why the retailer, which generates annual sales of about $1.8 billion, chose to do a men’s fragrance first, Kornberg replied, “Our [male] customer has identified this as something that he wants from us. We felt we would benefit from it and our customer would benefit from it.”