By  on February 20, 2009

The Gap is revitalizing its product line with the launch for spring of Close, the specialty store chain’s first signature scent for women.

The new fragrance is part of the San Francisco-based company’s larger strategy to modernize the Gap brand.

“Close feels like an extension of what we’ve been doing with every category, which is reworking our formula to keep Gap cool and relevant,” said Gap’s executive vice president of design Patrick Robinson, who oversaw the creation of Close. Robinson was hired nearly two years ago to rejuvenate the brand after the departure of chief executive officer Paul Pressler. “Corporate brought me on board to fix the product — to take this American classic brand and make it relevant again, and fragrance is another way to finish the story.”

Marka Hansen, Gap brand president, added, “This is a true fragrance that reflects our new target customer as well as the brand aesthetic we’ve been working on the last two years.”

According to Hansen, fragrance accounts for less than 10 percent of Gap’s total volume. “Although it’s not a significant contributor to our overall business, I would love to grow it.”

While executives declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources estimate that globally, Close will generate $4 million in first-year retail sales.

The scent, intended to appeal to women ages 25 to 35, is scheduled to bow in the U.S. April 23 at the 550 Gap and roughly 174 Gap Body stores nationwide, before hitting Central and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this summer.

“Internationally, this is a big year for Gap because they have not really sold any fragrances globally,” said Jean Madar, chairman and chief executive officer of beauty license holder Inter Parfums, which will introduce Close internationally through its global distribution channel of perfumeries and department stores, including Sephora in Poland, Liverpool in Mexico and A.S. Watson in Hong Kong. The international rollout will begin in July, and Madar said he expects Close to be in full distribution at 5,000 doors by fall.

“We think Close will bring in another customer, a more mature 20-plus customer, who has been shopping the department store channel,” said Madar. “The quality of all the details, from concept to design to packaging, are really putting us in another category.”

Madar said he expects Close to generate 10 to 15 percent of the total Gap Beauty business in its first year. Inter Parfums has been producing Gap’s existing personal care products — including its three-year-old GapBody line of fragrance, bath and skin care products, as well as its men’s line, G7 — for just over three years.

Gap worked with Laird & Partners earlier this month in Miami on the campaign, which was shot by Michael Thompson and features a real-life couple. The imagery will receive prime retail space in Gap U.S. store windows across the country at launch in April.

While Inter Parfums would not reveal its international advertising spend on Close, Madar said they’d “spend 20 percent to 30 percent of our sales in advertising at launch,” positioning the print campaign in Elle, Vogue and Cosmopolitan in Central and South America, as well as in the Middle East and Asia this summer.

Close, a salty floral citrus scent, will be available in 100-ml. 50-ml. and 10-ml. versions for $35, $25 and $8.50, respectively. Perfumer Marypierre Julien from Givaudan and Gary McNatton from Through Smoke worked with Gap’s Robinson for roughly a year to compose the scent, which includes notes of sparkling water accord, fresh almond blossom and salty citrus accord. The floral heart of the fragrance has notes of spring freesia, jasmine petals, daphne and dewy stephanotis, while the scent’s drydown releases notes of sandalwood, skin musk, vanilla and amber.

“It doesn’t bother you or overpower you,” said Robinson. “It’s unique and feminine and just balances this beautiful light-headed citrus with this sexy saltiness.”

The simple egg-shaped bottle, which comes in a clear Plexiglas box, was inspired by an opal and is the first Gap fragrance that does not bear the GapBody label. “We have been winding down the GapBody franchise to keep successful items and get rid of the excess,” said Hansen, “And part of the thought process with Close was that I wanted Gap fragrances to be in adult Gap apparel stores.”

Robinson said they are in the process of looking at all of Gap’s personal care products and anticipates the rollout of additional products, including a Close lotion, in time for Christmas.

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