The John Varvatos fragrance license has changed hands.

Elizabeth Arden Inc. and John Varvatos Apparel Corp. said today they have entered into an exclusive global licensing agreement for the development, marketing and distribution of the designer’s men’s and women’s fragrances.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This confirms a report that ran in WWD on Nov. 6 that the business was being shopped around.

The license, which was previously held by Shiseido Americas Corp. was set to expire at the end of the year, according to sources, who added it was by mutual agreement that the license was ended. Shiseido Americas Corp. will continue to sell John Varvatos personal care products until June 30, when, sources said, inventory will be transferred to Arden.

In 2002, Shiseido said it had signed its licensing deal with John Varvatos, and launched his first fragrance, a signature men’s scent, in March 2004. In the fall of that year, the designer also introduced a high-end men’s skin care line called John Varvatos Skin.

Since then, he has launched no fewer than five scents, including the 2008 introduction of a signature women’s fragrance. His most recent scent is a limited edition men’s fragrance called Artisan Black, which made its debut this month.

“John has established a premier men’s designer fragrance business in the U.S. and is one of the most dynamic men’s fashion designers,” stated Ron Rolleston, executive vice president of global fragrance marketing for Elizabeth Arden Inc. He added the firm is pleased with the opportunity “to take the fragrance business to another level and expand the franchise.”

Varvatos stated his namesake firm, which is owned by VF Corp., is pleased “to partner with Elizabeth Arden. The combination of their expertise in fragrance and our ability to affect popular culture will create some incredible products and breathe excitement into the category.

“We enjoyed our relationship with Shiseido and are grateful for their efforts in building a successful John Varvatos fragrance franchise.”

The designer said “[Arden] came to me with exciting thoughts on where they could take the brand and build on everything we’ve [established]. It was one of those opportunities I couldn’t refuse.

“I think they get it and it’s what they do,” said Varvatos, who indicated he believes Shiseido is heavily focused on marketing skin care. “There was no reason for [Arden] to get involved unless they saw the opportunity for the business to get significantly larger. As big as our business has been, there are still a lot of consumers to reach. The [fragrance] brand grew in places where we don’t have a big apparel presence. We expect to continue and improve on that going forward.”

The Varvatos fragrance business as a whole is said by industry sources to be about $30 million at retail globally, with roughly 66 percent of that generated in the U.S. Varvatos’ fragrances are found in about 1,700 doors in 34 countries. In the U.S., the brand is in about 900 doors, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Varvatos, who launched his fashion line in fall 2000, saw his men’s fragrance business jump by 75 percent in the U.S. last year, while the fragrance category as a whole was down about 10 percent.

Much of last year’s increase was due to the March 2009 launch of a men’s scent called Artisan.

The scent accounted for 34 percent of Varvatos’ total men’s fragrance business last year, according to Shiseido executives, who added sales of Varvatos’ personal care business as a whole, including the women’s fragrance and men’s skin care line, were up 36 percent last year. Meanwhile, the original Classic scent, the 2004 launch, saw an 18 percent increase, and the designer’s 2006 men’s entry, called Vintage, was up 12 percent.

“We enjoyed our relationship with John Varvatos and the results achieved,” said Nicholas Ratut, president of JV Fragrances & Skincare, the division of Shiseido Americas Corp. that handles the creation and marketing of the designer’s scents.

Beauté Prestige International USA, the Shiseido division that handles sales and distribution of Varvatos’ personal care products in the U.S., “does a great job of building the brand awareness in the stores, and that’s where it happens — at the counter,” Varvatos remarked. “We have a loyal following at Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Saks. [BPI] did a good job of communicating the brand story. We all worked hard over the last six years to build a nice business together.

“I just feel like it was time to refocus,” Varvatos added. 

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