By  on June 10, 1994

MILAN -- Although Italy is still navigating in rough economic waters, executives at high-end perfumery stores agreed that calmer conditions were in sight. They also expressed optimism that the fragrance business in particular was picking up.

Still, many retailers reported that fragrance sales were at best flat compared with last year's figures, and in some cases, as much as 5 percent behind.

To weather the storm, many retailers said they have adopted new strategies, including offering discounts on a wide range of selective products, changing store display windows once a week and carrying a wider selection of mass market and moderately priced products.

On the fashion-oriented fragrance front, most executives concurred that L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake was undisputedly the strongest seller.

"Everybody is familiar with it, from the cab driver to the well-heeled lady, because the fragrance is particular and unique. Maybe also because of its complicated names," said Maddalena Materno, director of one unit of the Desiree chain.

Other hot-selling fragrances mentioned the most by retailers included Eternity by Calvin Klein, Tresor from Lancome, Calyx by Prescriptives, Angel from Thierry Mugler, Eden by Cacharel, Christian Dior's Tendre Poison and Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers.

Fresh, fruity and floral fragrances continue to be in the spotlight, especially as summer breezes in.

"Clients come to us and specifically ask for fruity and vanilla-flavored fragrances. It's not by chance, in fact, that Calyx continues to be a piece de resistance," noted Alda Cremascoli of the Baratti/Douglas chain.

However, while most perfumery stores are banking on these fragrances, some retailers asserted that they didn't believe the trend would last.

And surprisingly enough, while L'Eau d'Issey has been flying, designer fragrances -- which create a stir in the beauty world before their launch, thanks to ad campaigns -- don't currently appear high on the retailers' lists of their customers' favorite scents.

"I had high hopes for Valentino's Vendetta, but I was disappointed with the response," said Gabriele Terribile, owner of a chain called La Profumissima.

And it's not a question of price.

"The choice of a perfume reflects the lifestyle of a person. It's a business card. When a client really likes a fragrance, she doesn't pay attention to the price, but looks at the quality and packaging," said Desiree's Materno.

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