By  on June 10, 1994

SEATTLE -- Strong value-oriented offerings are enticing customers and helping to spark fragrance sales in a sluggish Pacific Northwest, according to local stores.

Sales compared with last year are ranging from flat to double-digit gains in some stores, and gift sets and gift-with-purchase promotions are more essential than ever to the business, the retailers reported.

"The customer is saying, 'What's in it for me?"' said Wayne Peterson, buyer of prestige fragrances for The Bay, a Toronto-based chain with 13 stores in British Columbia. "When they see a gift, they are more apt to buy it."

"Value sets and gifts are getting more important in women's fragrance," added Nancy Paynter, district cosmetics coordinator for J.C. Penney. "Women are looking for value and price points and still want the quality."

While overall sales of women's fragrances were up by double digits this year at The Bay, sales of the more expensive perfumes without gifts were down, Peterson noted.

He said customers were buying both the affordably priced fragrances -- such as Elizabeth's Arden's Sunflowers -- and the higher-priced lines that have added more value items, including limited edition sizes and ancillary products such as bath powder and talcum powder.

In addition to better value, Peterson credited The Bay's increases to launches such as Christian Dior's Tendre Poison and strong performances by existing brands, particularly Givenchy's Amarige and Ysatis and the Calvin Klein scents.

Tendre Poison, launched in February, has been "phenomenal," according to Peterson. "It did half the season's sales plan in the first month. It's fresh, subtle and feminine. The fresh, clean scents, such as Tendre and 360 by Perry Ellis [launched last fall] are very strong right now."

The Bay offered an "entry level," limited edition 30-ml. size of Tendre Poison, "which means that it's immediately affordable. Instead of spending $49, the lady can spend $30 and see how she likes it. It's a great little concept," said Peterson.

Mother's Day business was solid, with double-digit increases, Peterson noted.

"My business in the first week in April was flat compared with last year, and the second week was slow. But week three took off at 30 percent," he said.

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