By  on June 10, 1994

DALLAS -- A solid Mother's Day added momentum to an already booming women's fragrance business, according to Southwest stores.

Sales leading up to the holiday on May 8 were ahead 5 to 34 percent against last year, the retailers reported, adding that overall, women's fragrance volume was trending ahead by 5 to 18 percent this spring. They projected that the steady growth would continue throughout the summer and fall.

The stores pointed to clean, less heady fragrances as most in demand, citing Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers and summer-only scents such as Escada's Summer in Provence as bestsellers.

Fragrance layering also continues to build in popularity with consumers, as body lotions, oils and spray talcs now are likely components of a fragrance sale.

Other ancillary products, such as scented shower gels and foaming baths, are expected to be summer hits, as well.

New launches that retailers are looking forward to in the upcoming months include Bulgari and Ultima II's Head Over Heels.

In addition to new products, though, stores are also banking on special beauty-oriented in-store events, featuring multiple vendors and special gift offers to lure additional traffic. The activity will be especially hectic this fall, the retailers noted.

Kathy Hebert, fragrance buyer at J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Plano, Tex., said the women's fragrance business is up 8 to 9 percent against last year, and forecasted growth of at least 10 percent for summer and fall.

For Mother's Day, sales were ahead by 10 percent, which Hebert attributed partially to Penney's customized gift baskets.

Bestsellers at Penney's include Chanel No. 5, Guerlain's Shalimar, White Shoulders, Chloe, Halston and Elizabeth Taylor's Passion.

The store will launch Chloe Narcisse in late August and will introduce Karl Lagerfeld's Photo for Men around the same time.

Penney's is still finalizing plans for a multiple-vendor beauty event set for October that will encompass color, treatment and fragrance, Hebert noted.

She called the chain's holiday promotional plans aggressive, but she declined to elaborate because the strategies were still on the planning boards.

Neiman Marcus plans to launch Bulgari's women's fragrance early this fall, according to John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics. He added that other launch plans were still in negotiation.Stabenau conceded that Mother's Day business exceeded plan, but declined to discuss any specific figures concerning sales growth.

Spring bestsellers at Neiman's so far have been Quelques Fleurs, Boucheron, Donna Karan New York, Cartier, Thierry Mugler's Angel, Lalique, the Chanel brands, Escada, Escada's Summer in Provence and Annick Goutal.

"Annick Goutal is really taking off," said Stabenau. "It's a unique line, and customers are really discovering it."

Barbara Jean, a women's specialty store based in Little Rock, Ark., has already nearly sold out of its second shipment of Escada's Summer in Provence, according to Annette Conway, cosmetics manager.

"Customers love Summer in Provence because it's fresh and not at all heavy," said Conway, adding that Escada's original fragrance and Coco by Chanel also were bestsellers.

"People are in the mood to buy fragrances and beauty products again," said Conway. "It differs from the free-spending days of the past, though. Now they'll just buy a product like the body lotion, body cream and shower gel."

Mother's Day sales in particular and this spring's fragrance business in general were up around 5 to 7 percent against last year, Conway said. She said the same numbers were planned for summer and fall.

At Specialty Retailers, Inc. of Houston, Tex., a department and specialty store chain, women's fragrance counters were ringing up at least 10 percent more business this year compared with last, according to Judi Siff, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics.

"More than ever, customers are really responding to value sets and special purchases," explained Siff. "Price is an issue. Customers want to think they got a bargain."

Women's bestsellers for spring and Mother's Day have so far included Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds, Oscar de la Renta, Jessica McClintock and Elizabeth Arden's Red Door and Sunflowers.

"Sunflowers is selling tremendously -- way beyond expectations," said Siff. "The scent, the price points and the merchandising capabilities make it a winner. They've also done some value sets."

Sunflowers is also blossoming at The Village Pharmacy, in Highland Park Village here, according to Wilhelmina von Heflick, the store's beauty manager."Everyone from age 10 to 80 loves Sunflowers," said von Heflick. "Arden's big advertising campaign really paid off. It's a wonderful summer fragrance, too. And the prepackaged sets are selling really well."

Other spring bestsellers at The Village Pharmacy include Red Door, Nature's One Gardenia from Perlier, Cabotine de Gris, Alfred Sung, Krizia, Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame.

The Village Pharmacy's Mother's Day business was up by 34 percent, said von Heflick, and spring volume has been up by 18 percent overall.

She predicted that her summer and fall business would jump by 10 to 12 percent.

"Layering is really the rage right now," said von Heflick. "I'm selling more body lotions. And eaux de toilette are picking up, also."

Accessible prices are important, but the scent drives the business, stressed Kelly Cowman, beauty manager at Dougherty's Airway Pharmacy here.

"I can't say that the less expensive fragrances are outpacing the others," noted Cowman. "If they like it, they'll buy it. A less expensive product simply allows more people to purchase it."

That explains the popularity of Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers, noted Cowman, saying, "Starting with teenagers, women of all ages are snapping up Sunflowers. They also like the fresh spring scent."

Mother's Day fragrance sales were up at least 10 percent at Dougherty's, Cowman said, adding that bestsellers included Arden's Sunflowers and Red Door, Calvin Klein's Eternity, Estee Lauder's Beautiful and Elizabeth Taylor's Fragrant Jewels.

Dougherty's will launch Ultima II's Head Over Heels early this fall, which Cowman noted should be eye-catching: The scent is housed in a bottle shaped like a pair of legs.

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