NEW YORK — Parfums Giorgio Armani hopes that the upcoming U.S. launch of its newest scent, Sensi, will broaden the foothold the fragrance made in Europe last fall.

Sensi will be introduced in the U.S. in April and executives at L’Oréal USA, the designer’s U.S. beauty licensee, hope that the launch will give Armani some prominence in the women’s category. The company is aiming for the top 10 in the U.S. women’s market. According to industry estimates, achieving that goal would require generating $40 million in retail sales for the first 12 months.

The brand got off to a flying start in Europe, ranking in the top five during October through December in Germany, France, Italy and Spain, according to Fabio Mancone, international directeur general of Parfums Giorgio Armani, based in Paris. For the month of December alone, it ranked in the top three in Germany and Italy.

Sensi’s promising start was good news to L’Oréal executives who are determined to raise Armani’s profile in the women’s fragrance market. In the men’s category, Armani seemingly has a license to print money. Acqua di Gio for Men maintained the number-one spot in the U.S. rankings for 2002, with industry sources estimating the retail volume at $80 million. Meanwhile, the 2002 men’s entry, Armani Mania, claimed a ranking in the top five, putting it on course to do $35 million at retail the first year.

According to Serge Juridini, general manager of the Giorgio Armani Parfums division of L’Oréal USA, 85 percent of Armani’s fragrance business is done on the men’s side of the aisle, leaving only 15 percent for women’s.

"Now that we’re established in the men’s category, we’re going to go after the women’s," said Jack Wiswall, president of the Designer Fragrances Division of L’Oréal USA.

Sensi, which means "the senses" in Italian, is Armani’s fifth women’s fragrance to be launched since Gio in 1993. It will make its U.S. debut in April, with an initial distribution of 800 to 850 specialty and fashion department stores. The brand will be rolled out in August to Armani’s full 1,850-door distribution.The fragrance is positioned on sensuality. The bottle, meant to evoke the sleek curves of an Armani dress, is designed by Fabien Baron, who also created the bottles for the designer’s earlier Mania fragrances. The fragrance formulation is a woody, floral oriental developed by Firmenich. The top note features kaffir lime and cassie flower in a combination meant to provide both freshness and soft sensuality. Femininity is transmitted by cape jasmine at the core and palisander is the dominant base note with touches of vanilla and benzoin.

The fragrance will be retailed in the U.S. in two sizes of eau de parfum spray — 1.7 ounces for $52.50 and 3.4 ounces for $75. There also will be a 6.7-oz. shower gel priced at $37.50 and a 6.7-oz. body lotion for $39.50.

The print magazine ad and TV campaign, produced by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, features actress Erin Wasson posed seductively in a red crepe dress.

L’Oréal plans to put a major push behind the launch. While the company does not break out sales or advertising budgets, industry sources estimate the price tag on promotion and advertising for Sensi’s U.S. launch at $15 million. This will include 25 million scented strips and 40 million scented impressions.

Wiswall asserted that TV advertising will be employed "right from the get-go," without waiting for distribution to peak in August. With this strategy, "we’ll get two drinks of water," Wiswall said of the plan to start advertising on TV right from the the launch. "We’ll get exposure for Mother’s Day and the fall fashion season and the run up to Christmas. The key thing is to get a foothold in the women’s fragrance arena."

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