NEW YORK--Burberrys is about to take a third swing at cracking the U.S. market. The London-based apparel and accessories manufacturer previously had fragrance licenses in the Eighties with Elizabeth Arden and then early this decade with Brigade International, which subsequently sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In 1993, the Paris-based Groupe Inter Parfums entered the equation and apparently made the difference. The French company, which also owns the Jean Desprez and Molyneux brands, launched a pair of signature scents--Burberrys of London for Women and Burberrys of London for Men--in early 1995. They were rolled out to most of the major markets in the world. But there were two major exceptions--Japan and North America--which seemed particularly daunting, considering that the company was having some difficulty finding the right distribution partners, according to Philippe Benacin, president of Inter Parfums. His business partner is Jean Mader, chairman of the mass market-oriented Jean Phillipe Fragrances Inc. Now, distributors have been found in both markets. The Burberrys scents will enter Japan in October and will make a U.S. debut in late January. The scents will be marketed in Japan by a cosmetics company called Mandom, which will introduce lighter versions to appeal to Asian tastes. In the U.S., the brand is being handled by AdiPar Ltd., the distribution company set up here by Escada Beaute. Price points for the women's scent ranges from $39 for a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum spray to $72 for a 1-oz. perfume. A 6.7-oz. body lotion and a 6.7-oz. body gel are priced at $23 apiece. The men's line has price points ranging from $32 for a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray to $45 for a 3.3-oz. eau de toilette. A 6.7-oz. shower gel is retails for $20. Benacin said the two fragrances achieved a combined volume last year of $8 million ex-factory, or about $24 million at wholesale, with the strongest sales coming out of the Far East, Mideast and some parts of Europe, notably France and Portugal. For this year, he projects ex-factory sales of $12 million, or $36 million at wholesale. The brand is doing $1 million ex-factory, or $3 million at wholesale, in South Korea--a volume that Benacin described as "extremely high for a fragrance." The volume in France is $2 million at wholesale, he added. The increase is being generated in part by the addition of a four-item bath line for each fragrance, Benacin said. In the U.S., he envisions doing $15 million at retail, or $9 million at wholesale, during the first year. The promotional war chest will amount to $9 million, with Benacin estimating that 80 percent will be invested on in-store efforts and the remainder spent on national advertising and similar measures. Carolyn Vonino, director of marketing for Burberrys at AdiPar, said the company has yet to begin making formal presentations to retailers. But she expects to ship in early January and estimates that by 1998, distribution will number 1,200 doors. The launch strategy involves reaching the selling floor in time for Valentine's Day, according to Nicholas Ratut, vice president and chief operating officer of Adipar, at a time when there is traditionally little competition from new launches. The fragrances will be introduced with a gift-with-purchase of a large Burberrys umbrella, Vonino said. Co-op advertising will be used, and the company will disseminate about 20 million scented insertions, such as billing remittance envelopes and blow-in cards inserted into magazines, along with two million fragrance vials and miniature samples. Benacin said the fragrances will be advertised, probably in the second half of the year, in publications used for Burberrys apparel ads, such as Vogue, Town & Country and GQ. But the advertising strategy has not been laid out, and the promotional emphasis for the first year will be on in-store efforts. At least at first, the women's and men's fragrances will be merchandised together, according to Sharon Connolly, AdiPar's general manager. The collateral and display materials were designed to be used jointly for the two fragrances, she said. The two fragrances are different, but the formulas for both bear the unusual distinction of being created by the same perfumer, Michel Almairac of Creations Aromatiques. He also had worked on Escada, Fahrenheit and Joop. The contracts to supply the two fragrances were open to competition from several different firms, according to Benacin, but Almairac just happened to submit the winning entries for both fragrances. After winning the women's contract, he also came up with the right submission for the men's. "There was a competition by three or four companies," said Benacin, "and we decided his was best." The women's fragrance has a fruity topnote, a woodsy floral dry-down and a musk and vanilla base. The men's scent is a "fresh, woodsy and spicy" combination, Benacin said. Burberrys' fashion image is traditionally rooted in men's wear, Benacin noted, but the majority of global fragrance sales are still done in the women's end of the market. So Inter Parfums covered both ends. Benacin said, "We were worried we would have too low a sales level if we only did a men's fragrance."
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