ATLANTA--Lighter scents, strong new launches and a renewed interest in the classics have bolstered fragrance sales for Southeast retailers.
At Rich's, women's fragrances are showing high-single-digit gains. Men's fragrances, which have been flat year to date, are starting to turn around, thanks to strong Father's Day promotions and recent launches such as Cassini for Men, Realm and Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger.
Fall launches at Rich's for men and women include Nina Ricci's Deci Dela, Jess by Jessica McClintock, Todd Oldham, Estee Lauder Pleasures, Perry Ellis' 360i for Men and DK Men from Donna Karan.
Top women's fragrances include Calvin Klein's CK One, Eternity, Escape and Obsession; Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds; Realm; Jessica McClintock; Oscar from Oscar de la Renta; Chanel, and Givenchy's Amarige. Top men's lines include Tommy, Klein's Obsession for Men and Eternity for Men, Ralph Lauren's Polo Sport and Polo, Paul Sebastian, Aramis, Davidoff's Cool Water and Realm.
Pat Joyce, vice president and divisional merchandise manager, noted a trend to lighter fragrances. "Vendors are coming out with light scents or lighter versions of existing ones," she said. "These are the kinds of fragrances that can be splashed on, like the old Jean Nate concept."
Joyce emphasized the importance of new launches, but not at the expense of existing business. "It's our job to keep the classics business up and to keep new launches from cannibalizing other brands," she said, adding that focused promotions, with an emphasis on training and marketing, insure long-lasting sales.
Along with new brands, classic scents such as Oscar, Tiffany, Chanel No. 5 and Coco have performed well recently. "The customer--probably mostly Baby Boomers--seems to be in a mood for classics lately," she said.
Joyce said the upcoming holiday gift sets that promise to be especially strong sellers include Alfred Sung's Forever and Jessica McClintock for women, and Tommy, Paul Sebastian and Polo Sport for men.
At McRae's, based in Jackson, Miss., fragrance sales are up 4 percent for the year to date. Women's sales are up 9 percent, but men's are down 4 percent, according to Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager.
"Men's numbers are up against major launches last spring," said Evans, who added that the launch of Tommy this fall should pick up men's business for an 8 percent gain. McRae's also will launch Design for Men from Paul Sebastian this fall.
Total fragrance sales at McRae's are projected to grow 5 percent this year, while the women's category should show a 6 percent increase for fall and end up 7 percent ahead for the year. "With so many new fragrances, we think customers are somewhat confused and are interested in a return to classics," he said.
Top women's fragrances at McCrae's, in order, are Lauder's Beautiful, CK One, White Diamonds, Tresor and Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers. Chanel No. 5, Lancome's Tresor, Amarige and Liz Claiborne's Realities have shown the fastest growth.
Top men's lines are Klein's Eternity for Men and Obsession for Men and Lauren's Safari for Men, Polo Sport and Polo. The men's scents growing the fastest have been Polo Sport, Tuscany and Aramis.
This fall, McRae's will launch Pleasures, Taylor's Black Pearls and Deci Dele.
Evans claimed that while national advertising is essential, manufacturers need to localize it with co-op TV and catalog pieces. "Some vendors take a cookie-cutter approach," he said. "Some advertising approaches aren't always right for our region."
Customers continue to be extremely value-driven, Evans said, noting that many vendors have responded for the holidays by holding or slightly dropping prices on gift sets.

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