NEW YORK--Mom wasn't the only one who had a good Mother's Day.
Major brands and retailers put together strong promotional programs to ignite double-digit sales increases--with gains soaring up to 30 percent at Bloomingdale's-- for the two-week period preceding last Sunday's holiday.
As in years past, the classic fragrances, led by Chanel No. 5, made a strong showing. But powerful strides were also made by more recent entries, such as Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds, Lancome's Tresor and some newcomer designer scents.
Calvin Klein's CK One, a marketing upstart not readily associated with Mother's Day, continued to exert the overpowering muscle that made it last fall's top launch.
"What this has told us is that Mother's Day is a bigger holiday than we ever thought," said Arnold Orlick, executive vice president and general merchandise manager at Bloomingdale's. "It also tells us that we should be optimistic for the fall season in fragrance.
"We had momentum going in," he said, adding business was fueled by a "double hit" of promotions by all major vendors in April and a follow-up with five days of generic radio advertising last week.
Winners at Bloomingdale's were CK One and some older brands--Boucheron, Ralph Lauren's Safari, Calvin Klein's Escape, Estee Lauder's Beautiful, Tresor, Donna Karan, Chanel No. 5 and L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake.
There were big smiles at other divisions of Bloomingdale's parent, Federated-Macy's. Michelle Williams, divisional vice president of Federated Merchandising, described business as "outstanding."
Referring to the entire corporation, she said, "Looking at the first two weeks of May, we exceeded plan by double digits. All of the divisions did well--Bloomingdale's had a great two weeks; Macy's East had strong, strong numbers."
The biggest gainer was Chanel No. 5, which Williams said was "off the map."
"It did extremely, extremely well," she continued. "We did great business with their [fragrance gift set] in the black bag. No. 5 was the real story of Mother's Day. They also have the new Voile Parfume, which has been selling like crazy. It provides an alternative that consumers are looking for."
Williams said a number of other classics made strong showings, among them Yves Saint Laurent's Opium, Oscar de la Renta and Tiffany.
"And Shalimar was terrific; it's back in a big way," she said of the Guerlain classic. "It's a traditional gift and it really popped at the beginning of May. Givenchy's Amarige was also outstanding."
While older, established brands were the leaders of the pack, Williams said several newer scents--including CK One, Dolce & Gabbana, L'Eau d'Issey, Thierry Mugler's Angel and Boucheron's Jaipur--have been posting solid sales.
"A lot of these brands are new for us, but they did very well in a strong gift-giving season," she said. "This is interesting to me because, aside from CK One, a lot of the top 20 brands weren't moving all that well. But they all did great for Mother's Day."
Intensified sampling was one reason behind the Mother's Day jump, according to Williams. She said this month's strong pattern "should continue for fall--because I've seen Christmas, and I know it's going to be healthy."
One notable development at Federated and other retailers was the unexpectedly strong launch this spring of Adrienne Vittadini's first signature fragrance.
"We were pleasantly surprised; it is terrific," said Orlick, who noted the scent ranked number two behind CK One in April and number four during the Mother's Day period. Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager at Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's, said the Vittadini launch was "considerably" over plan.
Pat Joyce, divisional vice president at Rich's in Atlanta, said, "It embarrassingly blew away our plan," adding that the new fragrance doubled the projection.
"It is doing well," said John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Neiman Marcus in Dallas.
Mother's Day was also a hit at Saks Fifth Avenue. Deborah Walters, divisional merchandise manager, said she was "very pleased with Mother's Day--it was solid." Sales gains were in the "low teens."
The leader at Saks was the Chanel stable of scents, especially No. 5.
"Chanel has had an exceptional season," Walters said. "We've been running a number of exclusive events with them, which has really boosted the business."
Among fragrance brands showing the strongest gains at Saks were the Annick Goutal scents, Angel from Thierry Mugler, L'Eau d'Issey, Donna Karan, Tiffany, Cartier and the Guerlain stable.
"I've also been very pleased with some of our recent launches," Walters added, citing Eau de Murano, Bulgari and the Hermes collection. She said Nina Ricci's Deci Dele, launched last week at Saks, "had a wonderful weekend" and appears to be "very promising."
Walters predicted the strength of the women's fragrance business would continue through the fall.
"I think it's going to be another great season, with a strong schedule," she said. "We'll be launching [Estee Lauder's] Pleasures, and we're very excited about that."
At Rich's, White Diamonds shot up in the rankings to displace CK One as the top-selling women's fragrance for the two-week Mother's Day period, according to Joyce. Other hot scents were Calvin Klein's Obsession and Eternity, Tresor, Beautiful, the Realm pheromone fragrance, Oscar de la Renta and Kenzo's d'Ete.
A department-wide gift-with-purchase promotion, offering consumers a Mother's Day T-shirt with $50 in fragrance purchases, helped push Rich's volume increase over 20 percent for the period.
"It was the best that business has been all year," said Burke at Dayton Hudson, where sales climbed an estimated 10 to 15 percent.
"You wouldn't have picked CK One as a Mother's Day item, but it was very strong," Burke noted. "Mom may have had a tattoo this year."
In addition to Adrienne Vittadini, strong performances were turned in by White Diamonds, Chanel No. 5, Donna Karan, Issey Miyake's women's and new men's fragrances, Kenzo's d'Ete and the new Origins scent, Spring Fever.
White Diamonds was driven by a high-powered value set--billed as a $117 value for $45.
The major brands put together "powerful offerings," Burke noted, adding that the items and promotions were attractive enough "to overcome the competition of discounting in other channels of trade and other value opportunities elsewhere within the store."
At Neiman's, business was above plan, led by Bulgari, Quelques Fleurs, Fath de Fath by Jacques Fath, Chanel No. 5, Angel, Donna Karan, Cartier and Escada.
"We were very pleased," said Stabenau.
At The Broadway in Los Angeles, leading Mother's Day brands, in no particular order, were White Diamonds, Escape, Eternity and Obsession, Paloma Picasso, Opium, Chanel No. 5, Jessica by Jessica McClintock, Paul Sebastian's Design and Giorgio Beverly Hills.
"We had a wonderful Mother's Day," said Margo Scavarda, senior vice president of The Broadway/Carter Hawley Hale, noting sales for the holiday were up 15 percent this year.
"Mother's Day is our second Christmas, so we make it a real event in-store with gift packaging and exciting visuals," she said, pointing out Mother's Day represents about 8 percent of the store's cosmetics sales for the year.
Scavarda predicts the cosmetics division will show 15 percent increases this year. She attributed the growth largely to remodeled cosmetics floors in-store and to new promotional programs such as Club West, the company's frequent buyer club.
Fragrance sales were up 67 percent at Sears for the two weeks and three days prior to Mother's Day, according to Vicki McClendon, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics. McClendon attributed the increase largely to the 60 new full-line cosmetics stores opened by Sears since last Mother's Day; there are now more than 80. Same-store sales were up 17 percent, she said.
Mother's Day represents about 8 percent of Sears's women's fragrance sales for the year, McClendon noted.
Top fragrances at Sears, in no particular order, were Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds, Giorgio's Red and Wings, Tresor, Cacherel's Anais Anais, Liz Claiborne and Opium.
Among the company's mass-market offerings, Coty's Longing and Vanilla Fields prevailed, along with Classic Gardenia from Renaissance Cosmetics and L'Oreal's Vanderbilt.
"Coty was very aggressive this Mother's Day and we did really well with them," McClendon said. "Vanilla Fields was really quite amazing. It's about one-third of the price of White Diamonds, and it almost did as well for us in terms of volume."
The store offered three promotions that did particularly well. McClendon singled out the tennis bracelet gift that accompanied a White Diamonds purchase and the little black clutch bag offered with Tresor.
"We gave a porcelain clock away with any $35 purchase and it really helped to drive the whole business," she added.

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