NEW YORK--Mass market retailers are turning to Mom to put a spark in fragrance sales. Borrowing a cue from department stores, drug and discount store operators are trying to make Mother's Day a major fragrance event. The goal is to take some of the pressure off the Christmas selling season, a period that accounts for 75 percent of some mass marketers' fragrance business. Buyers are hoping that this year's Mother's Day--which will be observed May 14--will exceed last year's by about 7 to 8 percent. "This is the first year in a while we have some exciting launches that lend themselves to special treatment for Mother's Day," said Judy Wray, senior buyer for Revco Drug Stores in Twinsburg, Ohio. To rev up volume, mass marketers said they are building end-aisle displays devoted to Mother's Day, as well as decorating the stores earlier than ever, offering special gift sets and bringing in new scents. "After Christmas, Mother's Day is the next biggest event," said Allen D. Nehman, senior vice president of merchandising at the Cosmetics Center. For the first time ever, the stores will be decorated for Mother's Day. "We'll be doing some subtle decorations and signs to remind people of Mother's Day," Nehman added. Nehman expects the most popular fragrances in the Cosmetic Center's 68 stores will be the classics. "The Shalimars, the Chanels--classics sold well at Christmas and always do well at Mother's Day," he said, adding that Coty's Vanilla Fields will continue to dominate the mass market business. A buyer for another major chain said he also thinks Vanilla Fields will have a big season. He's also hoping to see greater action behind Coty's Longing than he experienced at Christmas. "Longing wasn't as hot as we've come to expect for Coty. Of course, it would have been sensational for any other vendor," he said. "The fragrance should appeal to those purchasing for Mother's Day gifts." Wray at Revco is optimistic about Renaissance Cosmetics' Mother's Day program behind Classic Gardenia, a new scent Renaissance acquired with its purchase of Dana Perfumes. "They have a beautiful merchandising kit, and we're dropping a scent strip into our in-store flyer," she said. "They did it right." In honor of the occasion, Coty has pulled together a special end cap display which merchandises value sprays and gift sets of its Truly Lace, L'Effleur and Vanilla Fields brands. "We offer value sprays at lower price points in fragrances such as Vanilla Fields, where we are continuing to try and get trial usage," said Mary Manning, vice president of market development for Coty. Robert Germano, president of Harmon Discount Stores in Cedar Grove, N.J., said his chain will start decorating stores in April for Mother's Day. "We're doing it earlier because we have to fight for the business," Germano said, referring to the fact that competition is tough not only from other mass marketers, but also from department stores, which are taking a more promotional approach to selling fragrances. Germano predicted Elizabeth Arden's Sunflowers would sell well for Mother's Day. Several other buyers concurred that Sunflowers should rank among their top performers, in dollars, for Mother's Day. They added that there is an ample supply of Sunflowers via secondary sources. But for those who can't get enough Sunflowers, there's a bevy of alternatives hitting the market in time for Mother's Day. Among the suppliers unveiling a version of the scent are Delagar, Rouses Point, N.Y.; Designer Mists by Fragrance Impressions Limited, Bridgeport, Conn., and Lady in Yellow from Lady in Red Ltd., East Norwich, N.Y. Revco will launch Lady in Yellow on a special end-aisle display in April, according to Wray. The entire display will be devoted to Lady in Yellow and will have special sunflower-motif decorations affixed to the shelf. Lady in Yellow is available in a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum natural spray retailing for $9.95, a 0.5-oz. eau de parfum spray for $5.95 and a 3-oz. body spray for $3.50. Industry sources estimated the brand could have a wholesale volume of about $3 million. Additionally, Lady in Red is borrowing a tactic from department stores by offering a purchase-with-purchase with Lady in Yellow. "Each item is customized for the account, and they can handle it however they want," said Deborah Richman, president. The items are all adorned with sunflowers and range from tote bags to address books. The retailer actually purchases the item from Lady in Red and then can set a purchase price.
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