NEW YORK — It gets lonely being a mass fragrance marketer.

While Coty Beauty is singing the praises of its new Celine Dion fragrance, now expanding from select department stores into mass doors, another manufacturer is fighting to keep its brands center stage, too. New Dana, even as its management seeks new owners, hopes to outpace the market and make 2003 a merry Christmas.

It’s a tough road. According to statistics from ACNielsen, women’s mass fragrance sales are down 16.6 percent to $473 million for the 52-week period ended July 12, 2003. Men’s are down 6.3 percent to $350 million for the same time frame. Figures exclude Wal-Mart.

Retailers are vowing to push more designer scents this year. “Designer will be strong for holiday fragrances,” predicted Kathy Steirly, Eckerd’s vice president of beauty care. Most drug, discount and supermarket chains plan to supplant many traditional holiday fragrance gift sets with color blockbusters and bath gift sets. Meanwhile, Steirly noted, “Celine is doing very well for us — we are extremely pleased so far.”

Those facts don’t fluster Tony Wesley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of New Dana. “We have executed the strategies we promised for holidays,” he said. One initiative was to bring forth more ancillary fragrance products for gift sets than traditional “juice on juice.” This year New Dana has a perfumed body soufflé formulation for Tabu, Chantilly and Heaven Sent. Another twist — a solid stick perfume for Love’s Baby Soft. There is also a Love’s Baby Soft package containing a body mist with two solid glitter sticks, retailing for $11.99.

Seeking new ways to provoke the mass market fragrance business, New Dana also worked with Walgreens to create a special tester display for New Dana fragrances. “This is a chance for new users, and it will be rolled out in 2004 if successful,” Wesley said. “A Chantilly user knows what it smells like, but if we can get more testing we can build sales.”

Wesley is optimistic, albeit cautiously, about the upcoming holiday season. New Dana sold in roughly the same amount of inventory as last year and hopes for a cleaner sell-through when sales are tallied in January. Gift set pricing, while still a value, is $1 higher than last year. New Dana, despite vying against Coty’s mega brands and volume generators such as Parfums de Coeur, has still managed to see its brands crack into the top 10.Christmas, once a season that could produce 75 percent of profits for the beauty department, has become more of a challenge for the industry. Shoppers who used to load up on fragrance gift kits now look for one designer scent or color gift collections.

John Galantic, president of Coty Beauty, said that the company was looking forward to a good Christmas season. “We’ve made significant improvements to the look and the value of our gift sets for our established brand leaders in both fragrance and specialty bath.” And new launches like Celine Dion, Adidas Adrenaline and Stetson Untamed are off to a strong start, noted Galantic. “For the industry as a whole, it seems that the current trend of discounted prestige brands is continuing with more and more prestige brands coming to mass but unfortunately discounted to levels which do not allow the category to grow in dollars.”

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