By  on December 15, 2006

PARIS — The shopping season has kicked off full of holiday cheer, since most European perfumeries expect to close 2006 with a single-digit to low-double-digit rise year on year.

Although some of that gain will be thanks to an easy comparison with 2005, when business was soft, an uptick in numerous Western European economies has contributed.

Yet, that's not to say fragrance is an easy sell these days.

"Our competition is much broader than in the past," said Damien Viel, fragrance category director at Marionnaud Parfumeries, with 560 doors in France, referring largely to electronics, which have in many instances supplanted fragrance as the must-have holiday gift.

"To be successful today, a scent introduction must be multidimensional and create a very strong impact at the retailer —visually, through sound, through smell and so on," added Fabien Petitcolin, Printemps department store's beauty buyer, overseeing 17 doors in France. "A page of advertising in a magazine is not enough. Of course, you have to recruit initially, but once a customer is in the store, you have to continue creating the dream and conveying the magic of the product."

In a poll conducted by WWD of perfumery buyers representing 1,940 doors across France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., a handful of bestsellers were mentioned. Among the top eaux for women are Parfums Nina Ricci's Nina, Guerlain's Insolence, Dolce & Gabbana's The One, Jil Sander's Style, Hugo Boss' Boss Femme and Parfums Giorgio Armani's Armani Code. For men, Yves Saint Laurent Parfums' L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein's Euphoria Men and Prada Amber Pour Homme were making waves Europe-wide. And then, of course, there are always the regional favorites.

The following is what buyers are saying about the state of the fragrance business on a country-by-country basis.

Recent introductions targeting young consumers, including Nina, Insolence and L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent, are among the success stories at French beauty retailers today.

At Marionnaud Parfumeries, Viel said Nina was a surprise hit. The scent, which was launched in France in July, is among the three best-selling women's fragrances there."No one was expecting it; it was a late launch and, creatively, it resembled Delices de Cartier, so we weren't that confident," he said. "But it's been a pleasant surprise."

Petitcolin of Printemps said Nina was "surely the best surprise of the year. The story is very coherent. Its spirit of a modern fairy tale and the apple of love is simply charming our customers."

Among what Viel described as an "avalanche" of women's scents, Insolence has been the most successful fall introduction at Marionnaud.

"While remaining extremely Guerlain, it has succeeded in attracting a very young clientele and is showing very satisfying results," he said.

At single-unit department store Bon Marché, Insolence leads the pack of women's fragrances. Marie-Francoise Stouls, director of the beauty department, said the scent's strength comes primarily from the huge media push backed by actress Hilary Swank.

Another hit is Stella in Two, in a solid and a liquid, produced by Stella McCartney and her beauty license-holder YSL Beauté. The scent intrigues consumers, Stouls said. Other scents doing well there were Coty Inc.'s Marc Jacobs Splash scents and Giorgio Armani's Cuir Amethyste.

Over at Sephora France, with 202 doors, a trio of scents owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — Insolence, Ange ou Demon and Kenzo Amour — were selling best for women. And Nina and Hugo Boss' Boss Femme were among the top five.

In men's fragrances, L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent was the key launch at Marionnaud. And the scent is expected to finish the year ahead of Terre d'Hermes, which had until recently been the year's best-selling men's fragrance.

Viel attributed YSL's success to the momentum created by the fashion house's designer Stefano Pilati, who "has propelled the brand's image and status," and to the fragrance itself. Viel lauded YSL's media investment, innovative merchandising and in-store events for the scent.

Bon Marché's Stouls said L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent's strong performance was due to a mix of juice, packaging and advertising that featured French actor Olivier Martinez.

"It's a magnetic and sensual fragrance, which attracts those customers who are looking for a real classic," said Printemps' Petitcolin, who added that Euphoria Men had shown a strong debut. "It's a product of quality, while at the same time very commercial."At Sephora, Viktor and Rolf's Antidote had taken top slot for men. It was followed by L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent, Prada Amber Pour Homme and Euphoria.

In Germany, local heroes and designer labels hit high notes in the run-up to the holidays. The One, Jil Sander Style and Boss Femme were among the new scents ringing up strongest sales, retailers said.

The One lived up to its name, taking the top spot among women's fragrances in November in the 230-member, 330-door Wir für Sie perfumery cooperative.

"The One is performing very well, supported by the campaign and a very high-quality bottle," said a cooperative spokeswoman.

German designer brands, Jil Sander and Hugo Boss — with Style and Boss Femme, respectively — were also buoyant among the flood of new eaux, as were non-German designer launches, including Euphoria Men, L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent and Lacoste Inspiration.

"They all combine success factors like a great juice, interesting packaging and, of course, very appealing communication and marketing," said a spokesman for the 433-door Douglas perfumery chain.

At Wir für Sie, among the new women's launches, Jil Sander Style reached the number-one slot in October, and Boss Femme was at number four. But those moved down some rungs in November, when Jil Sander Style took third place and Boss Femme came in fifth.

In men's scents, Calvin Klein Euphoria Men hit third spot at Wir für Sie in October and fourth in November. The scent, which is widely distributed in the co-op, was the only fall launch to make the top 10 list.

Joop Jump placed 10th there.

Among the top-ranking fragrance names in Italy are Kenzo Amour, The One, Tom Ford's Black Orchid and Euphoria.

According to Antonella Mandelli, general manager of the Mazzolari perfumery chain, which has 60 stores in Italy, Kenzo Amour is "a great fragrance and has wonderful packaging."

Simone Destefanis, division manager for cosmetics and well-being at 16 doors of Rinascente department store, said, "Kenzo Amour is a special scent because of its packaging. Its advertising is evocative and dreamlike; it really appeals to certain customers."The One is a top seller at Douglas, which has 115 doors in Italy, according to a spokesman at the perfumery's buying office.

Mandelli said The One was selling well, "not because of the advertising, but the push in terms of in-store marketing, the mini-testers and window displays."

"The One is doing very well, thanks to a mix of good advertising, the right packaging and the scent," explained Destefanis.

Mandelli said Black Orchid was going strong, thanks to its long-lasting juice and because it was "different."

"Customers are looking for something different," she said.

"Tom Ford's Black Orchid has been a big launch success for us," continued Destefanis. "His name carries weight here, not just in fashion circles, but for people interested in buying a product that's different."

On the men's front, he said, "Euphoria by Calvin Klein was selling very well."

It was ringing up strong sales at Douglas, too.

Designer brands and niche names were winners in U.K. department stores. Vera Wang Princess, Armani Code, The One and Guerlain's Insolence received plaudits from buyers in the women's arena. Among the men's scents making a splash were Prada Amber Pour Homme (a.k.a. Prada Man), L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent, Euphoria and Sean John's Unforgivable.

"Vera Wang surprised us all and has done extremely well," said Sue Price, merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrance at Debenhams, which has 140 doors in the U.K. "The unique offer, lovely juice and eye-catching packaging have really driven sales. This was further supported with an e-mail campaign and innovative marketing. Our customers loved the pink box and beautiful heart-shaped bottle."

The fragrance, which is skewed to younger women, is working well at 61-door House of Fraser, according to beauty buyer Debbie Beaumont-Howell. She noted a scent must make strong performances in all aspects of the product mix to win a top spot at the department store.

Also working well in House of Fraser were Armani Code, Agent Provocateur Maitresse and Insolence.

Armani Code was a hit in Debenhams, as was The One."The One has a glamorous gold bottle and a rich spicy juice," said Price. "Our customers love the gold packaging and responded well to the eye-catching television advertisement featuring Gisele [Bundchen]."

Price added that Boss Femme was among the strong female launches at the store.

Over at Harrods, perfumery and cosmetics buyer Caroline Hindle said best-selling women's scents included Black Orchid, Vera Wang Princess, Sisley's Soir de Lune and Armani Privé.

Among men's introductions, Prada Man worked well in both Debenhams and House of Fraser. Beaumont-Howell put its success down to "quality, not quantity."

"Prada Man looked great in store, has a beautiful contemporary bottle, which our customers love," said Price. "The juice is fresh and clean and very commercial."

L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent was a strong performer in both chains.

"Within the men's winners, Euphoria followed an extremely successful launch of the female fragrance last year," said Price.

At Harrods, among the latest entrants in the men's market, Prada Man and Burberry London for Men were doing well.

Harvey Nichols perfumery and cosmetics buyer Tracy Van Heusden said shoppers were being selective in the high-end department store's six doors in the U.K. and Ireland.

"Factors such as distribution, price discounting and brand positioning affect sales of fragrance within our stores," she said. "Customers are driven by designer and niche fragrances."

With contributions from Ellen Groves, Paris; Brid Costello, London; Melissa Drier, Berlin, and Stephanie Epiro, Milan

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