PARIS — Although European perfumery buyers estimate that between 15 and 50 percent of a brand’s sales are generated by a new fragrance, they are making strategic decisions on fall’s fragrance entries on a case-by-case basis.

“We must look at newness brand by brand,” said one buyer. “Take Lancôme and Guerlain. Does Lancôme need a new juice? I don’t know. For Guerlain’s image it may be justified, after the failure of Mahora.”

Other retail executives say all the new scents help lure clients into their stores and add freshness and excitement at counter.

Yet, for most European perfumery buyers, the flood of new fragrance introductions is a bane, rather than a boon.

“I consider that there are too many launches at the end of the year — it leads to consumer confusion,” said Marie-Francoise Stouls, director of the Theatre de la Beaute at The Bon Marche department store. “For distributors, it leads to stock problems because not all of the launches are necessarily successful.”

Paolo Calvi, product manager at Italy’s Coin department store, agreed. “I believe it is extremely difficult to stock all the new fragrances because it’s too expensive,” he explained. “It is important to select new scents according to the target market of the shop.”

A spokesman for Intercos, the German perfumery cooperative with 213 doors, added it’s becoming increasingly difficult for retailers to pick winners in the fragrance launch sweepstakes, since the proliferation of new scents leads consumers to adopt a fickle trial-and-error approach.

“They’ll try [a fragrance] and if they like it, okay. But if not, it’s the last purchase,” he said. “The new fragrances eat up the new entries from the last two or three years — and just a few make it.”

“Certainly the number of new launches creates confusion for the customers,” said Coin’s Calvi. “Therefore, it is necessary to [change] this way of trading and find a way that gives a line more credibility.”

Manfred Dietzler, marketing coordinator for Wir für Sie, a German cooperative of 246 members operating 340 doors, contends, “In a growing market, new launches are important, even en masse, and can be coped with by all. But in a stagnant market, like today, it’s a problem.”“The market isn’t growing, even with newness,” agreed one European beauty retailer. “Newness destabilizes the market.”

However, this isn’t necessarily true for the business classic scents ring up. Dietzler said, “Many say there’s a trend to the classics….The new launches don’t affect [them], but rather cut into the [sales of fragrances launched] one to two years back.”

Clare Horner, cosmetics and perfumery buyer at Harrods department store, said she believes all the fragrance-launch activity brings mixed results. Among the positive points, she observed, “There’s so much to choose from for every occasion, every target group, every lifestyle.

“A woman these days doesn’t stick to one fragrance,” continued Horner. “She wears a different fragrance in the morning, in the evening for special occasions and tends to try the ‘hottest’ fragrance of the season.”

Another retailer said she thinks fragrance buyers are getting increasingly savvy: “There was definitely a phase of customer confusion, but I think we’re coming to an end of that. They’re intelligent consumers and I think they do know the difference between a Bulgari and Gucci scent.”

Looking ahead, how can retailers best deal with the plethora of new products?

“We’ll be concentrating on the items that have the greatest prospects for success, and also arranging for exclusives so we can strengthen our profile,” said Wir für Sie’s Dietzler.

By making a more critical choice among the newcomers, he said, “the opportunities become greater than the problems.”

But for that to be possible, he said, early information is crucial about manufacturers’ marketing plans regarding their new fragrances. “Then we can make concentrated suggestions [to our members],” he said. “Whether it’s 100 or 150 new fragrance coming on the market, you must make a targeted choice.”

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