NEW YORK — Will fragrance be a player in the dating game? French Connection U.K. is betting on it with the launch of its men’s and women’s fragrances, due out in fall 2003.

Both the advertising visual and the promotional T-shirt prominently display the phrase: “Scent to bed.”

To further accentuate the fragrance’s sexy, irreverent positioning, the team at Zirh International — the brand’s fragrance licensee —?created “the FCUK room,” a mock bar, at its headquarters to give retailers a feel for the brand. The room features pickup lines on the walls and mock FCUK bottled drinks are displayed on a lighted bar. The intent: a relaxed atmosphere to present the brand, explained Brian Robinson, president of Zirh International Corp., a division of Shiseido. The fragrances will launch in September and target 18- to 30-year-olds.

And Robinson is feeling confident about the fragrances’ chances, even in a challenging market —?he hopes that both will crack the top 10 at counter. “The timing is right, based on the target market for FCUK being a growth sector — Generation Y — and Zirh building a credible reputation in the marketplace,” said Robinson. “FCUK is a very hot brand that is growing exponentially worldwide, and we intend to capitalize on that growth with the fall launch.”

French Connection, the trendy fashion brand, distributes its women’s and men’s clothing, shoes and accessories in more than 80 countries, and Andrea Hyde, president of its U.S. arm, French Connection Holdings Inc., believes the scent will add a new dimension to the business. “This dynamic new initiative will take the French Connection global image to the next level,” said Hyde. “The provocative positioning of our fragrance will target the sexy and fashionable customer who has been otherwise forgotten in the current fragrance marketplace.”

Created by Givaudan Roure, FCUK for Her, has top notes of bergamot, muguet and water iris; middle notes of peony, jasmine, violet and barringtonia flower, and bottom notes of golden amber, musk and cedarwood. The eau de toilette is available in a 1.7-oz. for $39 and a 3.4-oz. for $49. The ancillary selection includes a body lotion with shimmer and a body wash soufflé, each 6.7 ounces and retailing for $24.50 and $22.50 respectively, and a 3-oz. fragrance shimmer stick for $24.50.FCUK for Him, created by Fragrance Resources, has top notes of basil, rosemary, lavender and sangria; the middle notes are hemp, New Mexican black sage, tea leaves and green peppercorns and a dry-down composed of CO2 vanilla, ebony wood, patchouli and black suede. The men’s eau de toilette is available in two sizes, 1.7 oz. for $38 and 3.4 oz. for $48. Ancillaries include a 4.2-oz. aftershave gel, $22.50; a 6.7-oz hair and body shampoo, $18.50; a 5.1-oz. deodorant spray, $14.50, and a 2.6-oz. deodorant stick, $14.50. The entire collection of fragrance bottles and ancillaries were designed by Fabien Baron.

Industry sources estimate that the fragrances could ring up as much as $25 million at retail in the U.S. and worldwide retail sales of $60 million. FCUK men’s and women’s fragrances will launch in 1,000 doors in the U.S., as well as 100 French Connection stores and 8,500 international doors. There are plans to roll out to about 40 countries within two years.

While executives declined to comment, industry sources estimate advertising spend could amount to as much as $8 million. The ad campaign will break in September magazines that target 16- to 30-year-olds and sampling will consist of 25 million scented impressions, as well as 5 million vial-on-card and deluxe samples. A variety of guerrilla marketing techniques will also take place on college campuses through fraternities or live concerts. Robinson emphasized that there will be “an extremely interactive Web site” that is a communication tool to drive consumers into stores with contests such as “Best Pickup Lines” and MP3 downloads.

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