PARIS — High-end designer creations led the way in Europe this holiday season but business was as tough as ever.LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, L’Oréal, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and Procter & Gamble went into overdrive to launch major designer scents this fall through their respective Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent, Lacoste and Hugo Boss divisions. And it paid off: While the final results are still being tallied, the firms’ Dior Addict, Sensi, Glamourous, M7, Lacoste and Baldessarini fragrances were vying for top slots on European perfumery shelves in the days before Christmas.Among new women’s scents, Dior Addict and Sensi came out ahead, according to the 16 retailers queried representing 2,762 doors across France, the U.K., Germany and Italy. For men, M7, Lacoste and Baldessarini ruled."People are really after designer fragrances now more than ever," said Claudia Lucas, head of buying for beauty and cosmetics at three-door British department store Selfridges. "The fragrances that are really working tend to be those that are more daring and ones that are top-end. They tend to come with a much bigger statement this time around, whether it be the overtly sexy advertising or the juice."The luxury and sensuality implicit in the recent crop of designer fragrances are striking a chord with consumers during a tough period. Most European beauty retailers expect to close 2002 at best up high single digits.Dior Addict, which was launched worldwide in October with an ad visual showing model Liberty Ross semi-clad in a sensuous reverie, is winning kudos for its strong marketing mix. The scent is Dior’s first to target the younger set and was expected to ring up $80 million in wholesale volume in its first year, industry sources said. "Addict works well; it’s the best new fragrance" in Marionnaud’s 550 French doors, said Philippe Charoing, managing director at the perfumery chain."We’re doing very well with Addict; it’s extremely successful," agreed Stephanie Stalford, head of beauty at France’s 17-door Printemps department store. "It has good advertising — people either love it or hate it — it’s very visible and it has a strong media plan.""It’s an ensemble," commented a spokeswoman for France’s 170-door Sephora perfumery chain, referring to Addict’s blue streamlined bottle and its floral oriental sensual juice. "Customers like it.""Dior Addict is doing well because of its sultry campaign," said Cristina Marchi, marketing executive at Italy’s 163-door Ethos Group.A spokesman for Germany’s 250-door Intercos perfumery cooperative noted that the scent’s $73.90 price tag for a 100-ml. eau de toilette has not deterred consumers there.It has, however, discouraged young customers at Paris’ Samaritaine department store."[Addict] was supposed to be a fragrance for young people, but it’s very expensive," explained the store’s specialty director for perfumery and lingerie Caroline Roulin, who said her Addict customers are aged 40-plus. But price isn’t an issue when it comes to M7, which the Sephora spokeswoman said "started well" there. Selfridges’ Lucas said its fresh woody sensual juice and link with in-the-news designer Tom Ford helps make the sale. M7 has also had a warm reception at Samaritaine, according to Roulin.So has M7’s ad, which also comes in a version where only the model’s torso is exposed. "There is something very sensual about it — [not] smutty — which is a rarity where nakedness is concerned," Lucas said. Lacoste Pour Homme also took the Full Monty route for its ad featuring a man in the buff.The campaign is luring customers to buy the scent at Samaritaine, where it is "working well," according to Roulin. "These days, it’s very important to attract customers by creating curiosity," she explained.Lacoste Pour Homme is a top seller among the recent men’s fragrance launches at Marionnaud. "It’s an easy fragrance," Charoing remarked.Lacoste Pour Homme also claims the top spot among new men’s scents at Printemps and has been doing well at Sephora. The fragrance also placed among the top 20 best-selling men’s scents at Germany’s 680-door Parma Aurel perfumery cooperative, according to its director of marketing, Bernd-Jurgen Hohfeld.And the spokesman for Intercos said the juice is "a really beautiful, manly scent." In Italy, among other countries, Giorgio Armani is making waves with his latest fragrance for women, Sensi. The scent was expected to be one of 70-door department store chain Coin’s top three fragrances for the holidays. In November, it ranked first among women’s scents in Douglas’ 423 German doors. Sensi was number two among top sellers in November at 340-door German perfumery cooperative Wir fur Sie, according to Manfred Dietzler, its marketing coordinator. The scent also ranked third, after Chanel No. 5 and Lancôme’s Tresor, at Parma-Aurel.Sensi currently places second, after Dior Addict, for best-selling women’s newcomers at Marionnaud, Charoing said. The fragrance has also been doing "very well" since its launch at Sephora, according to the perfumery chain’s spokeswoman."We’re happy with our first results," added Printemps’ Stalford. However, the success hasn’t been unanimous. Another French buyer said Sensi will take awhile to build acclaim.Meantime, Ralph Lauren is going head-to-head with European designers on their turf with his latest fragrance to hit overseas, Glamourous, which was launched in Germany, Italy and the U.K. last summer and France in October. It’s backed by an ad featuring Penélope Cruz."Glamourous is a good all-around product," Lucas said. "The advertising is strong, the juice is great and the packaging works."The scent is also "doing very well" at Harrods in London, said Clare Morgan, the store’s buyer for perfumery and cosmetics. Otherwise, added Morgan, "Roberto Cavalli’s [first] fragrance is one that is currently doing very well." She added, "people are very brand-aware of the scent. It has exceeded expectations."Silvia Chili, buyer for Douglas’ 85 Italian doors, concurred that the scent is ringing up strong sales. She, like other retailers, said they expected the increased visibility of the Roberto Cavalli ads featuring a model with a snake draped over her naked body in the week before Christmas to result in an uptick in sales."Both Armani and Cavalli have poured more money into last-minute advertising this holiday season," said Mimmo Lembo, a buyer at Rome’s three-door Koine Profumerie chain. "These advertisements have been noticed because they are both so sensual."Cavalli’s fragrance has also been among the bestsellers at Italy’s five-door Mazzolari, its spokeswoman said.Back in the U.K., Gucci Eau de Parfum took the top spot among newcomers at Selfridges. "It’s a great product," Lucas said, "and it really personifies the brand. It’s like Gucci in a bottle, it’s beautiful, elegant and really aspirational."A strong link to the Gucci image is key to the fragrance’s success, agreed Samaritaine’s Roulin, adding: "Gucci has its customers. It’s always good. We’re not doing a lot of volume, but it’s always interesting."The fragrance has also had positive results at Mazzolari.It’s megawatt star power that’s translating into sales for singer/actress Jennifer Lopez with her debut scent, Glow, launched in August in Europe for $39 for a 50-ml. eau de toilette spray. The scent was second in Douglas’ November ranking for women’s fragrance and the fifth best-selling women’s scent in Wir fur Sie."It’s very well-accepted by the younger consumer," Parma-Aurel’s Hohfeld said.However, it’s not just those under 25 buying it. "It’s at a good price point and is not only being bought by younger women," said the spokesman for Intercos, where the scent is a leader among the fall offerings.But with designer fragrances grabbing the limelight, beauty firms without a fashion link are generally having a harder time on the beauty catwalk with their scents. Elizabeth Arden’s latest, Ardenbeauty, is experiencing a tough start even with actress Catherine Zeta-Jones as its spokeswoman."Ardenbeauty has been disappointing," Selfridges’ Lucas said. "It’s a good juice and does have sophistication and Catherine Zeta-Jones is a great asset, but I think the picture used of her [in the ad] doesn’t work. It doesn’t make the scent look sexy."Marionnaud’s Charoing said Ardenbeauty’s name causes problems in the French market, since it doesn’t make the product easily identifiable as a fragrance.On the masculine side, Hugo Boss’ entry, Baldessarini — named after Hugo Boss’ top-end clothing line — has become a surprise hit of the season in the U.K. and Germany, taking the second spot on Douglas’ men’s fragrances chart in November."The concept fits the Zeitgeist and it addresses a new target group, the more adult of grown-up men," Wir fur Sie’s Dietzler said.The Intercos spokesman said Baldessarini is performing well "because Boss is well-known and it also addresses the theme of luxury.""It exceeded all of our expectations," Harrods’ Morgan said. "The packaging is so great. It comes in a heavy silver canister, which is appealing to men."Baldessarini also topped Parma-Aurel’s charts, which "no one had counted on," Hohfeld said. "It’s a high-quality product," said Klaus Kobberger, owner of the Kobberger Parfumerie in Frankfurt, Germany. "The bottle is great."Meanwhile, Calvin Klein’s Crave is hitting its more youthful target."It sells itself," said Samaritaine’s Roulin, who noted that the fragrance is particularly suitable for open-sell doors."Crave has done very well," Selfridges’ Lucas said. "It is a great Christmas scent. It appeals to a young guy, someone aged 16 upward. It’s very clear about that."In Germany, Crave ranked number five at Douglas in November for men and is expected to be among this year’s best-selling new scents at Wir fur Sie. But the fragrance was having a more difficult time at Intercos. "It’s not playing a major role in our stores," the company spokesman said. Meanwhile, Givenchy Pour Homme has been lauded, particularly for its presentation. It ranked seventh among bestsellers for men in Douglas in November. In Printemps, it is so far the second best-selling men’s fragrance among the recent entrants.

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