By  on September 9, 1994

PARIS -- Paco Rabanne's XS is selling exceedingly well. So are a handful of fresh-smelling men's scents, plus the standard fragrance classics from Christian Dior, Azzaro, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, according to French retailers.

"Everything about XS is appealing," said Agnès Girard, the Printemps department store fragrance manager.

"The name and the advertising are very appealing, people love the flip-up cap, and men and women both like the smell, which is always an advantage," she added.

Other fresh-smelling men's scents that are doing well are Eau de Rochas Pour Homme, Davidoff's Cool Water, Kenzo Pour Homme, Jacques Fath's Greenwater, Guy Laroche's Horizon, Chanel's Egoòste Platinum, Calvin Klein's Eternity for Men and Cerruti's 1881.

"The spicy, heavy fragrances of two years ago are over, and the new fresh-smelling ones are also long-lasting," noted Girard.

"XS and Eau de Rochas Pour Homme are the classics of tomorrow," said Marie-Annick Choloux, managing director of the nine Marick perfumeries in Angers and Le Mans.

But the new fresh scents have not cannibalized the base of the business -- the classics -- retailers said.

"Men's fragrance classics aren't really hurt by new launches; the new launches are a plus," said Béatrice Rollet, fragrance merchandise manager at Galeries Lafayette.

Girard agreed. "New fragrances bring in new clients, but the classics are doing well," she said.

The number-one classic is Dior's Eau Sauvage, which leads at Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Silver Moon.

Monique Dauby, fragrance buying manager for the 49-store perfumery chain of Sephora shops and Shop 8 stores, said that the top-ranking men's classics aren't losing market share, but the ones further down in the rankings are suffering.

"The size of the pie remains the same -- it's just the fragrances at the bottom that are being cut into."

Dauby added that the chain doesn't have a policy of discontinuing brands that don't sell well, but instead orders fewer stockkeeping units.

As for who's doing the buying in-store, retailers say that more and more men are buying for themselves. But they prefer self-service to being helped by a salesperson.Choloux said that because men know exactly what they want and are more faithful to their scent than women, it makes advising them difficult.

At Printemps, Girard has noticed that if there's a male salesperson on duty, men will go straight to him.

Rollet from the Galeries Lafayette, however, is categorical: "It's always women who buy."

The fall men's launch that elicited the most excitement from retailers is L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme from designer Issey Miyake.

"It looks very coherent with respect to Miyake and his women's scent," said Marie-France Kergrohenn, managing director of the 10-store Silver Moon perfumery chain.

As for the women's market, one big winner is Yves Saint Laurent's signature perfume, which was formerly called Champagne until a judge ruled in favor of a suit by vintners and forbade the company from using the name in France.

Girard said that it's the bestseller of the year and that even more bottles have walked out of the store since the name change. "People still think of it as Champagne," she added.

Tendre Poison, Dior's new long-lasting floral, and Givenchy's Fleur d'Interdit, targeted at teenagers, are both starting off well.

Kergrohenn noted that the cheapest unit of Fleur d'Interdit, a 50-ml. spray at $23 (124 francs), is the top-seller at Silver Moon.

Jean Paul Gaultier and L'Eau d'Issey continue to rack up big sales, as does Thierry Mugler's Angel.

Dauby, who calls them the "golden boys," says that "they've really influenced the market. Now companies are trying to develop more interesting products."

The classics are selling well in department stores, but they are stagnating in perfumeries, judging from the responses of the retailers.

"Women's classics aren't suffering, and if one suffers it's only for a month or two," said Girard of sales at the Printemps.

At Silver Moon and the Sephora/Shop 8 perfumeries, however, the old standbys have flat sales. "It could be worse," said Kergrohenn.

Fall women's launches that are considered particularly promising by retailers are Kashâyade Kenzo, because the Kenzo launches thus far have been sure-fire successes; Rochas's Tocade, because of the wearable juice and fun bottle; Lancaster's Nikos, because of the blockbuster advertising campaign and the streamlined bottle, and Nina Ricci's Deci Dela, because of the colorful packaging and reputation of the house.Karl Lagerfeld's Sun Moon Stars is viewed as very commercial, but the English name might pose a problem in France, and Boucheron's Jaòpur is considered very elegant, but also very exclusive and expensive, and therefore not a big seller.

Dauby projected a 7 percent sales increase this year in men's fragrances at the Sephora/Shop 8 chain. She qualifies this as "not spectacular, but better than the women's market."

She targeted a 5 percent increase in women's fragrance sales.

Dauby added that many retailers agree that May sales were strong, June was passable despite a slightly disappointing Father's Day, and July was catastrophic.

"You have to put this into context, though, because there was a tropical heat wave, and no one wants to buy fragrance when it's boiling hot," she noted.

Printemps and Galeries Lafayette both projected modest increases in sales this year. But all agree that end-of-the-year sales will be the deciding factor.

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