NEW YORK -- Newness and exclusivity are still the buzzwords for retailers here when it comes to the fragrance business.
A strong group of recent launches, accompanied by individualized in-store promotions, has led to growth in both the women's and men's categories, the merchants reported.
"Newness has helped tremendously, as always," said Steve Bock, senior vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Saks Fifth Avenue. "We've had great success with Casmir [by Chopard], with Champagne [from Yves Saint Laurent] and with Catalyst for Men [by Halston], which finished the spring season in the top five."
Jane Scott, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Bloomingdale's, also sang the praises of the crop of new items.
"Our women's business had a relatively soft spring, but now we're up double digits because of the new launches," she said. As an example of a strong recent launch, she cited Boucheron's Jaòpur, which was introduced exclusively at Bloomingdale's in August. It will roll out to other retail accounts through the fall.
"Jaòpur has been fantastic," Scott said. "We did a month's worth of business in ten days.
"The launch mode has put fire into the business," she added. "It's helping everybody out."
Scott also stressed the importance of exclusivity with a launch such as Jaòpur, saying it "gives you an edge over the competition. It's very important to the business. When there is no exclusivity, its important to tailor a program to individual stores."
The women's business, powered by a series of solid introductions, has been outpacing men's fragrances at Saks, Bock said.
"Women's has been phenomenal, and men's has been good as well," said. "Women's is more than doubling the men's business, but men's is ahead in the low teens."
Bock said that Issey Miyake's L'Eau d'Issey, launched exclusively last fall at Saks, has kept up the success it enjoyed at the outset.
"L'Eau d'Issey is maintaining a very strong business," he said, noting that it remains in the top three women's brands, along with Casmir and Annick Goutal.Champagne has also been in the women's top 10 for the season, he added, and said other fast-moving items have included the Cartier scents, the Chanel brands, Boucheron, Donna Karan New York, Tiffany and Thierry Mugler's Angel, which has "been growing dramatically since last fall."
"The story has been all the excitement with the new products this spring," Bock said. "However, last fall's launches have maintained their positions, and some older brands also continue to grow.
"The common thread is the opportunity for us to launch a brand exclusively in every market," he added. "Casmir and Champagne have been very aggressive in advertising and in their in-store efforts. Exclusivity is important in the men's category as well -- Catalyst for Men is a good example of that."
Bock said he is looking for the growth to continue through the fall, when Saks is slated to introduce Carolina Herrera's Floré, Jean Paul Gaultier, St. John from St. John Knits and Tocade by Rochas.
"It's also very important for us to continue on with the success of Champagne, and with Angel, which we're giving a major push, along with Miyake and Casmir," he said. "Jaòpur should be a continuation of a very strong business. And we're still working with brands like [Giorgio Armani's] Gio and [Ralph Lauren's] Safari -- trying to keep up the momentum with the old favorites."
Bock said he was also looking forward to the launch of Octée, a line of mix-and-match French fragrances that will be sold exclusively in the U.S. in six Saks doors.
At Bloomingdale's, Scott said Donna Karan's signature scent "remained our number one fragrance through the spring season."
She said other top women's performers include Chanel No. 5, Calvin Klein's Escape and Eternity, Boucheron, Safari, Lancôme's Trésor, Estée Lauder's Beautiful, Calyx from Prescriptives and Tiffany.
"I'm extremely bullish for the fall," Scott said. "We have a long list of new fragrances -- Casmir, Dolce & Gabbana, [Karl Lagerfeld's] Sun Moon Stars, Champagne and Issey Miyake, along with [Calvin Klein's] CK One. CK One will definitely be one of the interesting points of the fall. We believe in it, and we're going after it."Scott said the Bloomingdale's men's fragrance business, which has been growing more rapidly than women's year-to-date, will also benefit from a batch of fall entries, among them Joseph Abboud, Nicole Miller for Men, Giorgio Beverly Hills' Wings for Men, Horizon from Guy Laroche and the Donna Karan men's scent, DK Men.
"It's a major schedule," she said. "My business is also so strong with [Ralph Lauren's] Polo Sport -- and we'll be doing more events with that."
Scott said Polo Sport was the number one men's item at Bloomingdale's this spring, followed by, in no particular order, Klein's Eternity, Obsession and Escape for Men, Safari for Men, Aramis, Polo, Cool Water, Boucheron and Armani.
While Bock said he was pleased with the state of the men's fragrance category so far this year, he noted there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"We clearly have things to do in men's; we need a new formula to drive the business," he said. "We need to find a new methodology, but it's not a revolution, its an evolution.
"The category is still dominated by a few major players," he added. "There's not as much movement as in women's. It's still fairly stable."
While noting the consistency of the most popular men's brands, such as "the Calvin Kleins, Safari and certainly add to that Polo Sport," Bock noted that Boucheron and Escada were fast-growing men's contenders and that the store has "turned the corner with Aramis.
"For the spring, [Cartier's] Pasha and Santos both ended up in the top five, which is impressive," he continued. "They're very narrowly distributed, and they get great support."
Bock said he was looking forward to the launches of Havana from Aramis, for which Saks will have an East Coast exclusive, along with Jean Patou's Privé and CK One.
"[CK One] is an innovative way to approach the fragrance business," he said of the gender-free scent. "I have no doubt it will be successful."
While Bock acknowledged the continuing trend on the part of manufacturers toward fashioning light and fresh scents like CK One, he stressed that "what's really working is a point of difference and creating excitement. If we create an exclusive arrangement where we can give the proper attention, we can be successful with many different kinds of fragrances."
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