NEW YORK — Ralph Lauren’s fragrances have always been a mainstay at the department store fragrance counter. Now, his fragrance house is aiming to break new ground.

Lauren’s most exclusive —?and expensive — men’s fragrance to date, Purple Label, will take on the upscale specialty store market and is set to compete with fragrances from Bulgari, Cartier, Issey Miyake and Mont Blanc.

"The time is right for us as a fragrance house. We’re stronger and able to do a strategic, niche launch," noted Andrea Robinson, president worldwide of Ralph Lauren Fragrances. "We want to capture back a presence in the specialty store arena."

And the rollout will be, well, restrained. The fragrance will launch first in April in Ralph Lauren’s 29 U.S. stores, then will expand into specialty stores — including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue — which follow the distribution of the eponymous fashion label. In total, the fragrance will be available in just 104 doors, while normal distribution for Lauren’s other fragrances is about 1,850 to 2,000 doors.

"We will be painfully patient and roll it out slowly," said Jack Wiswall, president of the Designer Fragrances Division at L’Oréal USA. "This is a brand we don’t want to hurry. It should take its place in the luxury segment — and it should carve out some territory that we really don’t have."

While the company refused to comment on numbers, industry sources expect the line to reach first-year retail sales of as much as $5 million.

According to Caroleen Mackin, vice president of global marketing for fragrance, the target consumer is 30-plus, as compared with the Polo Blue customer, who is 25 to 35. "As a designer, Ralph Lauren gives us different slices of his world and different segments and demographics so that we can increase our overall pie," she said.

The juice, developed by Firmenich, is described as a fresh, tailored oriental. "We describe it through the luxuries of a gentleman’s world so we’ve taken three signature notes in the fragrance and paralleled them to three different luxuries in a gentleman’s world," explained Doreen Bollhofer, vice president of global fragrance development for the company. Personal Wine Cellar consists of fresh blackberry, green coriander, dewy green leaves and crisp mandarin; Men’s Club has tobacco flower, fresh sage, fluid hedione and garden thyme, and Classic Car combines mahogany wood, suede, warm musk and oak moss.In keeping with the Purple Label look, the packaging was designed using Lauren’s Purple Label suits — with their broad shoulders and clean lines — as inspiration. The bottle is made with purple beveled glass and has a black cap with RL printed in silver. The outer packaging completes the message using Purple Label fabric with the signature purple label that displays the designer’s name.

The line includes a 2.5-oz. eau de toilette spray that will retail for $55, a 4.2-oz. edt spray that will sell for $75, a 4.2-oz. aftershave for $60, an aftershave balm for $60 and a deodorant stick for $20. The average entry price points for fragrances are $39.50 to $50 — Purple Label is priced approximately $20 higher than existing Ralph Lauren men’s fragrances and ancillaries. To drive store sales, customers that purchase two or more items will receive a black leather box with a purple interior.

No national advertising is planned at launch time. The fragrance will be promoted with a heavy sampling campaign, including deluxe miniatures, vials and blotter cards resembling the designer’s label. The fragrance also will be featured in retailer catalogs. Industry sources estimate that about $2 million will be spent on promotion.

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