By  on September 9, 1994

NEW YORK -- Department stores are banking on a handful of high-profile fall launches and a fourth-quarter promotional onslaught to light up Christmas fragrance business.

Prestige retailers are looking for a sequel to last year's banner holiday season, which brought gains ranging from 5 percent to a dizzying 25 percent.

As for this year, December estimates are still preliminary since the fall season is barely under way, and many of the new fragrances are still on the launch pad. But early forecasts call for holiday fragrance gains running from the single digits to 10 percent or better.

Retailers are hoping fall will get a boost from upcoming launches such as Karl Lagerfeld's Sun Moon Stars from the Parfums International division of Elizabeth Arden. Store executives perhaps are most fascinated, however, with Calvin Klein's CK One, which is billed as the first major "shared" fragrance for men and women.

Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager of The Parisian in Birmingham, Ala., summed up the comments of other retailers when he described the fragrance as "innovative, out-of-the-box thinking."

One advantage this year is an extra shopping day, since Christmas falls on a Sunday. And retailers plan to use a familiar strategy. The holiday mantra is value, value and more value.

Stores plan to stack the value and gift sets and boxes of fragrance miniatures even higher than they did last year, when sharper department store pricing punctured the aspirations of competing mass market fragrance retailers.

A strong showing in women's fragrances will be welcomed by retailers, who noted that with an absence of powerful launches, it was a quiet spring in the category. For a number of retailers, Polo Sport, a men's scent, was the most dynamic fragrance launch of the spring.

"The only way out of the current situation is with something truly new and truly different," said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager of Dayton's, Hudson's & Marshall Field's. He expects to snap the slump with the launch of Sun Moon Stars next Friday, followed by Boucheron's Jaòpur and CK One -- all three of which Burke described as "genuinely new and exciting."

CK One, he added, "is going to be colossal."

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