NEW YORK — Aramis, the fragrance that sparked the rise of the men’s prestige category in 1964, is continuing efforts as a division of the Estée Lauder Cos. to renew its namesake business.
A year after launching the Aramis Life brand with Andre Agassi as a spokesman, Lauder’s Aramis and Designer Fragrances unit intends to launch a scent in conjunction with Donald Trump (see separate story on opposite page). Also, a special version of Aramis’ original scent, called Classic, has been created for this fall.
The brand that was originally inspired by Joseph Lauder, Estée’s husband, who wanted a product of his own, turns 40 in a fragrance industry that’s perhaps never been more challenged — given the maturity of the established U.S. fragrance market, coupled with the frequency of new launches in recent years. The new Aramis efforts are meant to draw focus to the brand amid a market that has been in decline in the U.S. for years.
“Anything in fragrance right now is a tough proposition,” noted equity analyst William Schmitz, a vice president at Deutsche Bank. Considering the high costs of a launch and the follow-up support necessary to sustain a brand, he noted, “The economics aren’t playing out the way they should.”
According to data from NPD Beauty, a division of The NPD Group, the men’s fragrance and skin care category in U.S. department stores hovers at just less than $1 billion, while the women’s fragrance business alone is nearly twice that.
The Aramis fragrance business — which represents about 75 percent of what industry sources have estimated to be at least a $200 million brand globally, including Lab Series — got a boost last year with the launch of Life. The younger, more active Aramis brand for which Agassi was signed reportedly doubled Aramis’ fragrance business. Estée Lauder’s president and chief executive officer, William Lauder, noted in a recent earnings announcement that Aramis Life, in conjunction with the company’s stalwart women’s scents, helped the corporation’s fourth-quarter fragrance sales rise 10 percent to $1.22 billion, an increase attributed in large part to improved travel retail sales.
Meanwhile, the small but rapidly growing men’s grooming category is experiencing unprecedented growth, and Aramis is trying to capitalize on that demand with its Lab Series brand.
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Fabrice Weber, president of Aramis and Designer Fragrances, acknowledged during a recent interview that while the men’s prestige grooming category certainly has a long way to go before it reaches the critical mass — some would say saturation — displayed by the nearly $2 billion women’s skin care category, the men’s skin care market has achieved enough bulk to become viable. In years past, Weber noted, “The industry was at its infancy, so the numbers were fairly easy to double. I think we [marketers] all are generously projecting this market to triple or quadruple within the next five to six years.”
Aramis’ four decades in the fragrance category notwithstanding, the brand was ahead of the curve in the men’s prestige grooming category when it launched Lab Series in 1987. In the last 17 years, it has watched the assortment grow to represent a quarter of the Aramis brand’s total business. And while it may be untold years before the prestige men’s grooming market develops to the point where the nearly $50 million Lab Series brand is more than a blip on the $5.8 billion Lauder corporation’s bottom line, the fact is that Lab Series is highly visible in what marketers have dubbed an “exploding” grooming market.
William Lauder emphasized during a presentation to investors last week the “core” nature of Aramis within the company and the importance of the U.S. — an “established” market — to the company as a whole. He added, however, that he hopes between 60 and 70 percent of the company’s total business mix will come from outside of North America within the next five to seven years. Weber noted that foreign markets are already grounds for activity for several brands within the Aramis portfolio.
The global Aramis Classic fragrance collection includes some 65 fragrance and ancillary stockkeeping units worldwide. Besides Life and the original Classic, other fragrances in the Aramis stable include Devin, 900, New West, Tuscany and JHL.
“The market has exploded in dollar terms, if you will,” said Weber, discussing challenges on the men’s side of the fragrance business. “What we see today are the excesses of the industry in general — there’s a definite saturation in the segment due to the number of brands and the number of launches within each brand.” Nevertheless, Lauder also recently noted that for at least the past 12 years, “approximately 30 percent of the sales of the Estée Lauder Cos. have been made up of products launched within the last three years. We need to ensure we keep [consumers] interested with our creativity and newness.”
This holds true for Aramis Classic this season, as newness comes in the form of a return to its roots. A special edition of the Aramis Classic fragrance, which was originally launched in 1964, was rolled out this month. Aramis’ U.S. distribution base comprises roughly 2,000 doors, Weber noted, and that number ranges as high as 13,000 doors globally, including travel retail. A special 8.1-oz. version of the Classic scent, called the Presidential Edition, is packaged in a wooden box that doubles as a vanity tray. Packaging will reflect the 40th anniversary tie-in and the original Aramis design. To promote the Classic twist, a new visual is intended to renew the in-store effort. Meanwhile, Aramis continues to support Life nationally, with print images of Agassi.
Since 2001, Aramis has hovered at around the number 13 position in U.S. department stores, according to NPD. More recently, that ranking has slipped, due in part to the influx of new men’s brands. While Aramis still perseveres among the top 20 men’s scents, the barrage of men’s launches shows no signs of slowing — no fewer than 20 are on deck for this season, including the Estée Lauder brand’s Beyond Paradise for Men last month, and Escada’s Magnetism for Men and Hugo Boss Energize next month.
Meanwhile, Lauder continues to dominate the women’s side, with half of the top 10 women’s scents in U.S. department stores. Separately, in the nearly $43 million men’s prestige grooming category, Aramis’ Lab Series skin care brand, which is in about 1,500 U.S. doors, was second in 2003 only to the top-ranking brand from Clinique: Skin Supplies for Men.
Globally, the men’s grooming market is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $14 billion, according to tracking firm Euromonitor. Paltry numbers, to be fair, compared with the total beauty category, which William Lauder claimed last week was an $87 billion global industry, $29 billion of which is generated by prestige.
The global Lab Series collection features 38 products, a number that varies by market. For instance, in the U.S. — a less-developed men’s grooming market per capita than some European nations — it’s 22 sku’s.
Advertising appropriations by Aramis Inc. have been influenced in recent years by a proliferation of men’s magazines. But the publications have also helped the category grow with their editorial coverage, Weber acknowledged, multiplying sales and yielding bigger ad budgets to be split among the men’s books.
Furthermore, “We will continue to [focus] our spending in those areas of our advertising and promotion which fuel the growth for our brands,” Lauder told investors and analysts recently.
The mass market, where the men’s grooming category is already “enormous,” Weber noted, whets the appetites of male consumers to trade up to more expensive prestige brands designed for them — especially if they perceive efficacy. That’s perhaps what Lab Series, which is billed a performance-driven collection, is best positioned to capture, as the men’s prestige grooming category is expected to continue its growth in the next several years. “A significant number of prestige consumers come from mass,” Weber noted. “So from that perspective, I don’t think we’ve seen any downside yet, when we talk grooming per se.”
— Matthew W. Evans