NEW YORK — The glow from a surprisingly strong holiday season for the fragrance industry lingered at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Tuesday.
The occasion was the Fragrance Foundation’s annual review of Christmas business, where five retailers, representing prestige and mass markets, provided detailed lists of the brands that were the leading lights in the holiday surge.
While most of the speakers reiterated the themes of recovery that were sounded in late December, there was one notable exception: Steve Lubin of Walgreens. Lubin, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics, spoke of a “disappointing and frustrating season.”
“We didn’t have the support and the launches the department stores had in the last two years,” he noted.
In contrast, glad tidings were announced by executives from Frederick Atkins, a buying office based here, as well as three stores: Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s; Kmart Corp., and J.C. Penney Co.
Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at DH and Field’s, said his company had shown double-digit growth in fragrance. He noted that consumers’ minds were still glued to value and price, and emphasized that, contrary to some opinions, the growing phenomenon of fragrance miniatures is not “trading the business down.”
“They have brought new customers to the counter,” he said. “They are filling the price-point void that exists between department stores and drugstores.”
Burke praised “a group of spectacular launches,” among them Liz Claiborne’s Vivid, Giorgio Armani’s Gio, Donna Karan New York, Giorgio Beverly Hills’ Wings, 360O by Perry Ellis, Benetton’s Tribu and Elizabeth Taylor’s Fragrant Jewels.
Next up was Carolyn Wojcik, divisional vice president for cosmetics at Frederick Atkins. She said fragrance sales during the holiday season were up 8.5 percent, with women’s scents up 5.6 percent and men’s up 12.1 percent.
Wojcik said $40 was the most popular price point, but $50 has become “a retail price point that is a barrier to consumers.”
Lubin said the prestige business was tough at Walgreens, due to competition from other mass outlets that carry class scents. He also bemoaned the lack of newness in the mass market, with Coty’s products the exception.
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“We need a recommitment by major manufacturers to put the pizzazz back into advertising and product launches,” he said. “I commend Coty for their continued support of their brands. Vanilla Fields surpassed all expectations.”
Coty was also saluted by Mary Prince, fragrance buyer for Kmart, who called Vanilla Fields “our most popular new fragrance of 1993.”
Prince said her women’s business was up 5.4 percent, while men’s jumped by 15.5 percent.
“Gift sets under $10 seemed to have the magic number,” she said, noting that in-store greeters and modeling — techniques peculiar to the mass market — helped drive sales, along with national TV advertising.
Ann Gravseth, merchandise manager for cosmetics at Penney’s, finished the program by revealing positive — if less impressive — results. Although women’s fragrances were down 3 percent for the holidays, Gravseth said men’s were up 5 percent and bath and home fragrances were up more than 15 percent.
As always, the retailers provided bestseller lists for the season. All were in no particular order.
At DH and Field’s, the top women’s scents were Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, Knowing and White Linen; Boucheron; Chanel; Calvin Klein’s Escape, Eternity and Obsession; Opium by Yves Saint Laurent; Sanofi’s Oscar de la Renta; Red by Giorgio Beverly Hills; Ralph Lauren’s Safari; Lancome’s Tresor; Vivid, and Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds. Beautiful was number one.
The top men’s fragrances were Aramis and Tuscany from Aramis; Lancaster’s Cool Water, Zino Davidoff and Joop; Cosmair’s Drakkar Noir; Klein’s Escape for Men, Eternity for Men and Obsession for Men; Alexander Julian; Ralph Lauren’s Polo and collection of miniatures; Nautica, and Paul Sebastian. Cool Water was number one.
Burke also mentioned Princess Marcella Borghese’s Il Bacio, Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers and Clarins’ Elysium as scents sold at the cosmetics counter that did well.
At Atkins, the top women’s fragrances were Beautiful, Eternity, White Diamonds, Escape, Safari, Oscar de la Renta, Wings, Obsession, Jessica McClintock, Tresor, Red, Opium, Chanel No. 5 and Paul Sebastian’s Design.
The hottest introductions were Vivid, 360O, Gio, Laura Biagiotti’s Venezia, Sunflowers, Fragrant Jewels and Tribu.
In the men’s category, the top sellers were Eternity for Men, Cool Water, Polo and Safari for Men, Drakkar Noir, Escape for Men, Aramis, Paul Sebastian, Obsession for Men and Joop.
At Walgreens, the top women’s fragrances were Vanilla Fields, Lady Stetson, Emeraude and Exclamation, all from Coty; Revlon’s Charlie; Giorgio Beverly Hills; Liz Claiborne; L’Oreal’s Vanderbilt, and Tabu from Dana Perfumes.
The top men’s scents were Coty’s Stetson and Preferred Stock, Jovan Musk, English Leather, Faberge’s Brut, Polo, Drakkar Noir, Cool Water and Pierre Cardin.
Parfums de Coeur’s Alternative Designer Fragrance lines for men and women were also named as fast movers, as well as Lady in Red.
At Kmart, the top women’s fragrances were Exclamation, Lady Stetson, Procter & Gamble’s Navy, Prince Matchabelli’s Wind Song, Jovan Musk, Vanderbilt, Alternative Designer Fragrances, Charlie, Love’s Baby Soft and Jontue.
The top men’s scents were Stetson, Preferred Stock, Aspen for Men from Quintessence, Matchabelli’s Hero, Jovan Musk, Brut, Coty’s Gravity and Alternative Designer Fragrances.
At Penney’s, the top women’s fragrances were White Shoulders, Chloe, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion and a coffret set from Arden’s Parfums International; Chanel No. 5; Guerlain’s Shalimar; Halston; Revlon’s Ciara; Guess, and L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci.
The top men’s scents were Tsumura’s Royal Copenhagen, Passion for Men, Compar’s Quorum, Guess for Men, Sanofi’s Grey Flannel, Stetson, Pierre Cardin, Preferred Stock, Baryshnikov and Halston’s Z-14.
While the evening’s emphasis was on the importance of newness and value, DH and Field’s Burke couldn’t resist taking a stab at diversion before he left the podium.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that discounters are just not going away,” he said. “Thank you all for putting UPC codes on your merchandise.”