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Smells Like Money

While some would argue the celebrity fragrance category has lost some luster AS of late, this fall's star-powered launches proved there's still life left in the trend.

While some would argue the celebrity fragrance category has lost some luster AS of late, this fall’s star-powered launches proved there’s still life left in the trend.

The single-letter gals — M by Mariah Carey, produced by Elizabeth Arden, and L, a L.A.M.B. fragrance by Gwen Stefani, produced by Coty Prestige — powered strong out of the gate early in the fall. They were closely followed by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Unforgivable for Women, a follow-up to his hit Unforgivable men’s fragrance. Both are produced by the Sean John Fragrances division of the Estée Lauder Cos. Usher also made a splash with his Liz Claiborne Cosmetics-produced fragrance masterbrand, even featuring in national Macy’s commercials with Martha Stewart and Donald Trump, and while Britney Spears’ life may be imploding, her fragrance sales with Arden continue to rise.

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Offerings coming next year include those from: singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, who is credited with touching off the current star craze when she and Coty Inc. launched the first Lopez fragrance, Glow by JLO; country star Tim McGraw, coming from Coty; Sean “Jay-Z” Carter’s brainchild, Rocawear, which will be produced by Arden, and pop singer Christina Aguilera, which will be offered by Procter & Gamble.

While newness always helps, certain star scents continue to shine brightly at retail — notably, Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker, introduced in September 2005, and Combs’ aforementioned Unforgivable for Men, which launched in February 2006. Industry sources estimated that each generated worldwide sales well in excess of $100 million during the first year on counter.

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But as much as consumers seem to love celebrity scents, the financial community isn’t as bullish on them. During a panel held by the Fragrance Foundation in November, Gilbert Harrison, chairman and chief executive officer of Financo Inc., noted that, while celebrity fragrances currently account for 23 percent of the prestige fragrance pie, “their longevity is an issue.”

Wendy Liebmann, founder of WSL Strategic Retail, takes a different view, arguing consumers see celebrity scents in the same light that they view color cosmetics and fashion fragrances.

“It takes a different mind-set to succeed [these days],” she said earlier this year. “A fragrance doesn’t have to have a 10- to 20-year run anymore. It’s unrealistic to think it will.”