ATLANTA — Southeast retailers report strong recent gains in their men’s fragrance business, the result of a bevy of successful spring launches as well as the ongoing strength of classic lines.

Meanwhile, the women’s business, which has not kept pace with men’s to date, is expected to pick up this fall with the onset of more introduction. At Rich’s, the men’s business has shown low-double-digit growth year to date, according to Jackie Christ, men’s and women’s fragrance buyer.

A strong Father’s Day, augmented with gift-with-purchase promotions, value sets, outposting and increased advertising, boosted the month of June into high double-digit gains, with similar growth projected for the remainder of the year.

The women’s business has been flat for year to date but should reach double-digit increases for fall, said Christ, as a host of new launches begin to arrive.

“There’s been more newness in men’s than women’s business this year, which is the reverse of last year,” she said, adding that the number of launches seems to indicate an increased awareness of fragrance on the part of male consumers.

Women’s launches scheduled for this fall include Gale Hayman’s Delicious, Yves Saint Laurent’s Champagne, Calvin Klein’s CK One and Karl Lagerfeld’s Sun Moon Stars. In addition, Jean Patou’s Sublime will be expanded to more doors.

Response to the recently launched Casmir by Chopard has been “phenomenal,” Christ noted.

Top-selling men’s brands at Rich’s include Ralph Lauren’s Polo Sport, Polo and Safari, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, Escape and Obsession, Drakkar Noir, Cool Water, Paul Sebastian and Aramis.

Women’s bestsellers include White Diamonds, Wings and Red by Giorgio Beverly Hills, Oscar de la Renta, Jessica McClintock, Paul Sebastian’s Design, Eternity, Escape and Safari.

Newer brands, such as Givenchy’s Amarige, have been helped by more promotional vehicles and gwp’s, Christ noted.

“New brands have the growth potential,” she said. “It’s been a challenge to stop the decline in classic brands, with the exception of those with great name recognition and good juice, such as Chanel and Oscar de la Renta. We try to keep classics alive with promos and in-store support.”

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Christ noted a trend among women toward young, fresh, fruity fragrances, such as Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, 360í by Perry Ellis and Benetton’s Tribu.

Rich’s has been working more closely with vendors for in-store events and visual presentation.

“We’ve become more detail-oriented,” said Christ. “We’re trying to set up appointments with customers for fragrance consultation, like we do with color and treatment events.”

Christ said that the sheer number of fragrances had led to customer confusion and that to combat this, Rich’s was trying to establish fragrance as a fashion business.

“We train beauty advisers to get customers to try new brands for different occasions,” she said. “It’s a contrast to the old way of wearing one signature fragrance.”

Howard Koch, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics for the Birmingham, Ala.-based Parisian, also stressed the importance of positioning fragrance as a fashion business, both with classics and new brands.

He added that customer service and feedback have become more important, particularly with the increase in the number of brands.

Parisian’s men’s business has shown strong double-digit increases for the year to date, based on successful new spring launches such as Escape for Men and Polo Sport.

“Men are becoming more interested in making their own selections,” said Koch. “We’re seeing more men as repeat customers, and the percentage of women buying men’s fragrances is less.”

The best-selling men’s lines at Parisian include Polo Sport and Polo, Paul Sebastian, Obsession, Eternity, Escape, Cool Water, Safari, Drakkar Noir and Joop.

While new launches have been key, classics are maintaining their share, said Koch.

While women’s new launches such as Sublime and Christian Dior’s Tendre Poison have had a strong impact, classic brands have also been strong.

The best-selling women’s lines include Oscar de la Renta, White Diamonds, Wings, Jessica McClintock, Safari, Boucheron, Amarige, the Chanel fragrances, Design, Escape and Eternity.

New launches scheduled for fall include Wings for Men, Joseph Abboud, Champagne, Casmir, Sun Moon Stars, Dolce & Gabbana and Boucheron’s Jaòpur.

At the Jackson, Miss.-based McCrae’s, the men’s fragrance business is up 18 percent year-to-date while women’s is up 10 percent, according to Chris Evans, divisional merchandise manager.

He attributed strong men’s increases to strong spring launches such as Escape and Polo Sport, as well as solid performance of classic lines.

Lines such as Polo and Safari have been spurred by vendor support and Father’s Day promotional efforts, he noted.

Evans said that McCrae’s had tried to maintain sales of the classics with more aggressive advertising and by incorporating cosmetics into more storewide events. Also, the store will increase its fragrance seminars for employees.

“We’ve challenged individual stores to come up with ideas, such as Father’s Day events, that are independent of vendors,” said Evans.

The top men’s brands at McRae’s, in order, are Eternity, Obsession, Escape, Cool Water, Safari, Paul Sebastian, Polo, Drakkar Noir, Polo Sport and Aramis.

Women’s bestsellers in order are White Diamonds, Wings, Escape, Eternity, Red, Design, Obsession, Oscar de la Renta, Jessica McClintock and Safari.

Evans said that tying in men’s and women’s brands in storewide promotions, such as the events involving the Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren lines as well as Giorgio and Wings, had been successful.

“We’re excited about CK One, the new shared men’s and women’s fragrance with the open-sell unit concept,” he said. “It’s something completely different.”

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