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In the Bull’s Eye: Target Plans to Make More Dollars With Scents

Mass-market fragrance sales haven't enjoyed the uptick registered in specialty doors. Target hopes it has the right recipe to turn the spigot back on.

Target has a new formula it hopes will revitalize the diluted mass-market fragrance business. In keeping with chain’s exclusive product strategy, the chain is rolling out its first, exclusive fragrance line called Good Chemistry. The range of scents was crafted to provide the discounter with entry into the niche fragrance business that is bubbling at prestige retailer doors. Good Chemistry will be sold in all of Target’s 1,834 stores and on

The upgraded fragrance launch is the latest move by the retailer to rewrite the rules in mass beauty, a category that is estimated to churn out more than $7 billion in sales at Target’s stores. Industry sources project Good Chemistry can yield first year sales of at least $5 million to $8 million. Target did not comment on sales figures.

There is no denying the effort the chain is making in beauty as it seeks to offer first-to-market products that distinguish the discounter from competitors. Target recently lowered gondolas, expanded its Beauty Concierge program and built out areas for product discovery. With those upgrades resonating with shoppers, Target is ready up the ante in fragrances.

“This builds on what we’ve been doing — upgrading our store environment to create that specialty store feel. Our guests are looking to stay relevant with trends,” Christina Hennington, senior vice president of Beauty and Essentials, told WWD. “Scent is an important component of the beauty category.”

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While not eliminating, but tightening, the traditional assortment of mass fragrances, Target is trying a new approach tailored to different consumer mind-sets and how they associate scents with personality. The commitment is broad with Good Chemistry encompassing 48 stockkeeping units divided into four collections: Confident and Charming, Good and Grounded, Vibrant and Playful and Cool and Collected. A sampling of the scents under those classifications includes Gardenia Palm, Sugar Berry, Queen Bee and Rustic Woods (which the company believes could be a unisex choice). To further dig deeper into fragrance preferences and accommodate for spending budgets, there are three forms, rollerballs, body sprays and perfume. Prices range from $9.99 for a rollerball to $24.99 for the perfume. Ilume, a company known for its candles and home fragrances, worked in tandem with Target to define the collection.

Responding to consumer demand for less irritating formulas, Good Chemistry fragrances are made with essential oils and are vegan and paraben-free. Dovetailing with the increasing importance of niche fragrances that are “better for you,” Target is launching Pacifica fragrances next week alongside Good Chemistry. Brook Harvey-Taylor, the president and founder of Pacifica Beauty, noted that fragrance has been an element of the brand’s DNA for 21 years. “I started in aromatherapy and I always see fragrance through this lens. This makes us a stand out. We are seeing such a major moment in the world for niche scents right now in prestige, but it has not really trickled down in a big way where it touches mass fragrances until now.”

The mass market fragrance business has been in a downward spiral for more than a decade, diminished by a laundry list of issues including a dearth of launches from mass brands, the risk of taking on new launches and the downturn in demand for celebrity scents. According to IRI data for the 52-week period ended December 3, women’s fragrances in mass market doors declined 6.7 percent to $707 million. Men’s shaving lotions and men’s fragrance dropped 2.7 percent to $785 million. The biggest growth was generated by lighter, albeit lower priced, body sprays that drag down dollar totals. Another obstacle at mass has been the challenges getting testers into consumers’ hands without high pilferage. While mass struggles, prestige fragrances have started to grow, especially as self-purchase, according to NPD data. Target sees no reason it can’t duplicate that upturn.

Hennington is confident Target has a weapon to combat theft. As part of its new beauty look, Target fortified its cadre of dedicated beauty team members who can assist in trial but also keep eyes on products. “Our beauty consultants are knowledgeable and hungry to educate our guests about the beauty products at Target,” Hennington said.

“Being first-to-market and offering products you can only find at Target are important components of why we did this,” added Hennington. Admitting fragrances can be a risky investment, but she believes Target “has cracked the code.” She also singled out Target’s most updated prototype recently opened in Grand Parkway Texas that provides a glimpse into its future vision of beauty. According to Target’s communications, the store includes a focal point that is cross-categorized with beauty, jewelry and accessories. The look also features the lower gondolas, true-to-life lighting and service currently being deployed to select Target doors.