FRAGONARD’S EXPANSION

Byline: Jennifer Weil

PARIS — Southern hospitality has made its way to the French capital. And it’s getting ready to make a hop across the Atlantic.
The charm of the south has arrived in the guise of Fragonard, a fragrance lifestyle boutique whose concept was begun in 1997 by two sisters named Costa. They come from a family that has been sourcing essential oils for four generations and that founded the Fragonard Perfumery in southern France 73 years ago.
The sisters chose to test their lifestyle concept in their hometown, Grasse, which happens to be the fragrance capital, a year ago. Recently, the idea was transplanted in the form of a new shop in Paris, and an American debut is being planned for next year.
Agnes Costa, managing director of the company, said the 1,100-square-foot Paris store, located on the Boulevard St. Germain, could ring in retail sales of $1 million in its first 12 months.
The new Fragonard boutique joins the ranks of beauty stores that include MAC and Shu Uemura. The St. Germain shop is airy, with brightly painted ochre-colored walls and terra-cotta floors. The stencil that runs around the ceiling is a replica of one that’s in the Fragonard museum down south.
According to Costa, the boutique is meant to offer a blend of “heritage and modernity.”
All of the products are natural. Soaps, fragrances and sachets are displayed side-by-side with scented candles, baskets and cookbooks. In all, there are about 500 stockkeeping units, including some 20 fragrances for women and 10 for men.
“If the concept works in this international setting, we plan to open more stores in France and abroad,” Costas said.
Next stop, Seattle. “We will start U.S. distribution in late spring with Nordstrom,” said Peter Zegras, a business consultant to Fragonard. “We will be in one department store exclusively first. We’re currently presenting to individual stores.”
By the end of 2000, Zegras said that there could be about 100 U.S. Fragonard points of sale.
Fragonard is also looking into travel retail distribution and possibilities in Canada and South America. Starting next year, it will turn toward the Middle East and Europe.
Prices at the lifestyle store range from $3 for a soap, $9 for a 250-ml. shower gel and $29 for a 200-ml. women’s eau de toilette.
Bestsellers include a heart-shaped soap and products from the 50-stockkeeping unit aromatherapy line.
Fragonard products can also be ordered on a Web site — http://www.fragonard.com — that went live last year — or by the company’s catalog, which launched in 1992. According to Francoise Costa, the company’s other managing director, about 10 percent of the company’s volume is made via these media.
What’s next up on the docket product-wise?
Possibly a skin care line. For it, a third sister — who is a doctor — will be brought into the act.
But though the Costas are abuzz with ideas, they don’t want to expand Fragonard too quickly. “Our idea is to stay quite exclusive,” Agnes said. “What we don’t need is another fragrance du jour.”

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