Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Times are still tough in women’s fragrance in the U.K., although a string of launches this year should help sales grow by 5 to 10 percent, British retailers say.
Despite a buoyant British economy, buyers said the lack of major launches last year meant fine fragrance sales grew by only about 5 percent overall. In addition, major remodeling programs at several major stores — including Selfridges and Barkers in London — further disrupted sales.
“Fragrance as a whole is having a difficult time at the moment,” said Janet Saunders, associate director of perfumery and cosmetics at the 51-store House of Fraser.
But buyers are optimistic the market will pick up over the next few months following launches from Emporio Armani, Estee Lauder, Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino, Bulgari, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera and others.
In addition, the store remodeling programs have been, or will be, completed this year and should help spur sales.
Barkers in Kensington High Street reopened in May while the remodeling of the Selfridges perfumery department, one of the most successful in the world, will be completed this fall. Barkers represents a further refinement of House of Fraser’s open-sell layout in its perfumery departments, Saunders said. There are strong contemporary cosmetics areas — including such brands as Diego Della Palma — as well as well-defined classic and niche areas.
The niche brands, focusing mainly in skin care, include such lines as Eve Lom and Karen Herzog. Barkers also has London’s first Kanebo studio with a complete treatment salon. For the opening the store had a dedicated promotional space focusing on sun and body offering sun care, treatment and fragrance products with a summery feel. The fragrances on counter included Polo Sport and Tommy Girl.
“Self-select is part of our drive to complement and meet the needs of our customers,” Saunders said. “People feel easier about touching and sampling the products, although there are consultants on hand to help if asked.”
Selfridges also will introduce an element of open sell when its perfumery department is completed this fall, said Hilary Dart, the store’s cosmetics buyer. But it is approaching the idea with caution for fear of alienating its core customers, she admitted. “We are a store known for service, and we don’t want to lose that.”
The department, which will reopen with a Nov. 3 gala attended by Leonard Lauder and other senior industry executives, offers Selfridges the chance to completely reconfigure its approach to selling beauty. “On one hand, the remodeling was about making the department look pretty, but on the other, it’s about looking at the business and asking where we came from and where we want to go,” Dart said. “We built our business on skin care, but our weaknesses have been color and niche brands, and that is something we want to rectify. There also has been a fundamental change in the fragrance market in the last five years and the way we sell it has to change fundamentally as well.”
In skin care and color, the new department will include the most comprehensive and luxurious Clarins studio in Europe as well as treatment studios for Decleor and La Prairie; a large Aveda site; the only Benefit Cosmetics shop in the world, and the introduction of MAC and Bobbi Brown cosmetics.
In fragrance, Selfridges is merging its previously separate women’s and men’s areas into one. “We believe fragrance is now brand- and designer-driven rather than gender-driven,” Dart said. “As a result, our fragrance department now will focus on specific brands with the World of Giorgio Armani, the World of Ralph Lauren, the World of Jean Paul Gaultier and so on.”
Because of the disruption caused by the remodeling, Selfridges is taking a more cautious approach toward launches this year with a view toward ramping up aggressively in 1999. Its major launch this year will be Tommy Athletic on Aug. 1.
Other introductions that are performing well at Selfridges include Contradiction, Very Valentino, Bulgari Black and Herrera’s 212.
Harrods is doing well with those launches as well as such introductions as Wish from Chopard and Escada’s newest spring scent Sunny Frutti, both of which it had exclusively.
Harrods this fall will have the exclusive on Bobbi Brown’s first fragrance called Bobbi, which it sees as a chance both to build on the brand’s color franchise as well as to attract new customers. “It’s a fragrance on its own and isn’t simply an extension to the makeup,” said Muriel Zingraff, the store’s general manager for cosmetics, fragrances and toiletries. “It’s very Bobbi Brown and has a very strong signature that I think should have a younger appeal. We’re hoping it will enable that younger customer to rediscover Bobbi Brown.”
The most anticipated launch of the fall, though, will be the women’s and men’s fragrances from Emporio Armani. Buyers are forecasting that it will be the best-performing introduction of the year, based on the strength of the Giorgio Armani name and the uniqueness of the concept.
“It will be a very big launch,” Zingraff said. “Those two fragrances will have quite a broad appeal and, even though there are a lot of his-and-hers fragrances on the market, this one is completely new because it’s modern and the packaging is unique because it’s based on something as everyday as a mobile phone.”

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