SOUTHWESTERN RETAILERS BELIEVE IN VARIETY

Byline: Rusty Williamson

DALLAS — Like fragrance layering, Southwest scent businesses are built on a strata of components.
From classic fragrances that serve as a sales foundation for many retailers, including 1,200-unit J.C. Penney here, to new launches that lure trend-conscious customers and generate beauty department excitement, the spectrum of offerings equates to well-rounded businesses — or something for everyone, said stores, or at least every shopper.
Such merchandising logic is paying off with gains of up to 5 percent over this time last year, and the pace is expected to continue through the fourth quarter for holiday.
A diverse lineup of new launches also magnifies the broad merchandising approach, with stores fine-tuning based on their target-customer profiles. At Neiman Marcus, for example, the women’s bestseller list includes Norell, a new and exclusive launch for Neiman’s but that’s been around since 1969.
“Norell has been extremely well received,” said Leslie Faust, vice president and divisional merchandise manager. “Our customers are glad to have it back. And younger customers appreciate the beauty of the fragrance, too.”
Norell languished on mass shelves before being purchased last year by Five Star Fragrances, which revamped distribution, added new sku’s and started marketing the brand to upscale consumers with ads featuring Faye Dunaway. Other hot classics at Neiman’s include Chanel No. 5, Bal a Versailles and Joy. Besides an illustrious history, the classic fragrances also share a common note: a rich scent.
“Richesse has always been in our stable,” said Faust. “Rich-smelling fragrances never went away — we’ve always sold classic fragrances, too.” Faust said various newer fragrances are taking cues from more opulent fragrances of the past, including Quelque Violet, Quelque Rose and Blonde by Versace.
“These fragrances all have strong single notes, such as tuberose that’s found in Blonde,” said Faust. “Blonde is for a confident and sexy woman.”
Faust said Neiman’s fragrance sales are excellent and that the category is ahead over a year ago, though she wouldn’t divulge specific figures.
“The men’s business is particularly strong, too,” added Faust, citing new launches such as Cartier Declaration and Ulysse from Vicky Tiel.
Neiman’s June edition of The Book, its popular fashion and lifestyle magazine, features at least eight full-page ads devoted to men’s fragrances, just in time for Father’s Day.
J.C. Penney Co. here also is looking to Father’s Day to ignite men’s fragrance sales. Penney’s is planning on a big response to its customized gift-basket program, where customers select their own mix of fragrances and a basket or container to put them in. Bestsellers for men include Michael Jordan, Drakkar Noir, Ralph Lauren’s Polo and Polo Sport, and Lagerfeld. Penney’s will launch Halston for Men in August, which it has dubbed Fragrance Month.
The promotion will feature fragrance demonstrations, in-store visuals and fragrance advertisements in Sunday newspaper preprints. During the promotion, Penney’s will launch three new fragrances for women, including Red 2 from Giorgio, Ocean Dream from Giorgio and Halston Sheer.
“Newness adds excitement,” said Cathy Mills, director of merchandising for women’s cosmetics. “Our new launches hit the current trends, both light and airy as well as rich.” Women’s bestsellers at Penney’s include Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds and Passion along with a trio of classics: Chanel No. 5, White Shoulders and Shalimar.
Penney’s fragrance sales are up nearly 5 percent against a year ago, and at least the same pace is expected through yearend.
Miss Jackson’s, Tulsa, Okla., a women’s better-to-designer specialty store, is planning to centralize its fragrance business with new counters — fragrances now are merchandised among other beauty categories and within vendor lines.
At Barbara Jean Ltd., Little Rock, Ark., a women’s better-to-designer store, women go for heavier and richer scents, or fragrances that linger a little, said Susan Fricke, assistant manager.
“It’s a more sophisticated mentality to wearing fragrances,” she added. That’s not to say that lighter fragrances don’t sell, because it gets quite hot and humid in Arkansas in the summer.

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