Byline: Romy Joyce

LOS ANGELES — Although citrus-based scents remain a staple at department stores around California, floral and single-note fragrances are luring a growing number of customers in search of a more classic approach to perfume.
“We’re seeing a return to parfumerie as an art form,” said Robin Coe-Hutshing, owner of Fred Segal Essentials/Scentiments in Santa Monica. “People want single-note florals, but with a cleaner, lighter hand than traditional fragrances.”
Overall revenues at Essentials/Scentiments were $2 million in 1997 and should reach $2.5 million in 1998, of which fragrances generally account for 38 percent.
A popular feature is the “Rx” fragrance bar, which offers over 200 essences, extracts or compounds that can be custom-blended, according to a customer’s personal “prescription” into a perfume — priced $50 for 2 ounces — or eau de cologne at $20 for 2 ounces. There is also shower gel, body lotion, bubble bath, hand cream, massage oil or bath oil.
“Not only is Rx an interesting and fun part of our business, it helps us to forecast trends,” Coe-Hutshing said. “What we’re seeing is that customers want to be able to identify the different elements and notes in their fragrance.”
Among newcomers, Malibu-based Creative Sensualization’s Perfect Gardenia and Perfect Tuberose have generated strong sales in their “nature-identical” eau de parfum, matching body lotion and shower gel.
Introduced three years ago, the Demeter line of Pennsylvania, which includes such denominations as String Bean, Grass, Tomato, Mint Chocolate, and Ginger Ale, appeals to a novelty-conscious clientele between the ages of 20 and 40.
Dirt, which smells like earth after the rain, “is a sellout,” Coe-Hutshing said.
On a slightly more classic note, customers of both sexes are grabbing Paris-based Parfums d’Orsay’s Tilleul, Chevalier, Aro and Etiquette Bleue fragrances, whose square bottles with etched silver lettering have graced the store since last Christmas.
At the Fresno, Calif.-based Gottschalks, fragrance accounts for 40 percent of the chain’s skin care, fragrance and color business.
Sales of men’s fragrances grew 9 percent over the same period last year, compared with 5 percent for women, according to Robert Wiser, divisional vice president for cosmetics and accessories.
“We’re expecting high-single-digit increases for the rest of the year, with the men’s category leading women,” he predicted.
The advent of Father’s Day in June should help fulfill his expectations, with Calvin Klein’s Obsession and Eternity, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo by Hugo Boss, Hermes and Davidoff’s Cool Water continuing to sell well.
Lauder’s Beautiful and Pleasures, Lancome’s Tresor, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, Clinique’s Happy, and Tommy Girl are leaders of the pack in women’s fragrances.
“At Gottschalks, florals always reigned supreme and represent the bulk of our top-10 fragrances,” Wiser noted. “But recently, some of the sports fragrances have held significant appeal.”
Two April introductions, Calvin Klein’s Contradiction and Tommy Athletics garnered instant votes among customers at the chain’s 37 stores in California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon.
Several other fragrances have projected launch dates between May and September, including Lancome’s O Oui, Elizabeth Arden’s Splendor, Calvin Klein’s Contradiction for Men and Lauder’s Dazzling Silver and Dazzling Gold.
“We’re very excited about Dazzling,” Wiser said. “Lauder seldom has a misfire.”
Cindy Tocchini, vice president and director of fragrances for Macy’s West, agreed. “Launching two fragrances at once is a very interesting concept.” Sales of men’s and women’s fragrance at Macy’s 85 stores in California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas have posted single-digit increases over spring 1997.
Tocchini pointed to a trend toward “more sophisticated, very classic scents for men and women.”
“The new Gucci Envy, Calvin Klein’s Contradiction, and Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist are popular these days, as are Chanel’s older Allure and No. 5,” she added.
But Lauder’s Beautiful and Pleasures, Tommy Girl, Clinique’s Happy and Eternity by Calvin Klein still garner women’s votes. Introduced in February, Carolina Herrera’s 212 and Flirt from Prescriptive are also becoming strong contenders.
The men’s fragrance category is currently growing faster than women’s, Tocchini noted.
Sports scents seem to have fulfilled a need among men, who flock to Tommy and Tommy Hilfiger Athletics.
Lauder’s Pleasures for Men, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, Armani’s Acqua di Gio and Gucci Envy, an April entry, are also top sellers.
Bulgari Black and Boucheron’s Jaipur Homme will hit the stores later this month, while Calvin Klein’s Contradiction for Men should follow in the footsteps of its sister fragrance this fall.
At the Beverly Hills branch of Neiman Marcus, spring launches for women included the reintroduction of Norell, as well as Ungaro’s Fleur de Diva and Vicky Tiel’s Originale, Sirene and Venus de l’Amour, according to Leslie Faust, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances.
Fresh, citrus-based scents have been holding the fort at Barneys, where the fragrance business has been increasing steadily for the past three years, according to Heidi Manheimer, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics.
Fragrance sales have increased by double-digit rates year-to-date, she said, “and we expect the trend to continue throughout the rest of the year.”

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