SOUTHEAST HIT BY DROUGHT, RETAILERS AWAIT PRODUCT RAINFALL
Byline: Brenda Lloyd
ATLANTA — The fragrance business has finally lived up to all the cliches: It truly stinks.
Major retailers across the Southeast say that fragrance sales have been tough and are down, a condition that they attribute primarily to a lack of product newness in the market.
Sharron Williams, senior vice president and corporate general merchandise manager of cosmetics at Proffitt’s Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., said the launches this spring have been sparse. “There’s not enough newness, and where there is newness, it isn’t driving enough business to overcome the decreases that the older lines are getting,” she said.
Retailers are using scented inserts, scented remittance envelopes and stitch-ins in catalogs, and staying in-stock to help improve sales. According to Jon Pollack, general merchandise manager of cosmetics at Belk’s Inc., “We’re doing all we can to get [fragrances] out to consumers through scent vehicles in conjunction with our key resources…any vehicle we can get a fragrance in. And we think that will be a key driver in the fall.”
The women’s fragrance business at Proffitt’s Inc. — which includes the Proffitt’s, Parisian, McRae’s, Younkers, Herberger’s and Carson Pirie Scott department store chains — is down slightly, but men’s is up slightly, Williams said. Men’s is doing better, she explained, partly because it doesn’t have Calvin Klein’s CK One, which has taken “huge hits” in women’s. Also, she added, “I think the male customer is a more loyal customer than the women’s customer is and isn’t as anxious to get new things as a woman is.”
Of the few launches that have entered the fragrance this spring, she said that Calvin Klein’s Contradiction women’s scent has given Proffitt’s the largest sales. Other launches are Lancaster’s Sunwater, Givenchy’s Extravagance, Eau de Dolce Vita by Christian Dior, Pure by Alfred Sung, Fred Hayman’s Hollywood and, from the color cosmetics and treatment area, Flirt by Precriptives.
In men’s, Hilfiger Athletics has been the best received.
Williams added that last fall’s launches of Clinique’s Happy, Estee Lauder’s Pleasures for Men and Acqua di Gio Pour Homme continue to be successful.
Women’s fragrance launches for fall include Estee Lauder’s Dazzling Gold and Silver, Lancome’s O Oui, Splendor by Elizabeth Arden and Romance by Ralph Lauren. In the men’s area, Contradiction for Men is coming.
Williams said that one change in purchasing habits by Proffitt’s customers is a trend toward the “younger, lighter, green fragrances.” She added that she sees four distinct directions this year: romantic florals, newness, back to the classics and prestige fragrances.
Also, she said, “The industry and our associates have done an outstanding job of teaching layering to the consumer.”
Cathy Bradford, buyer for fragrances and Estee Lauder at Stone & Thomas, based in Charleston, W. Va., with 21 units, also said that sales have been tough in her area this year. Older lines are “doing poorly against last year,” she said, and recent launches aren’t making up for the decreases. Both men’s and women’s sales are off, men’s a little more than women’s. “Traffic is down in the department stores,” she explained, “and, if we don’t have the traffic, we don’t have the sales because this is an impulse buy.”
Of her recent launches, Givenchy’s Organza, which hit the Stone & Thomas stores in February or March, is the best, Bradford said. “We’ve beaten plan every month for that fragrance, but it’s a blockbuster,” she said. Sales of Calvin Klein’s Contradiction have been OK, and Lancaster’s Sunwater has done well.
Extreme Polo Sport has been disappointing. Stone & Thomas doesn’t have Tommy Athletic yet, and Extravagance has just hit Stone & Thomas sales floors.
She is looking forward to fall launches, such as Contradiction for Men and a fragrance by Parfumes International for men, as well as the new women’s fragrances by Ralph Lauren and Lancaster. “There are some new things on the horizon, but there aren’t enough new ones to make up for the drop in the existing lines,” she said.
Belk’s Pollack said that his fragrance sales are down for the year. “Mother’s Day was a big disappointment,” he said. “It basically didn’t happen. Now we’re trying to get geared up for fall.”
His women’s business, which had a high-single-digit decrease, is worse than men’s, Pollack said, adding that men’s had a single-digit increase.
He agreed that there isn’t enough newness in the market now. The only recent launches of several in Belk’s stores producing significant business now are Happy, which Belk’s launched at holiday, Contradiction and Hilfiger Athletic. He added that Gucci’s Envy is another recent launch that is doing well, but it isn’t in all stores. Count on Envy being in all Belk’s stores this fall, however.
“We’re not giving customers enough reason to come in,” he said. But fall looks better. Lauder, Lancome, Elizabeth Arden and Ralph Lauren all will launch new fragrances this fall, plus Contradiction for Men and Envy for Men will be in Belk’s stores this fall. “So there’s quite a bit of newness for fall,” Pollack said. “With that much newness plus the marketing spin behind those brands, it should lift the whole category.”