ONE-SHOT SCENTS SURGE
Byline: Jenny Weil
PARIS — Women are fickle and perfume houses know it. That’s why Estee Lauder, Guerlain, Cacharel, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Lancome are among those recently to launch limited-edition perfumes.
Once renowned for their loyalty, French women are playing the field. The average female consumer in France uses 3.5 different fragrance brands each year, according to tracking firm Secodip. And it doesn’t seem this trend will change.
“Women are not going to go back to [being faithful to] one fragrance,” said Annette Green, president of the Fragrance Foundation. “They see it for different times in their lives and for different moods; they’re using fragrance-like colors.”
So limited-edition fragrances — those on the market anywhere from a few days to one year — can be a boon to fragrance houses. Especially when they can garner $8 million to $20 million wholesale in their short lifespans, the estimated goals of some of these one-shots. “They can give an opportunity to dynamize a brand,” said Sylvie Prieur, director of development at J. Walter Thompson here.
One-shots offer a relatively inexpensive way to give zest to a brand, especially in terms of image and expanding its appeal. There are a few ways companies approach one-shots: as spinoffs from the existing fragrance base, as gifts-with-purchase, to mark a special event or as part of a color cosmetics story.
Estee Lauder chose the first approach for its first limited-edition entry: three Garden of Pleasures fragrances, which began rolling out in Europe in March and are slated to have a six-month run. Pleasures already had an estimated $80 million in wholesale foreign volume when Garden of Pleasures launched.
“We decided to push Pleasures, since it had a bigger international market than in the U.S. We needed to continue that drive,” said Rochelle Bloom, senior vice president and general manager of Lauder International. “Its purpose was to drive the entire Pleasures franchise.”
The ad spend for Garden of Pleasures has been much less, as well. “The cost of launching [the fragrances] was not even one-quarter of a mega-launch,” Bloom said.
And though Guerlain didn’t use any advertising to announce its first limited-edition fragrance in about half a century, Muguet — on sale from April 28 to May 2 in France — was sold out. It was the most recent addition in the company’s 626-perfume stable and is the first of a series meant to bring the house closer to its roots, said Veronique Gabai, marketing director for the perfume division.
The juice created by Jean-Paul Guerlain is based on the namesake flower. Muguet is also the flower traditionally associated with France’s celebration of spring on May 1. “Perfumes are our core business. [With Muguet] we want to get back to the rhythm of the seasons — and things that are reminiscent of our childhood and culture,” Gabai said.
For the first time, Cacharel is giving a one-shot fragrance as a gwp. A 50-ml. Voile du Paradis is being offered with purchases of 100-ml. Eau d’Eden eau de toilette and a second Cacharel product. The offer began on May 1 and is good until the stock goes. “It is a gwp to help our sales without weighing down the distribution of stock and the catalog,” said Cyrille d’Estienne d’Orves, head of the international marketing group for Parfums Cacharel.
Parfums Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel also introduced limited-edition fragrances for the first time this year — both to mark special events. In January, Parfums YSL launched In Love Again to commemorate the house’s 40 years of creation. It is the first time YSL developed and simultaneously launched a fragrance and cosmetics line. The last shipping date for In Love Again is set for the end of September.
Chanel is also delving into its history with its “Operation Camelia,” which includes the house’s first limited-edition scent — called Une Fleur de Chanel — along with makeup, clothing and accessories.
The fragrance created by Jacques Polge is on sale from May 1 to June 30 in Chanel boutiques. It celebrates Coco Chanel’s signature flower as well as the Chelsea Flower Show in London, which house designer Karl Lagerfeld will inaugurate on May 18. By early May, some stores were sold out of the scent, a Chanel spokeswoman said. The house could launch another one-shot perfume, though “we’d need a pretext to do it,” she said. Lancome’s most recent pretext is its seasonal color story, though from 1948 to 1953, the company regularly rolled out one-shots. With the arrival of makeup artist Fred Farrugia’s first color line for Lancome, called Chrysalide, the company has revived its ephemeral fragrances.
When asked whether Lancome is worried that the one-shots will cannibalize its classic fragrance, Alexandre Rata, international marketing director for the perfumes division, said: “No, because it’s a perfume for a specific event.”
Chrysalide, the fragrance that ran with the makeup, did well, according to Rata. But he added that Lancome will not keep the one-shot fragrance on sale for longer than a season. “The tag line for Chrysalide [fragrance] is ‘Now or Never,’ so to keep it on sale forever would be a lie,” Rata said. But others say customers wouldn’t mind.
While YSL maintains that it will stop production of In Love Again this fall, industry sources speculate it could be hard to walk away from a successful product. Even fragrance executives admit to mixed feelings.
Lauder’s Bloom said that depending on how Garden of Pleasures fares, the line could be extended past the six-month run.
But some see drawbacks to the trend. “They sell, but some customers don’t understand that the ephemeral fragrances are really one-shot deals,”said Boris Gratini, assistant buyer for selective distribution at Printemps department store.
Others say difficulties can arise if several companies make a habit of extending the life of so-called ephemeral fragrances. “If too many do it, customers will say, ‘They’ve fooled us and trapped us with these one-shots,” Prieur said.