NEW YORK SCENT SCENE REVEALS MIXED RESULTS
Byline: Kerry Diamond
NEW YORK — When it comes to the fragrance business these days, the sweet smell of success isn’t wafting over all department and specialty stores. Those retailers here with the largest fragrance departments were not nearly as enthusiastic about recent sales as their colleagues with smaller, specialized fragrance sections.
Barbara Zinn Moore, senior vice president of cosmetics for Macy’s East, would not comment on how the fragrance business is trending. “Mother’s Day did pull out, but the fragrance business still is challenging,” she said.
Robert Stein, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of cosmetics at Lord & Taylor, said that fragrance sales are “ahead of plan,” but he declined to elaborate on the specifics of the business plan. “It was a good Mother’s Day,” he said. “We had strong sell-through on sets, but in all honesty, the basics were somewhat disappointing.”
The reason is that customers wanted more for their money. “If items didn’t have value to them, she wasn’t buying,” Stein continued. “She was going elsewhere in our store. I think what it means is there has to be an understanding that the customer is a very smart customer. She has alternatives, and if we are going to attract her, we have to do it through value and newness.”
At Saks Fifth Avenue, Deborah Walters, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances, said there was “a nice increase in business,” buoyed by a healthy April and a strong Mother’s Day. “There have been no surprises. What has been strong continues to be strong.”
The biggest increases in business were reported by the three B’s — Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel — all of which pride themselves on highly edited fragrance offerings.
Heidi Manheimer, divisional merchandise manager at Barneys New York, reported a “huge double-digit increase,” helped along by the success of fragrances from Creed, the English perfume house best known for scents originally commissioned for the likes of Napoleon and Princess Grace.
At Bergdorf Goodman, Jodi Nathan, the buyer of cosmetics and fragrances, said the store’s fragrance sales “are trending at a double-digit increase.” Part of the boost can be attributed to interest in London perfumer Jo Malone, whose shop-in-store featuring her fragrance line, including her best-selling Lime, Basil and Mandarin, opened in Bergdorf in March.
Also reporting “double-digit increases” was Laura Saio, the cosmetics and fragrance buyer at Henri Bendel. Saio doesn’t attribute the strong business to any hot new scents, but rather to the atmosphere in the store’s fragrance section. “We don’t attack our customers. Our success is really all about product knowledge,” she said.
Certain new launches have helped spur business at the New York stores. At Lord & Taylor, Calvin Klein’s Contradiction, Burberrys’ Week end and Alfred Sung’s Pure have been doing well. Strong new introductions at Bendel’s include Trish McEvoy’s 3, Bobbi from Bobbi Brown and a pair of fragrances known as 1 and 2 from Parisian company Miller et Bertaux. Clinique’s Happy, Contradiction and Week end are some of the newer names doing brisk business at Macy’s. At Barneys, a fragrance by Beth Terry called Te is selling well. “It really smells like tea,” says Manheimer. At Saks, some of the strong new launches include Hermes’s new men’s fragrance, Rocabar; the summer line from Escada, Sunny Frutti; Cartier Declaration; Bulgari Black; St. John’s White Camellia, and Bobbi.
Petite Cherie, a new fruity floral from Annick Goutal, has been a successful new intro for several stores, including Bendel’s, Barneys and Saks. Adipar, the distributor of Annick Goutal, reported that sales of the French fragrance line at Saks the week before Mother’s Day broke company records, due mostly to the interest in Petite Cherie. The week’s tally from Saks for Goutal sales was more than $56,000, and the best day at Saks brought in $13,500.
All the retailers are looking forward to the next round of launches, which include new additions from several big names in fragrance and fashion.
Stein, despite being “cautiously optimistic about fall,” is awaiting the arrival of Estee Lauder’s Dazzling Gold and Dazzling Silver, Lancome’s O Oui, Elizabeth Arden’s Splendor, Ralph Lauren Romance and a new Cassini fragrance called Black Tie.
For fall, Bergdorf’s Nathan is excited about two new Jo Malone fragrances, Verbena of Provence and Honeysuckle & Jasmine; a new Guerlain fragrance; and the new Geoffrey Beene fragrance, which she describes as a fresh floral in a bottle reminiscent of one of his dress designs.
Saio says Bendel will be adding a fragrance from Parisian floral designer Herve Gambs. Bendel already carries the candles from his home collection.
Zinn Moore listed Dazzling Gold and Dazzling Silver, Splendor, Ralph Lauren Romance, Contradiction for Men, Bulgari Black and Fantasia by Fendi as some of the new brands that will be carried at Macy’s.
As to which scents will rise to the head of the fall class, Zinn Moore said it depends on the promotional muscle behind each and the at-counter events: “When they bring animation to the counters, it clearly increases the sales tremendously.”