CROSS AIMS TO EMBRACE NEW CROWD

Byline: Kim-Van Dang

NEW YORK — In 1845, Mark Cross started making horse saddles and harnesses. With the advent of the automobile, it evolved into a prestige leather goods company. This year, the Mark Cross name will further evolve.
It will add fragrance to its stable, possibly two of them.
“Mark Cross is a valuable property,” said Alan S. Greco, president and chief executive officer of fragrance marketer Paul Sebastian Inc. of Ocean, N.J., the licensee. “The company has a tradition of quality, craftsmanship and style — elements that are wonderful to build fragrance around.”
After four years of pursuit, Greco finally gets to do just that. Paul Sebastian plans to introduce Embrace, the first Mark Cross women’s scent, in late March.
It will launch initially in all Neiman Marcus doors and Mark Cross’s own seven stores, then roll out in mid-April to all Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor locations, as well as select units of Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s East, Macy’s West, Dayton’s, Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s, Burdines and Rich’s.
With 375 doors in all, Greco projected first-year sales of $9 million at retail.
The scent, created by Givaudan Roure, features floral top notes of bergamot, mimosa, magnolia, rose, pink muguet and jasmine, as well as champagne. They are tempered by base notes of musk, sandalwood, ylang-ylang and the tonka bean. Consumer research, according to Greco, revealed that Embrace is perceived as a daytime and evening fragrance.
The 10-item collection features a 1.7-oz. eau de toilette spray for $50, a 3.4-oz. eau de toilette for $70, a 0.33-oz. perfume purse spray for $75 with a $40 same-size refill and a 1-oz. perfume for $240.
Bath and body products, conceived by consultant Betsey Forsyth Schmaltz, include a 5-oz. soap for $20, a 4-oz. dusting powder for $45, a 6.6-oz. body lotion for $45, a 5-oz. body cream for $55 and a 6.6-oz. bath and a 6.6-oz. shower gel for $35.
The fragrance bottle, designed by Robert DuGrenier and produced by Luigi Bormioli, echoes the lines of a Mark Cross handbag. And for good reason.
Alan M. Krantzler, vice president and general manager of Mark Cross, said women’s handbags now account for 50 percent of sales at the company, which was acquired by Coach in 1993. Coach, the leather accessories business with 1996 sales of $500 million, is a division of Sara Lee Corp.
“Paul Sebastian has been interested in Mark Cross for a while,” Krantzler said. “But, when we first bought the property, we wanted to focus on rebuilding the brand. It had become fragmented.”
At the time, he said, the Mark Cross business was split among handbags, business cases, small leather goods, executive accessories such as agendas and pad holders, and gift items such as picture frames and jewelry boxes.
Krantzler also revamped distribution and pulled the line from the wholesale channel for two years, while retooling its look to reflect its historical identity.
“We went back to the archives,” he said. “We’re about European craftsmanship with American styling, and we worked to secure those signature elements. When we felt we had them down, about a year ago, we restarted the conversation on fragrance. We weren’t ready until then.”
Krantzler said he went with Paul Sebastian because Greco expressed a long-term commitment to the project.
“Sara Lee is big into building brands,” Krantzler said.
What Embrace will lack in commercial exposure, due to limited distribution, will be made up for in support. Greco said that between $2.5 million and $3 million will be spent on advertising and marketing.
May issues of Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, W and Elle magazines will feature color ads for Embrace being photographed by Kenji Toma. The Neiman Marcus catalog and Mark Cross’s own publication will also carry the images and offer the scent.
Between 10 million and 15 million scented inserts and remits will be dispersed, too, as will letters to department store and Mark Cross customers inviting them for a free miniature bottle of Embrace.
Moreover, instead of spending promotional dollars on gift-with-purchase efforts, Paul Sebastian plans to employ between 200 and 250 sales associates to work the Mark Cross fragrance counters.
“We have hired 60 to 70 percent of them already,” Greco said. “They will put in between 15 and 35 hours a week, depending on the level of activity at each location, to build relationships with customers, to pamper them. In the Neiman Marcus stores, we will offer hand-massages with our lotion. The Mark Cross customer is used to that level of service.”
That prototypical customer, Krantzler said, is in her 30s to 40s and has a household income of $75,000-plus. She spends between $255 and $1,000 for a Mark Cross handbag.
The Mark Cross man might also be courted with a new fragrance before the year is out, he added. In the early Eighties, Helena Rubinstein had marketed a Mark Cross fragrance for men, but that license expired before Coach purchased the brand.
“We might launch a men’s scent late this fall or in early spring,” Krantzler said. “It will be introduced when the product is right.”

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