LEMPICKA: OUT TO CARVE A FRAGRANCE NICHE
Byline: Sarah Raper
PARIS — Recruit a top executive — often female — with years of fragrance marketing experience, sign a deal with a hot, young designer and set up a small company to launch scents.
That’s become practically the recipe for success for corporate behemoths hoping to strike gold in the booming designer niche market.
Shiseido did it with Chantal Roos and Beaute Prestige International, and Clarins set up shop for Parfums Thierry Mugler with Vera Strubi. Following their lead, Estee Lauder has Herbert Frommen on the prowl in Germany for untapped names that will appeal to Europeans.
Now, the Koreans are joining the club. In April, the Seoul-based Pacific Corp. launches its first designer fragrance, a signature scent by Lolita Lempicka. The product was developed by Parfums Lolita Lempicka president Catherine Dauphin, the former international marketing director at Parfums Christian Dior.
In a visit to Paris last year, Kyung-Bae Suh, scion of the founding family of the $2.2 billion Korean chemicals and consumer products firm and president of its cosmetics division, said that Pacific recognized it needed Western expertise to develop products for Europe, especially with fragrances.
“We have a real competence in skin care, but we know our limitations,” he said. “With this venture, we’re acting more like investors than managers.”
The hands-off approach has resulted in a methodically developed product that does not look like the standard fare found on perfumery shelves today.
The company took pains to include technologically advanced touches like an ultra-slender spray system, borrowed from the pharmaceuticals industry, that is integrated into the gold “stem” of the apple-shaped bottle.
The mauve bottle, designed by Alain de Mourgues, is decorated with white enamel leaves repainted with gold for a flea-market feel — in line with Lempicka’s vintage styles featuring lace handiwork.
The scent was created by Firmenich’s Annick Menardo. With its notes of anise flower, violets, iris and a rich vanilla and tonka bean base, it bears similarities to another “edible” scent — Mugler’s Angel. However, in comparing the two, Dauphin insisted that the Lempicka fragrance is much more “floral.”
The acid green outer packaging was chosen to insure that the item will be very visible on store counters.
The sales pitch is also carefully calculated. In a CD-ROM used for presentations to the trade, retailers are reminded that the “creative designer niche” in France (including BPI’s Issey Miyake and Jean Paul Gaultier scents and the Mugler brands) represented sales of $43 million (245 million francs) in 1995, or 6 percent of the prestige women’s fragrance market — nearly twice the share of market leader Chanel No. 5.
Dauphin said the success of the niche-oriented designer lines has made retailers more receptive to creative, lower-profile projects.
The Lempicka scent will be introduced in France, Belgium and Switzerland and the Mideast in April in a very restricted distribution. For example, in France the scent will be launched in 250 doors, building to 500 by July. Half of the doors will be traditional perfumeries and the rest will be perfumery chains and department stores.
In France, Dauphin is aiming for a 0.5 percent to 1 percent share in 1997, or as much as $7 million at wholesale.
The fragrance will roll out in Europe in the fall and in Asia, the U.S. and Scandinavia in 1998.
In addition to the exclusive distribution, Dauphin is dangling other incentives to try to interest retailers in the project. Instead of imposing uniform ordering minimums, her team has developed minimums for each area of France, based on a recent study comparing wealth and purchasing power by region.
In France, Pacific will spend $2 million (12 million francs) on advertising this year, including print and outdoor campaigns. But Dauphin emphasized that, as with other niche designer efforts, she had adopted an “iceberg investment” approach, spending more on in-store promotion and sampling than on media campaigns.
There will also be a “Club of Excellence” for the first 300 doors that sign up to carry the brand. They will receive extra samples and support.
The short eau de parfum line consists of 50-ml. and 100-ml. sprays and pours and a refillable purse spray, with prices ranging from $45 (260 francs) for the 50-ml. pour to $69 (395 francs) for the 100-ml. spray. The prices are slightly lower than those of the Gaultier and Miyake fragrances, Dauphin said.
She added that she hopes to sign other complementary fragrance licensing deals over the next few years and noted that she has also been busy developing a skin care line called Jacinte, which was launched in Korea last fall.
The line was designed to allow Pacific to compete better against Western brands that have recently entered Korea as a result of tariff slashing. A shorter version of the range is currently being test-marketed in France in the Thelem perfumery cooperative.
Pacific once enjoyed a 75 percent market share of its home cosmetics market, and it continues to dominate, but the arrival of American and European brands has pushed the company to begin exporting more.
In 1995, the most recent figures available, Pacific’s worldwide cosmetics sales totaled $670 million at wholesale.