MUGLER SCENT RIDES ON WINGS OF ANGEL
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — Thierry Mugler Parfums will attempt this spring to use the hard-won recognition of its Angel women’s scent to crack the tougher men’s market, when it stages the U.S. debut of the brand’s male mate.
The new fragrance from Mugler will make its bow May 11 at Saks Fifth Avenue — but not at the men’s fragrance bar, which is the standard industry practice. Instead, the merchandising focus will be at the women’s counter, with a secondary exposure at the men’s counter.
“Our strength is the Angel customer,” said Ben Gillikin, general manager of Mugler Parfums’ New York-based subsidiary. The parent company is a joint venture between the designer and Clarins SA.
“To all of a sudden go to a different area, where we would be a small player and would have to have an organization to operate in that area — it would be difficult,” Gillikin said.
Since the French company, led by Vera Strubi, brought Angel to America four years ago, Gillikin has been carving out a women’s fragrance business — door by door — with an unusually tight, methodical development.
Distribution still totals only 218 doors, with plans to step up to 260 this year. But wholesale volume swelled to $7 million last year, according to industry sources, while the fledgling U.S. subsidiary broke even on the bottom line. In addition, Angel hit the number-one spot in women’s fragrance rankings at Saks for the month of December.
The men’s fragrance, which was launched in Europe last September, originally had been scheduled for introduction in the U.S. 30 days following the European debut, according to Gillikin. But legal snags intervened. Now that the fragrance is finally arriving here, the company can say “amen” but not A Men, which is the fragrance’s European name. Here, the scent will be called Angel Men.
There is a conflict with an Arizona skin care company called Philosophy, which marketed a fragrance called Amen at Barneys New York, Gillikin noted.
Mugler originally wanted to call the fragrance Angel Men to tie it to the women’s scent, Gillikin said, but the A Men name came up in the development process. Initially, the company did not think there would be a conflict with Philosophy’s Amen since there was a difference in names — Mugler’s consisted of two words, all upper case, while Philosophy’s was one word, all lower case in its log. But in the final analysis — after A Men was committed to the European launch — it was decided to make a change in the U.S.
Plans call for launching the fragrance in 24 Saks doors, then broadening distribution, beginning in September, to 130 stores.
The expansion will follow the Angel distribution, which consists of Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, as well as Saks.
Gillikin, who declined to discuss dollars, said the sales goal is to equal 40 to 50 percent of Angel’s volume in those doors. That would put the first-year volume of the men’s scent well over $2 million, according to industry estimates.
In a couple of aspects, the launch seems calculated to appeal to the male mania for gadgetry. The packaging consists of a glass bottle inserted into a heavy metal shell and comes with a “polishing cloth.” Refills will be available.
There are three items in the line: a 1-oz. eau de toilette at $65; a 3.4-oz. size for $100, and a 6.8-oz. hair and body shampoo for $30. Fragrance refills are $35 and $55, respectively.
Then there’s the use of the fax machine. In marketing Angel, the company includes a questionnaire with each bottle, suggesting that women mail in their comments and become part of a network of customers who get new product samples and a newsletter. The French company has 40,000 names in its Angel database and the U.S. subsidiary has compiled “tens of thousands,” according to Gillikin.
There also will be questionnaires in the men’s package, but they will be fax forms that can be wired, instead of the feminine note form used in Angel.
Some of the promotional ideas are similarly offbeat. For the launch of the men’s fragrance, Angel customers in the U.S. will be told they will be sent advance samples of the men’s fragrance and be asked to suggest the names of men who might like to try the scent. The men will be sent mini-deluxe spray samples and be invited to come into the nearest Saks store for a free sample.
One characteristic of Angel was the unusual structure of the formulation. The men’s scent, also done by Quest International, was designed to relate to the women’s with some key differences. The top note is “less aggressive” for the men’s, but includes some masculine qualities.
The men’s scent has the chocolate and caramel notes of Angel. But roasted coffee and mint have been added, and so was tar as a reminder of the open road. Lavender is meant to provide a calming influence.
Steve Bock, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Saks, described Angel as “a very, very successful fragrance at Saks.”
He predicted the men’s scent will place in the top five.