NEW YORK — Claude G Fragrances has shifted gears rather than be left behind by a changing mass market fragrance business.
Claude G was primarily a manufacturer of designer knockoff scents for drug, discount and specialty stores when it started distributing in the U.S. in 1989. With the halcyon days of take-offs over and traditional mass market fragrance sales on the decline, Claude Elbaz, president and chief executive officer, said he is seeking more fertile markets.
“The fragrance market has changed and people are looking for alternatives such as fragrance splashes and aromatherapy,” said Elbaz.
Although still offering alternative designer scents, Claude G has redirected its business to focus on the thriving scented bath category.
A blurring of the boundaries between bath and fragrances is causing retailers to allocate more of their fragrance budgets to products that straddle fragrance and bath, said Elbaz. Some are even creating specialty fragrance and bath departments near existing bath assortments.
To respond to the consumer’s growing demands for lighter scents and different fragrance application forms, Elbaz first branched out beyond mimic fragrances last year when he introduced Bouquet, a collection of fragrances, body splashes, gels, lotions and candles in five different floral flavors.
Currently, Elbaz is shipping a new aromatherapy assortment called Balance, which consists of eight flavors in mist, lotion, gel and spray.
Industry sources predicted the aromatherapy products could contribute at least $6 million to $7 million in their first full year in wholesale dollars.
Between Bouquet and Balance, Elbaz has redistributed the company’s volume. Alternative designer scents used to be 80 percent of his business; now they are about 22 percent.
Elbaz believes the timing is right for the explosion of mass market aromatherapy, and he hopes the dollars Coty is spending behind The Healing Garden — its mass market aromatherapy line that’s hitting shelves in October — will ignite sales across the board. “The consumer needs to be educated about aromatherapy and the advertising will help,” he added.
He thinks Balance has a few points of difference, however, versus Coty and other aromatherapy brands currently available at mass. “Most aromatherapy to date has been marketed as medicinal,” he said. “This is being marketed as something fun.”
Balance will join Coty’s The Healing Garden, as well as other mass-marketed aromatherapy products such as Sinclair and Valentine, Arizona Naturals, Sarah Michaels and Kneipp Corporation of America.
Aromatherapy is a concept ripe for mass merchants, added Elbaz, pointing to a recent panel discussion of 14 women of varying ages at the recently held Efficient Category Management Summer Session in Palm Beach, Fla. “Thirteen out of 14 women had heard of aromatherapy,” he said, “and eight had purchased some form.”
Kline Group, a research firm, estimates the aromatherapy market at $250 million, including personal and home fragrances, bath additives, hair care, lotions and treatments in both mass and class sectors. It calls for an annual growth rate of 5 percent.
“We don’t want to get too complicated at mass, so our packaging is clear as to what the product is designed to do,” he said.
The line’s labeling clearly spells out the effect each scent is intended to achieve. For example, the eucalyptus version is for soothing; the thyme for energizing.
All items, except for the 2-oz. mist, retail for $7.50. The first stockkeeping units are shipping now and a foot lotion and foot scrub will be added in October, followed by bar soaps in December. There will also be gift sets in the $12.00 to $15.00 range.
Elbaz stressed the importance of offering collections versus items. “Retailing has changed. You no longer have just a hot item. You have to offer an entire concept.”
He added that Claude G frequently brings buyers into its home office in Manhattan to get feedback on products. “What we do is because of the suggestions from our retailers,” Elbaz said.
The company is making several merchandising vehicles available for retailers. “We want to customize it because each account is so different,” he said. Rather than merchandise Balance in fragrance departments, Elbaz favors a spot in the newly emerging specialty bath areas.
Despite the migration of consumers from traditional scents to lighter florals and bath products, Elbaz doesn’t think retailers should overlook fragrance. In fact, his Bouquet line has a traditional fragrance within the assortment. “We have a habit of following the herd and if people say fragrance is dead, everyone responds. There is still opportunity in fragrance,” he said.
Elbaz also said the firm will introduce two new concepts early in 1998. No further details were available.

Beauty Finds, a fledgling brand from Resource Options in Edison, N.J., is growing up to be more than a pencil line.
Created 15 months ago with lip and eye pencils, Beauty Finds is now in more than 3,000 doors and has branched into eye and face makeup. A few of the items the company has added to its roster include Shimmer & Shine, face makeup with shimmer that is teamed up with eye and lip pencils and Beauty Wheels, which are color wheels of several shades for face, lips and eyes in one compact.
Pencils are still integral to the brand, however, with Beauty Finds showing a transformer pencil that changes the appearance of lipstick. “We know women may not want to buy a new lip color, but they’ll try something that adds a matte look to an existing lip shade,” explained Cecil Canale, managing director of the company.
Beauty Finds is now being carried in stores such as Wal-Mart, Eckerd, Ulta3 and Duane Reade.

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