LACK OF LAUNCHES HAS LONDON WORRIED
Byline: Ruth Gurevitch
LONDON — The dearth of fall launches is going to make for a tough season for retailers here.
After a largely uneventful first half, things are slowing down even more, causing some concern about holiday sales targets.
What retailers agree on is that the trend to unisex light fragrances is waning and in its place more traditional, romantic fragrance is emerging.
The U.K. fragrance market was worth $625.68 million (396 million pounds) in 1996, according to Euromonitor, after a 5.3 percent drop in value in a five-year review period from 1991 to 1996. In real values, including inflation, the drop amounted to 14.4 percent. The market did rebound slightly last year, showing a 0.8 percent value rise from 1995. Euromonitor accounts for this increase by citing a large number of product launches that stimulated the market. In particular, the trend to lighter, unisex scents brought a younger customer to the fragrance counter.
But retailers say that in 1997, which has been short on launches, business remains generally flat.
The London department store Harrods has pinned its hopes for fall on Clinique’s Happy, which Muriel Zingraff, the store’s general manager for fragrance and cosmetics, said is the store’s most significant launch of the season.
“Happy should do extremely well with us. It’s a very nice fragrance and we already have a strong following with Aromatique,” she said.
Happy is due on counters by early November. Other launches include Hugo Boss Woman, Iceberg Universe, Tocadilly from Rochas and Tommy Girl.
Gucci Envy is the store’s top-selling scent; Organza, Allure, L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake and Estee Lauder’s Pleasures remain among its top 10.
Zingraff praised Pleasures for its young, clean advertising and confirmed that its loyal following has introduced a younger customer to the house of Lauder.
The launches of the Allure and Organza body and bath lines have reinvigorated sales of both fragrances. The Organza body line now accounts for 10 percent of the fragrance’s sales, which Zingraff said is an unusually high number for any body line.
She also reported good sales of Escada’s latest seasonal scent, Que Viva. Donna Karan has a firm customer base, said Zingraff, who expects Karan’s new Watermist, launching this fall, to do very well with the customer who already buys into the “Donna Karan lifestyle.”
The home fragrances sell very well at Harrods and Zingraff believes Watermist, which “falls somewhere between food and beauty,” should appeal because of its “new-age feel” and natural formulations.
On the American fragrance front, So de la Renta is not expected to be a particularly significant launch at Harrods this fall, in part because the fashion house does not have a very high profile in the U.K. and also because it’s “not seen as edgy enough for the European market,” Zingraff said.
There is very little happening to fuel business on the men’s side. Dune for Men by Dior performed well this spring, but Zingraff added, “We still sell more [Dior’s] Fahrenheit than Dune.”
The Kiton men’s fragrance, which remains an exclusive until the end of the year, has sold very well, while Ralph Lauren’s Polo Sport is still in the Harrods top 10.
Zingraff hopes sales growth will reach the double-digit percentage range for the fall season through the holidays. The store will benefit from advantageous comparisons this fall because perfumery sales were disrupted by construction, which ended this year.
However, Zingraff expects to increase foot traffic in the preholiday season. She remains optimistic about sales and said the department is 4 percent up on last year.
Harrods will promote its holiday catalog and plans promotional activities and limited editions to tie in with the 150th anniversary of Cartier.
Harrods has seen a slight shift in consumer buying patterns to a renewed enthusiasm for simple and traditional fragrances. Zingraff noted the store is doing particularly well with the Penhaligon’s fragrances and scents from Annick Goutal.
Small fragrance houses also are driving business at London department store Liberty, said fragrance buyer Angela Creasy. The Liberty top 10 is made up of exclusive designer fragrances and hard-to-find scents, including, on the women’s side, Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, L’Eau d’Issey, Jean Paul Gaultier and Joseph Parfum du Jour, the relaunched fragrance from retailer Joseph Ettedgui.
The Liberty customer is also loyal to the offerings from European houses Etro, Annick Goutal and Creed. Clinique’s Happy is expected to do well.
Sales of Thierry Mugler’s A*Men outnumber those of Angel, and other men’s bestsellers L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme, Gaultier’s Le Male, Comme des Garcons and CK One and CK Be.
Despite the perfumery’s quite specific offerings, Creasy admitted the lack of launches does make it more difficult to drive the business.
“Most of our business does not rely on promotions or gift-with-purchase incentives. We have a strong basic business, but the business as a whole is completely reliant on launches, and we will feel it,” she said.
However, according to Creasy, the department will see sales growth into double digits and the year should end well, boosted in part by the added coffret, or fragrance miniature, business of the holiday season. Coffrets at Liberty tend to be self-selected gift boxes rather than manufacturer’s promotions, Creasy said.
Tommy Girl is slated to be the House of Fraser’s big launch for fall. The fragrance, which was due on counters Aug. 30, is expected to be even more successful than its male counterpart, Tommy.
“There is much more awareness of the brand than there was a year ago, when Tommy launched. And we’re still doing very well with Tommy,” said Janet Saunders, associate director of perfumery and cosmetics at the 51-store chain.
Later in the season, the introduction of Happy is destined to be “enormous.” Saunders also is optimistic about the launches of Hugo Woman and Wolfgang Joop’s All About Eve.
This fall will see introductions in the U.K. from Iceberg, Iceberg Universe, Versace’s Black and White Jeans and a new fragrance from the fashion house Diesel called Diesel Plus Plus.
These pairs of his and hers scents indicate the shared-fragrance sensation may be over, buyers say.
House of Fraser reported strong numbers on recent debuts of Cool Water Woman, Donna Karan’s Chaos and Gucci’s Envy. Paloma Picasso’s Tentations failed to register, said Saunders. CK One, CK Be and Allure remain in the store’s top 10.
On the men’s side, the chain does well with Tommy, L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme, Dolce & Gabbana and Polo Sport. Dune is selling well and Saunders is confident about a new fragrance from Lanvin, Lanvin L’Homme, which “demonstrates a new side of Lanvin, aimed at a much more contemporary market.”
“It’s going to be a coffret Christmas,” said Saunders, adding that “good promotional packages at Christmas do not make up for the lack of launches.”
House of Fraser still hopes to see double-digit growth for the year, said Saunders, “although the increased interest in color and skin care seem to be leaving the fragrance category flat.”