Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Executives from Gianni Versace Profumi swept into town recently to preview the company’s upcoming Versace Make-Up collection during a Manhattan reception.
The 160-stockkeeping-unit array will not make its U.S. debut until November, partly because of a shortage of stock caused by unexpectedly strong demand in the early launch markets, namely the U.K. The American launch was originally slated for September.
And the American unveiling will be restricted to Versace’s boutiques here, with the full rollout not scheduled until January — and then on a very limited basis. Distribution will be held to less than 100 doors by the end of next year, including Versace’s 10 U.S. boutiques, according to Marcio Dos Santos, who is spearheading development here as chief operating officer of Versace Profumi USA Ltd.
As reported, Versace plans to build its cosmetics business slowly in America, using the introduction of Versace Make-Up to further solidify the company’s fragrance position by gradually establishing its own beauty counters in stores. Last May, Versace executives were talking in terms of only 12 specialty store doors initially, as well as Versace boutiques.
“We want to be really selective,” said Luciano Abbati, president of the U.S. company and managing director of the Milan-based Gianni Versace Profumi. “We want to give a lot of support in store and do a lot of training.”
Abbati was speaking of distribution overseas as well as in the U.S. In Italy, for instance, where an exclusive brand like Boucheron will be in 3,000 to 4,000 perfumeries, Versace will hold distribution to 220 doors.
In July, Versace introduced the color line in 35 doors in the U.K., and initial sales were double expectations, with the first month’s volume hitting $1 million at wholesale, according to Santos. And the momentum has continued.
Similarly, the small, first shipment blew out the first day when the makeup line was introduced in Italy’s Rinascente department store in Milan in mid-September, Abbati added. Sales continued strongly, and the company is now presenting the line to other Italian retailers.
He said the original plan called for breaking even on the cosmetics line within three years, with a total worldwide volume of $40 million. But if the U.K. experience becomes a pattern, Abbati noted, breaking even could happen sooner.
According to current strategy, the color line will be introduced in Germany and Spain in January. It also will be launched in Indonesia, where Versace has its own company. Abbati also is considering a French launch at the end of this year, consisting of no more than five doors, including Versace’s Paris boutique.
“People want quality and prestige and color. We put all that together,” Abbati said, adding that the line is priced on a par with Chanel and other competitors.
The products will be used on models in Saturday’s Versus fashion show in Milan and again next Thursday for the signature Versace collection.
As Abbati said, “Versace means color.”

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