RENAISSANCE’S GOAL OF BRAND REBIRTH
Byline: Faye Brookman
NEW YORK — By breathing life back into a handful of faded fragrances, Renaissance Cosmetics is out to become a major mass market player.
To date, Renaissance has revitalized Chantilly and added White Chantilly, extended Tabu with a brand to court younger customers, and is in the midst of repackaging Canoe.
“These are classic fragrances that have been neglected and have underperformed in recent years. We’re changing that,” said Thomas Bonoma, chairman and chief executive officer of Renaissance, based here. By merging the fragrance portfolios of Houbigant Parfums Parquet and Dana Perfumes Corp., which Renaissance acquired in 1994 and 1995, respectively, the firm now has a stable of brands that produces in excess of $100 million annually worldwide, according to industry estimates. Bonoma declined to comment on the figures.
Renaissance also owns Cosmar Corp., a mass nail care company with an estimated volume of $50 million.
While the overall women’s mass fragrance market declined 9.7 percent for the four weeks ended Dec. 31, compared with the same holiday period in 1994, Renaissance’s fragrance volume jumped 10 percent, according to Information Resources of Chicago.
Bonoma attributed about one-fifth of the 10 percent gain to new brands. The rest was generated by supporting older names such as Tabu, the subject of a new ad campaign during Christmas. “We’re reviving the strong equity of classic, quality brands,” said Bonoma.
“Then we use the mother brand to launch a new product,” he added, referring to line extensions, such as the White Chantilly fragrance. He claimed the new products are benefiting from the established name without cannibalizing the original: “White Chantilly, for example, did not erode Chantilly.”
The strategy is working, according to chain buyers, who said they are seeing greater consumer interest in the company’s older brands as a result of the influx of new items. Although some said they were initially skeptical that Renaissance could do anything to rebuild the tired brands, they’ve become believers. “[Renaissance has] done everything they said they’d do,” said Penny Wade, category manager for Harco Drug Inc. in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “Our business, especially Tabu, is up with them, and the new Canoe looks very good.” Starting next month, the 38-year-old Canoe brand will be the subject of an overhaul, complete with new packaging and an updated scent. Under Dana, Canoe sales had sunk to as low as $5 million to $7 million, according to industry estimates. Sources project that Renaissance can boost the fragrance into the $12 million range in its first year with the updated appearance and juice. Renaissance has pared the line’s number of offerings from 16 stockkeeping units to 11.
“We tweaked the fragrance, and although it is like the 1958 original, it is also like a Nineties citrus,” said Bonoma. Packaging has been updated to include the Canoe logo and a drawing of a canoe, replacing the previous nautical flags. TV ads will use the tag line “Great expectations are traditionally launched by Canoe.” Print advertising and a new sampling campaign are also planned. Pricing of the relaunch ranges from a 3-oz. stick deodorant at $4.50 to an 8.4-oz. aftershave for $24.
“We adjusted the price [up] 40 to 50 cents,” said Al DeChellis, vice president and general manager of Dana, now a division of Renaissance.
Once Canoe is reestablished, the line will be “flanked” with an extension in 1996, he said.
DeChellis hopes Canoe will follow the success of the other scents Renaissance has reintroduced. Chantilly, for example, has been built into a $24-million-a-year brand, representing a jump of about 33 percent in just two years.
Aanother $14 million to $15 million was generated by the spring launch of White Chantilly, according to industry estimates. The Tabu franchise will be expanded next month with the launch of Dreams by Tabu, a brand sources expect could hit retail sales of $15 million in its first year. Tabu is reportedly about a $20 million brand at present, up from the $10 million or so in annual volume it had generated in the preceding few years.
Tabu has its strongest following with women over 40, and Dreams by Tabu is designed to appeal to younger shoppers, according to the company. Another fragrance launched in 1995 was Classic Gardenia, already reportedly an $8 million to $10 million brand.
The remaining brands in the Renaissance portfolio include French Vanilla, Alyssa Ashley, Raffinee, Lutece and Herbissimo, which together have sales of about $36 million. With what he called a “mother-daughter” fragrance strategy, Bonoma is hoping to reshape the mass fragrance business — which many retailers say is in need of an overhaul. Overall, mass fragrance volume was down 2 percent last year, according to industry estimates, and buyers are searching hard for ways to revive sales. Bonoma would like to see retailers literally bring mass fragrances out from under glass as one method to spark growth.
“The industry needs to agree on a standard for security,” he said, referring to the various forms of electronic surveillance devices currently available on the market. “We’re willing to invest the 5 cents per piece it will cost to make a fragrance pilferage-proof, but we can’t do one thing for one account and another for another or the price jumps to 10 cents.”
Efforts on the part of vendors to inserting triggering devices in fragrance boxes have been hampered by the fact that retailers have widely varying types of security systems.
Bonoma would also like to see a fundamental change in the promotional cycle of the fragrance business, including a reduction in “deal buys” — special promotionals that involve steep discounts.
“You have a loyal Chantilly user who is going to buy it off or on deal,” he explained. He said retailers are losing profits by promoting it at $9.99 on deal versus a full price of $14.95. “Plus there is the cost of shipping a special deal display and setting it up,” he noted.
Bonoma also thinks there is opportunity for suppliers and retailers to de-emphasize the importance of Christmas and enjoy greater sales of basic stock. Buyers said they agree with that thinking. “Then we don’t have to count on new launches for Christmas or worry about marking down those gift sets with Santas on them,” said one retailer.
Bonoma also hopes to see further penetration of Renaissance’s fragrances on an international basis.
“There is plenty of potential for these brands in Europe,” he said. At the moment, Renaissance does 15 percent of its business overseas; that figure should near 30 percent in the next three years, Bonoma said.
Renaissance’s acquisition last year of Cosmar, one of the mass market’s leading nail care and tip suppliers, has added depth to the firm’s portfolio.
According to Bonoma, several new products are on tap for this division, including Nail Fetish — an assortment of tips and nail decorations — and UltraGel, a new method of applying false nails. Acquisitions, according to Bonoma, will continue to play an integral part in his plan of building Renaissance into a $1 billion company by the year 1999. “With another acquisition in 1996,” he said, “we’ll be on target with our plan.”