LATEST BRITISH IMPORT: MARK BIRLEY

Byline: Soren Larson

NEW YORK — Nightclub owner Mark Birley, a well-known personality in England since the Sixties, is hoping to build an audience on these shores for a new fragrance venture.
The proprietor of Annabel’s, Harry’s Bar and Mark’s Club in London has developed a scent called Mark Birley for Men, and is ready to bring it to a retail distribution.
While the fragrance has been sold in Birley’s clubs since December, it won’t hit the stores until June, when it will be launched at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
In addition, Birley is close to completing a deal for an exclusive arrangement with a London department store, according to FrAdAric Malle, an industry consultant who is Birley’s partner in the new fragrance endeavor. The two have formed Mark Birley for Men Ltd., based in London, with Birley owning 51 percent and Malle 49 percent.
While Malle declined to name the British retailer, he said the product will be launched in the UK at around the same time as in the U.S. or before.
The new fragrance will stay in its two retail accounts for the time being, said Malle, who noted: “We’d just get lost in somewhere like Bloomingdale’s.”
Birley’s first nightclub, Annabel’s, opened in 1963, and Mark’s Club followed nine years later. Harry’s Bar came next, in 1979, and Birley’s latest venture — a fitness organization called the Bath & Racquets Club — opened in 1989.
“I think he will find a market here [in the U.S.],” said Malle. “A large percentage of his [club] membership is American.” The fragrance was initially brought to the public through a sampling campaign directed at members of Birley’s clubs. About 10,000 miniature vials-on-cards were sent around the world in December, Malle said.
The promotion spurred solid sales in the first month, he noted, with 1,500 units of the 125-ml. eau de toilette being moved at $78 a pop.
“We’re still selling 10 to 15 a day in the clubs,” he claimed. In addition to the London outlets, the fragrance is stocked at the China Club in Hong Kong, run by Birley’s friend David Tang.
Besides the 125-ml. version, the brand will include a 75-ml. “traveler’s spray” that will retail for $48, a 125-ml. aftershave balm for $59 and a 75-ml. “deodorant block” for $24.
More vial-on-card sampling will take place in the stores at the time of the launch, though no advertising has been planned as yet. “We might do some very limited advertising, but for now we’re putting all the money in the product,” Malle said.
He declined to give a sales projection, but according to industry estimates, the company is shooting for retail sales of several hundred thousand dollars this year.
The 65-year-old Birley, son of the painter Sir Oswald Birley, was involved in every aspect of the product’s development, Malle said. He designed the cube bottle and collaborated on the scent with Pierre Bourdon, the head of Fragrance Resources in Europe.
The fragrance’s base includes sandalwood, cedar, patchouli and musk, with top notes of mandarin and bergamot.
Birley has long wanted to introduce his own fragrance. He had a licensing deal with Revlon several years ago, but it recently expired without any products having been developed.

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