Byline: Jenny B. Fine / Soren Larson

NEW YORK — Now that this fall’s new fragrances have had their coming-out parties, retailers are starting to look at what counts — sales results.
So far, they like what they see.
In marked contrast to last year, when Estee Lauder’s Pleasures was the lone major women’s introduction, this year’s high-profile entries have been dominant in the initial run to Christmas, accounting for up to 30 percent of women’s fragrance sales at many chains.
The standout performers include Calvin Klein’s CK Be, Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy Girl, Liz Claiborne’s Curve for Men and Curve for Women, Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue and Ocean Dream from Giorgio Beverly Hills.
Christian Dior’s Dolce Vita, which launched in August, got off to a fast start, many retailers said, but has slowed slightly, while Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees, one of the last of the new brands to arrive when it hit stores last month, has had difficulty cutting through the clutter in some markets.
Many perennial stalwarts, like Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium and Givenchy’s Ysatis, have also begun to show signs of life — and this, coupled with the fact that the spring launches are holding their own, is leading retailers to predict increases in the mid-to-upper single digits for the fourth quarter.
“We feel bullish about Christmas,” said Michael Lewis, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of Rich’s. “Now that the election is over, people are coming back out, and our business has been extremely healthy.”
The overall enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by the calendar and the five fewer shopping days before Christmas this year.
“Based on the initial sales results we’ve seen this month, we’re optimistic, but the big challenge lies ahead,” said Rita Mangan, senior vice president of cosmetics and fragrances at Federated Merchandising. “After Thanksgiving next week, people are going to rush to do their Christmas shopping. Our challenge is to service them in a short period of time. We think we’re positioned well, as far as staffing and cashiers, strong advertising and promotional programs and having the right stock on key items.”
“Christmas is going to be good for the stores that can handle the last 10 days,” said Deborah Mathews, divisional merchandise manager at Mercantile Stores. “We’ve had good early business, but it’s going to come down to in-store preparation in the last 10 days.”
A question on many minds this fall is how much of an impact the launch of CK Be will have on sales of CK One and whether it can come close to the success of its unisex predecessor.
The results so far are mixed. While retailers said the overall CK franchise is up anywhere from 10 to 20 percent with the addition of CK Be, some conceded that cannibalization has been a problem.
“We knew we were going to split that business,” said Margo Scavarda, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Macy’s West, where CK Be is the top-selling fall launch. “But the CK franchise will be ahead in the end, and that’s the name of the game.”
CK Be had a strong start in the Federated stores, according to Mangan, who said it has “surpassed” plan.
“It’s doing CK One numbers, which we didn’t expect it to,” she said. “However, CK One initially fell off more than we expected it to. We’re merchandising the brands together, and using that strategy, we’re up about 20 percent with both brands.”
In addition to CK Be, said Mangan, “all of the new brands are performing well and holding their own.” That has prompted the chain to project double-digit increases for November and single-digit gains for December.
Federated’s most successful launches include Curve, Champs-Elysees, Tommy Girl and 5th Avenue, which Mangan said has “revitalized the whole Arden brand.”
“After a tough year and challenges with the Arden management prior to the new team coming in, we were waiting to see if it would work, and it has,” she continued. “Arden has gone from being down double digits to single-digit increases in one season.”
Calling the fall crop of launches “terrific,” Barbara Zinn Moore, senior vice president at Macy’s East, said, “It’s an outstanding group, and for the most part, all of them are above plan.”
Among the brands exceeding expectations, Moore said, are Ocean Dream, Tommy Girl, Champs-Elysees, both Curve scents and Jones New York.
Moore said Dolce Vita has been “good, not great.” In addition, Polo Sport Woman has slowed down after beating plan through the spring, while Paco and CK Be have met expectations.
Although many retailers bemoaned the side effects caused by CK Be, Moore downplayed the negative aspects.
“CK One is down, but it was dropping a bit anyway,” she said. “CK Be hasn’t had that much effect on it — it’s actually revitalizing the franchise.”
Sources estimate that the CK fragrance business is ahead by about 10 percent at Macy’s East.
At Macy’s West, Scavarda said that following CK Be, the strongest introductions have been Ocean Dream, Dolce Vita, 5th Avenue and Curve.
“Tommy Girl has only been out a short time so it’s still early, but that brand should end up between number one and number three,” she added.
While Jones New York has been performing short of expectations, Curve has been a “wonderful surprise,” Scavarda said. “It wasn’t expected to do as well as it has, but they really did a good job at capturing a youthful image.”
Among the spring launches, Allure and Poeme have maintained their strength, while Polo Sport Woman is “OK, but not in the top 10.”
Elizabeth Taylor’s Black Pearls is “not doing too well,” Scavarda noted, but Taylor’s White Diamonds is as strong as ever. “That brand has a very loyal audience,” she said.
At Bon Marche in Seattle, CK Be is the strongest launch of the season, with Curve, 5th Avenue and Ocean Dream also beating plan, according to Diane Gates, divisional vice president of cosmetics. The chain is expecting a 6 to 7 percent increase for the Christmas season.
Tommy Girl is also posting strong results, ranking in the top five even though it is in less than half of the chain’s 36 doors this season.
After a strong start, Dolce Vita is “hanging in there,” while Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees has gotten off to a slower start, Gates noted.
“[Champs-Elysees is] a beautiful brand, and we anticipate it will be a slow-growth brand,” she said, adding that Guerlain’s Shalimar and Samsara have been posting increases. “It’s difficult to become known in any season that has more than five or six brands, especially if you are one of the last to launch.”
At Mercantile, gains in the low double digits are expected for the holiday season. Tommy Girl, CK Be and Curve are all doing “exceedingly well,” according to Mathews. Both versions of Curve have consistently ranked in the top seven since the line’s launch in early September, Mathews said.
“The marketing plan, with the car contest, drove a lot of people into the store,” she noted, referring to Claiborne’s ploy of raffling off 20 Chrysler Sebring JXi convertibles over three months.
“That particular marketing idea was very good, and every month they’ve had a different item — a gift-with-purchase or value set — so that something is going on at the counter all of the time.”
Meanwhile, classic brands, particularly Shalimar, Chanel No. 5, Ysatis and Opium, are “on fire” at Mercantile. Pleasures and Beautiful from Lauder, Klein’s Obsession and Eternity and Lancome’s Tresor and Poeme are also posting solid results, Mathews said.
After a third quarter driven primarily by newness, Rich’s is seeing a resurgence in its classic fragrance business.
“These brands have turned around in the last two weeks,” said Lewis, citing Oscar, Chanel, Givenchy, Opium, Shalimar, Jessica McClintock’s Jessica and White Diamonds.
“In the spring and third quarter,” said Lewis, “many brands were hardly alive because the new brands were reaping all of the business.”
Beautiful and Pleasures rank one and two, respectively, at the chain, with CK One, Tresor and Paul Sebastian’s Beautiful rounding out the top five. While CK Be is ranked sixth in sales, Lewis said, the brand is not making plan at the chain.
“Taking CK One and CK Be combined, I am not disappointed with the category,” he said. “But we’re not making our CK Be plan, because we planned CK Be to beat CK One and that is not the case.”
Lewis called the overall Arden business “terrific” and said, “We’re running double-digit increases. Red Door is posting double-digit increases, and 5th Avenue is beating Red Door. Although they’re in the top 20, not our top 10, it’s still not a bad number.”
Although sales of Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds have undergone a major turnaround since August, when Rich’s ran a promotion for the scent, Taylor’s Black Pearls is “very, very difficult,” Lewis said. “We’re not expecting big things out of it.”
At Belk’s, brisk sales of new scents, particularly Tommy Girl, Curve and Ocean Dream, have prompted the store to project high-single-digit increases for women’s fragrances this Christmas.
The spring launches — Allure, Poeme and Polo Sport Woman — continue to do well at the chain, as do classics such as Obsession and the Chanel and Lauder brands, according to vice president and general merchandise manager John Pollack.
Somewhat disappointing at Belk’s, however, is the performance of Champs-Elysees and Dolce Vita.
“Both are excellent brands and great fragrances, but from a marketing standpoint, they didn’t cut through the clutter,” Pollack said. “The key will be the fourth quarter. If they can make an impact and show some strong numbers, I think they’ll be fine. If they get clobbered at holiday time, though, it will be tough.”