Byline: Jenny B. Fine

NEW YORK — In a year crowded with high-profile launches, Christian Dior is out to make a statement of its own when it introduces Dolce Vita in the U.S.
Dolce Vita, the company’s latest women’s fragrance, was launched in Europe in the fall — and was one of the season’s big hits, according to many retailers.
Now Christian Dior Perfumes USA is hoping for a repeat performance when Dolce Vita hits American shelves this summer. Industry sources said Dior’s objective is for the scent to rack up sales of $25 million at wholesale during its September-December launch period, a pace that would propel it into the top five of many stores’ volume rankings.
To achieve this goal, Dior has reportedly earmarked in excess of $15 million for advertising and promotion during the launch period — the most ever spent in the company’s history.
“This launch is absolutely the largest effort this company has ever made in launching a fragrance,” said Robert Cankes, president and chief executive officer of Christian Dior USA, although he would not comment on the reported size of the budget.
“People are going to see Dolce Vita, they’re going to hear Dolce Vita, they’re going to smell Dolce Vita, and hopefully they’re going to buy Dolce Vita,” Cankes added.
The scent will make its U.S. debut the first week of June at the Bloomingdale’s flagship here, along with four branch doors in the metropolitan area. The timing coincides with the Fragrance Foundation’s Fragrance Week, which will begin June 3.
“We wanted to preview this fragrance at a time when everyone’s focus is on fragrance, which is Fragrance Week,” Cankes said. “We thought it would be interesting to show the retail community what’s in store for them when the launch happens in fall.”
The fragrance will be introduced nationally in early September, with a rollout to 1,450 doors. September launch stores will include Dayton Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s, Macy’s, Rich’s, Robinson’s, May, Foley’s, Dillard’s, Filene’s, Hecht’s and Burdines.
While the Bloomingdale’s prelaunch will be supported with newspaper ads, in-store activity and sampling, the major media assault will begin during the nationwide introduction and will continue through the Christmas season.
During the launch period, 40 million scented strip print ads will run in 12 national magazines — Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Gourmet, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Self, Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Vogue and W. The campaign, featuring model Heather Stewart Whyte and photographed by Dominique Isserman, will run in single, two- and three-page blocks.
An additional 20 million scented strips will run in store catalogs, according to Caroline Geerlings, senior vice president of marketing.
The product will also be heavily sampled. Prior to the launch, 100,000 perfume miniatures will be given to select Dior and store customers, who will receive mailers inviting them to try the fragrance.
An additional 1.5 million miniature sprays will be distributed during Fragrance Week in June and five million vial-on-card samples during the fall.
As with the launch of Poison in 1986 — when Dior used peacock feathers rather than a traditional blotter card for in-store sampling — the company has devised an unusual sampling vehicle. For Dolce Vita, blotters will take the form of a yellow party mask on a long black stick.
In-store activity will also be heavy, with 40,000 extra hours of demonstrators and tables, counters, cards and banners outfitted in the scent’s signature colors of yellow and black that company executives hope will draw consumers to the counter.
TV commercials will run during the Christmas period, but details are still not complete.
Retailers seem optimistic that Dior’s marketing strategy will result in strong sales.
“Following the news of Dolce Vita’s performance in Europe, we expect and anticipate it to follow the same format,” said Margo Scavarda, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Macy’s West and Bullock’s. “Our Dior business overall is very viable and growing, and driving that growth is their involvement and commitment to the business and the investment they’re willing to make in the brand.” The numerous fragrance launches scheduled for this fall — including Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue, Giorgio Beverly Hill’s Ocean Dream and Liz Claiborne’s Curve — have in part prompted Dior’s extensive effort.
“The fragrance market has become a very crowded market, and to be heard and understood, your message has to be loud and clear,” Cankes said. Additionally, the success of the European launch has imbued executives here with confidence.
“By launching in Europe first, you have a totally finished product when you launch in the U.S. All of the concept work and design has been done and tested,” said Cankes. “It’s gone through its first dry run, so to speak. It gives us a high degree of confidence to see the level of acceptance there.”
Cankes added that because the firm is French, it always launches new fragrances in Europe first.
The Dolce Vita lineup consists of three perfume stockkeeping units — a 1-oz. perfume for $200, a 0.25-oz. purse spray for $80, and a 0.25-oz. purse spray refill for $55; three eau de toilette items — a 1.7-oz. pour for $45, a 1.7-oz. spray for $48, and a 6.8-oz. spray for $70, and three bath items — a 6.8-oz. body lotion for $45, a 6.8-oz. bath and shower gel for $38.50, and a 4.2-oz. dusting powder for $52.
There will be no gift-with-purchase during the launch period, but the company will offer a limited-edition 1-oz. eau de toilette for $35, which will be available during the first six weeks of the launch in the fall.
Dolce Vita marks the second launch of this year for Dior, which introduced Capture Rides, its first alpha-hydroxy acid-based skin care product, in February.
In addition, the company is introducing a new mascara in the fall, although the bulk of its efforts will be focused on Dolce Vita.

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