LAURA ASHLEY REGROUPS WITH L’EAU
NEW YORK — Parfums Laura Ashley is on the comeback trail.
Since parting ways with distributor Alfin in 1993, the company has signed Paul Sebastian to market its existing fragrances in department stores, and is now poised to launch a new scent called L’Eau.
The item will be introduced Jan. 17 in the 200 Laura Ashley stores in the U.S. and Canada. It will probably be rolled out to department stores in the fall, with Paul Sebastian then handling distribution, according to Suzanne Mulroy, the firm’s market director in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Laura Ashley No. 1 and Dilys, both launched in the Eighties, are benefiting from new marketing and sales plans instituted by the Sebastian team last fall.
“We’re keeping [the fragrances] in mainly the same distribution, but Paul Sebastian is committed to a good, new marketing program,” said Mulroy. “We want to see the business grow, but ’94 was a setup year, a new starting point. There’s a whole new attitude.”
The two fragrances have also had their prices reduced. For instance, a 2-oz. eau de parfum of No. 1 has been reduced from $53.50 to $48, while a 1.7-oz. version of Dilys has been chopped from $58.50 to $48. The Dilys line, which was more expensive, now matches the No. 1 pricing. Sebastian has also streamlined the selections, eliminating stockkeeping units.
L’Eau is intended to be more accessible and will be the least expensive of the three, Mulroy said. It is being launched with only two items: a 3.5-oz. eau de toilette spray for $47 and a 1.7-oz. version for $35.
“We’ve discovered that in today’s environment, when you give too many choices, it’s confusing to the consumer,” she noted.
L’Eau was launched in the Laura Ashley stores throughout Europe last fall, along with perfumeries in France and Belgium. It is being advertised in Europe with a watercolor image of the bottle, but the company has no plans to run the ad in the U.S.
“We’d rather spend at point of sale with sampling and modeling,” she said, noting that towelettes scented with the fragrance will be given to customers in the Ashley shops. In addition, a 1-oz. eau de toilette at $18 will be sold for a limited time as an introductory offer.
The fragrance itself is defined by a tea note, Mulroy said, a departure from the company’s other scents, which are florals.
Mulroy said that with a new marketing and sales plan underway, it is too early to tell how much volume can be achieved in the department store distribution. No. 1 is in around 750 doors and Dilys is in 300, with both slated for expansion over the coming year.
She did say the addition of L’Eau should lead to a 20 percent increase in fragrance sales in the North American Ashley stores in 1995. She did not divulge specific figures, but sources estimate the firm could do between $3 million and $3.5 million in overall fragrance sales in the stores this year.
Globally, the Fribourg, Switzerland-based parent company is planning the fragrance category to grow by 45 percent this year, which industry sources say could mean a volume of $20 million.
— Soren Larson