Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — Aramis is about to enter a new world.
On May 21, the company will launch a new Tommy Hilfiger fragrance as the initial step in the first licensing agreement in parent Estee Lauder’s history. The move is expected to open a door to a younger consumer for Aramis, which pioneered the development of the prestige men’s fragrance market in 1964 with the launch of its signature scent.
“It’s an important and exciting new direction for Aramis that will open a new world for them,” said Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager of Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s.
Aramis executives see Hilfiger’s core clientele — men aged 14 to 40 — as a basis for an entirely new business. A new company, called Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries Co., has been set up as an Aramis subdivision. The fragrance will be called Tommy.
Robert A. Nielsen, president of Aramis, believes so strongly in Hilfiger’s fashion clout in department stores that he not only predicted this would be the largest launch in Lauder history, but he also declared that the new offspring business would eventually overtake the parent.
“The Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries Co. should be bigger than the whole Aramis division by the end of the third year,” Nielsen said, referring to the U.S. business.
Distribution will evolve in two flights. For the launch, the fragrance will appear in 650 department store doors, then roll out to another 150 by June 11, putting the line in 800 units by Father’s Day, the following Sunday, according to Pamela Baxter, vice president of sales. She estimated that 10 to 11 percent of the entire year’s sales for men’s fragrances are done around Father’s Day.
As for the break stores, discussions have not yet been resolved with retailers in some key markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Burdines will launch the fragrance in Miami, however. Burke said Dayton Hudson will have the lead in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis.
Nielsen declined to break out volume figures, but sources estimate the U.S. wholesale volume of the Aramis division as approaching $70 million, with $30 million to $35 million of the total generated by Aramis classic, the 31-year-old parent fragrance.
David Nap, vice president of marketing at Aramis USA, said the company has its sights on the top-three volume rankings in the men’s market for the new scent the first year.
He declined to elaborate, but industry sources estimate that the fragrance could generate as much as $50 million wholesale for the first 12 months.
“This is going to be the men’s launch for 1995; Tommy Hilfiger is the hot property in the men’s business,” said Burke at Dayton Hudson. “This has the potential to immediately be the number-one brand. We are going to turn the store over to Tommy Hilfiger and see how far up this thing can go.”
At Federated Merchandising, Michelle Williams, merchandise manager, agreed.
“It’ll be fantastic,” she said. “Tommy Hilfiger is such an important men’s resource in our stores. He is young and he is a trend, more than just being a designer.”
Aramis plans to kick up as much commotion as possible surrounding the launch — including TV advertising and three 10-city tours of store appearances by Hilfiger — and Nielsen doesn’t plan to let the excitement die down. He said Aramis is now planning to launch a second Hilfiger fragrance before Christmas.
Although Hilfiger is a men’s wear designer, and Aramis is a men’s fragrance company, the scent is not being pigeonholed by Aramis as a men’s product. A spokeswoman said that although the first fragrance will be merchandised in most stores in the men’s fragrance areas, in some cases it will be sold at the women’s fragrance bar. She also pointed to Hilfiger’s following among women, referring to company estimates that in some categories, females wear as much as 30 percent of his clothes.
Nielsen diplomatically refers to the target audience as “the Tommy customer.”
The market, however, views the new fragrance as a men’s scent.
There has been speculation in the industry that the second fragrance will be skewed towards the women’s market.
In a reference to the “genderless” positioning of the first fragrance, Hilfiger said, “Prior to the recent launches in the market, we had planned to market to both men and women.” He apparently was referring to Calvin Klein’s CK One.
Hilfiger refers to his fashion audience of multicultural young people — ranging from Wall Street commuters to inner city rappers — as “the new Americans.”
The designer maintains that it is possible to diversify a fragrance assortment, just as he attacks different facets of the men’s apparel business.
“There is a need for a wardrobe of fragrances,” he said.
“It is not inconceivable,” he said, “that in a couple of years one could walk into a department store and see a Hilfiger installation or bay stocking 100 stockkeeping units.”
Aramis is already working “a couple of years out” in its Hilfiger product development, Nielsen said, adding that he expects about five fragrances to be on the market within three years.
Hilfiger’s presence in the men’s market is pervasive. He designs men’s and boys’ apparel collections and has a string of related licenses, including tailored men’s clothing, dress shirts, underwear, neckwear and hosiery. He said he plans to fill out the assortment by adding licenses in shoes, watches and eyewear.
“Once we have finished our growth in men’s, we will go after the women’s market,” he said, adding that his planned entry into women’s has been postponed from 1996 to 1997 to give him time to wrap up the remaining men’s opportunities.
He now has 600 Hilfiger men’s wear shops inside department stores and 200 boys’ wear installations. By the end of the year, the number of men’s shops should rise to 750 and the total for boys’ is expected to hit 400. The company now has six freestanding shops but plans to have 10 operating by the end of the year.
In the fiscal year ended March 31, sales of Tommy Hilfiger Corp. catapulted 63.9 percent to $227.2 million from $138.2 million. Earnings rose 73.3 percent to $25.3 million, or $1.54 a share, from $14.6 million, or $1.11, a year ago.
Hilfiger’s stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in September 1992 at $15 a share. The stock closed Thursday at XXX.
The fragrance will be merchandised separately from Aramis. It will be sold in Hilfiger apparel shops and from outposts being installed this year to highlight Hilfiger’s jeanswear. Previously, the jeans were included with his sportswear.
In promotional materials and on all advertising, the name of the fragrance will be subtitled, “the new American fragrance,” and the formulation, developed by Firmenich, and packaging have been designed to connote a sense of crisp, clean freshness.
Aramis executives describe the scent as an effervescent woodsy formulation that is unusual for its freshness. Different notes, such as Cape Cod cranberry, are associated with different parts of the country to help advance the Americana theme. The top note also includes Florida grapefruit, Iowa lavender and Midwestern spearmint.
In addition, the outer carton is decorated in Hilfiger’s signature red, white and blue colors.
To accentuate the idea of freshness, the fragrance is nearly colorless.
Although the product is called a cologne, the concentration of the essential oils is that of an eau de toilette. “It is very American to be a cologne,” said Nap.
Nielsen added with a smile, “The new American eau de toilette just doesn’t work like the new American cologne.”
The bottle design was inspired by an antique medicine bottle that bears a manufacturing mark from Elmira, N.Y., Hilfiger’s hometown.
“It was meant to be,” Hilfiger said with a laugh. “We wanted it to be a collectible.”
The top of the cap replicates a button from one of Hilfiger’s coats.
The opening price point is $28 for a 1.7-oz. cologne spray. The highest price point in the six-item line is $42 for a 3.4-oz. cologne spray.
A special item — a quarter-ounce size packaged in the same type of tin that packages the soap — will be sold for less than $10 in Tommy shops, according to Nap.
There will be a strong sampling campaign, with more than 500,000 carded vials handed out in the first two months, he said.
TV commercials will be broadcast in 30 markets and in four markets, there will be outdoor advertising, including billboards and bus shelter ads.
The promotional and advertising effort, with an estimated cost of $10 million, will include national magazine and co-op newspaper advertising.
Ads will run in the April and May editions of GQ, Details and Vanity Fair. Executives are also considering Spin, Rolling Stone and Vibe.
Nielsen declined to discuss the size of the advertising budget. He noted, however, that it was not necessary to spend as much as some companies that need to build name recognition.
“We are not promoting a new name,” he said. “We are just trying to take advantage of a name.”