PERFUMER’S WORKSHOP SPRITZES THE CRADLE
Byline: Soren Larson
NEW YORK — The Perfumer’s Workshop is going after a younger consumer — much younger.
In early September, the maker of the Tea Rose and Samba scents will launch Kid’s Korner, a collection of fragrances and toiletries, with the intention of developing a children’s beauty business as a viable department store entity.
“We thought department stores should find a way to upgrade what mass has been doing for years,” said Donald Bauchner, the company’s president.
The Kid’s Korner line includes soaps, shower products and fragrances fashioned after the cartoon elephants Babar and Céleste, along with five Disney characters.
Some of the products are made for infants, while others are intended for children from age two or three to eight.
Tsumura International took a similar tack in 1991, when it brought its Kid Care line of children’s items to the prestige arena. The products are currently sold in about 300 doors of J.C. Penney Co. and “a number of other department stores,” according to Alfonso Lopez, president of Tsumura’s consumer products group.
But while Kid Care was initially sold in the cosmetics department at Penney’s, the line has since been moved to the children’s area, “and that’s probably the right place for it,” said Lon Pinkowitz, vice president of market development. He noted that unlike Kid’s Korner, the Kid Care collection does not include fragrances.
Kid’s Korner will be introduced first throughout the Dayton’s, Hudson’s & Marshall Field’s department store chain, based in Minneapolis, and will then move into the Charlotte, N.C.-based Belk’s chain, and May Department Stores Co., based in St. Louis.
To stand out in crowded fragrance departments, The Perfumer’s Workshop has created five-foot-high freestanding units shaped like castles to house the line. The company will also implement smaller table-top units.
“Counter space is finite, so we knew we had to take care of the full presentation ourselves,” Bauchner said. “We had to show our commitment to this classification of goods.”
While Kid’s Korner will be sold in the fragrance area of DH & Field’s, and in both the fragrance and children’s departments at Belk’s, it will be sold only in the children’s department of May Co.
“We’re able to adjust the presentation door to door,” Bauchner said. “Since this is an experiment, different stores will want to approach it in different ways. But in the end, it’s essential to build this as a fragrance business.”
Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager of Dayton’s, Hudson’s & Marshall Field’s, said he views Kid’s Korner as an experiment, but one with great potential.
Noting the success of children’s toiletries in the mass market, Burke said, “I felt it was something we needed to explore, given that situation. It has the possibility of becoming an important business if merchandised in children’s locations as well.”
Burke added that he is ready to take a risk if it means expanding into a new category that might lure new customers to the counter.
Bauchner noted that since the products will be merchandised in different areas within stores as well as in different ways, volume is likely to vary, too.
“We’re talking $18,000 to $20,000 down to $8,000 to $10,000 per annum per door,” he said. “The business should be like that of a competent new fragrance.”
The manufacturer of the Kid’s Korner products is Shao Ko, a French company founded in 1987. Shao Ko markets the items in Europe and Japan, and is projected to have a global volume of around $6 million this year.
“We started talking seriously with [Shao Ko] over a year ago when the trend started developing,” said Bauchner, referring to the rise in Europe of children’s fragrances like Guerlain’s Petit Guerlain, launched in April, and Givenchy’s Tartine et Chocolat, introduced in 1987.
He said the best-selling items should be the soaps, which will be available at $3.95 each in seven varieties: Pluto, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Babar and Céleste.
The fragrances are available in Mickey, Minnie, Babar and Céleste versions and range from $15 for a 3.3-oz. bottle of Babar or Céleste to $18 for a same-size Minnie or Mickey.
“The fragrances are very gentle,” Bauchner said. “They’re citrusy and fresh, with low concentrations. They have to be unobjectionable.”
Bauchner acknowledged a reluctance on the part of American consumers to purchase children’s scents.
“That’s why we put a lot of information on the castles saying that the products have no alcohol, are nonirritating and so forth,” he said.
He noted that skeptical shoppers will be able to try out the line.
“These products will be sampled and promoted like adult products,” he said.
While Bauchner said it is his intent to build a business on the main selling floor, some in the industry pointed to Tartine et Chocolat as evidence that U.S. consumers will not support a children’s fragrance market.
“Givenchy tried it earlier and it didn’t work,” said one consultant. “I don’t think there’s any reason why this is going to work any better. When you talk about [cosmetics] floor space, which is at a premium, any merchandiser would have to be nuts to give it away to this type of venture.”
Givenchy brought Tartine et Chocolat to America in 1989, but soon found out that sales were hard to come by, according to Robert Brady, president of Parfums Givenchy.
“The fact of the matter is there is no children’s market in the U.S.,” he said. “We pulled out because there was no point in wasting our time, and we had other things on our plate.”
The fragrance has since been marketed successfully in Japan as an item for teenagers, Brady said, noting that Givenchy sells the scent in Hawaii to accommodate Japanese tourists.
Pinkowitz of Tsumura also doubted the possibility of ringing up children’s sales in the fragrance department.
“[Perfumer’s Workshop] won’t be the first to try it, and they won’t be the first to fail,” he said.
Nevertheless, Bauchner was confident that children as well as adult consumers will find the products irresistible, asserting, “People don’t chop kids’ names off their shopping lists, whether the economy is good or bad.”