Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — Although they take distinct approaches to selling fragrance, executives from three direct-sales companies said they all have something in common: strong sales, so far, this quarter.
Allen Burke, director of cosmetics at QVC, speaking at a Fragrance Foundation-sponsored seminar Wednesday, said: “Business is great; we came through a fabulous November.”
He said sales of Tova Borgnine’s Tova fragrance — now 10 years old — has surpassed last year’s volume. Borgnine has been a steady presence at QVC and its biggest fragrance vendor. The question is frequently asked: “Don’t you have to smell a fragrance before you buy it?” said Burke. The answer is: “No, you don’t.”
According to Klein & Co., direct-sales companies represented only 9 percent of the $6.4 billion U.S. fragrance market in 2000. But at a time when consumers are looking for reassurance, the more personal contact offered through some direct-sales channels could be comforting, suggested Burke. “Tova’s appeal is much more spiritual and emotional than aspirational.”
Carol Margolis, director of product marketing at Mary Kay, said that Velocity, a new fragrance for young women that launched in July, hit retail sales of $50 million in the first three months. “Sampling is really important to us,” said Margolis. The company also distributed marketing materials to depict the imagery behind the scent, such as groups of young women engaged in a range of leisure and sports activities. At its annual sales meeting, daughters of representatives helped generate enthusiasm for the new scent.
Mary Kay has taken an aggressive approach to build a fine-fragrance business, beginning with Journey in 1997, which brought in retail sales of $60 million its first year.
Olivier Allender, general manager of Le Club Des Createurs de Beaute, also known as CCB-Paris, said he banks on getting the attention of consumers through eye-catching catalog covers that are directly mailed to homes. CCB-Paris entered the U.S. just two years ago.
When fragrance sampling isn’t an option, “it is critical that if you don’t like it, you can return it,” said Allender. Added Burke: “The customer is hard to get and easy to lose. We are fanatical about customer service.”

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