Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — New Dana Perfumes Corp.’s efforts for a renaissance have hit a few obstacles along the way. Although newly installed chief executive officer Isaac F. Cohen is confident the fragrance and cosmetics marketer is now on the path toward profitability.
The first goal has been to reestablish distribution while burnishing the firm’s image. Previously, Renaissance Cosmetics Inc., owned the brands and grew via acquisition during the heady days of the late Eighties and early Nineties. Loaded with debt, the company fell into financial difficulties following the death of its founder, Thomas Bonoma. When the New Dana team purchased the brands in 1999, many of the properties such as Chantilly, Tabu, Nat Robbins and Cosmar had lost shelf space. Earlier this year, New Dana completed a refinancing of its senior debt.
Another challenge New Dana, based in Boca Raton, Fla., has faced is the overall lackluster state of the mass fragrance business. Women’s fragrance sales, for the 52-weeks ended Jan. 28, 2001, dropped 1.5 percent in food, drug and mass doors to $951 million. Men’s fragrance sales were flat at $576 million.
And, New Dana has had several management shifts, including the departure in February of its former ceo, Robert M. Bartlett. It was at that time that Cohen, who had been chief operating officer, assumed the ceo role. Cohen, who has vast experience in international marketing, said his mission is to “turn New Dana around to profitability.” Currently, New Dana has worldwide sales exceeding $150 million. Cohen expects to post a 20 percent sales increase for the year 2001.
That’s the message he’ll bring to chain drugstore executives as he meets with them in one-on-one appointments at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting which kicks off on Saturday, April 21st at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz.
WWD asked Cohen to address some of the issues he expects will emerge during the five-day event.
WWD: Is there any life left in the mass market fragrance business?
Cohen: There’s plenty of hope for the mass market and we think we’ll see companies who have walked away from the business come back. There’s evidence there’s business by our success, as well as Coty and Parfums de Coeur. We’d like to see more competitors to build the business. One thing we are pushing that we think makes a difference is the cosmetician. If you look at what Walgreens does — and they have cosmeticians — is that they have service behind the counter to help customers and it really makes a difference in sales. I’m also impressed with new Eckerd formats where fragrances have been brought up to the front of the department. We’re working with retailers to find more ways to do in-store sampling and promoting of our products.
WWD: What about diverted fragrances and how can New Dana compete against prestige brands?
Cohen: There’s no longer diversion. Most prestige products are available at mass. When you look at mass stores you see everything from Tommy to Tabu. The volume that can be done in mass is huge. Since we compete against prestige, we have to make sure our products stand out. We’d like to see fragrances continue to come out from under glass and we’ll look into carded programs [such as the pegged program at Target].
What we are now doing is getting back to basics and servicing our accounts. We are not going to touch our staple brands such as Canoe, English Leather, Chantilly and Tabu. We don’t expect to do $50 million, we’ll be happy with 6 percent to 8 percent yearly growth. We’re not going to sink money into new packaging or line extensions. We want to build profits, not dreams. We do have plans to update Love’s for the 21st century. We have already updated Canoe and Heaven Sent.
WWD: Give us an update on rebuilding the brands?
Cohen: It has taken about a year to get everything back in place. In fragrance, we’re 85 percent where we should be. We have strong promotions planned for every quarter. One thing we want to do is get into more supermarkets. We think there are 12,000 more good combos out there. There is no price resistance to the price points from supermarkets in fragrances.
For Fetish [youth cosmetics brand promoted by Christina Aguilera], we opened Sears and Walgreens. We are meeting with more retailers and getting positive responses. We are getting wall space — one to three feet. We are also planning new things for the entire Fetish line for next year, which will be shown at [NACDS] Marketplace. At CVS, we are looking at going into their Grl Lab concept. There are opportunities for Fetish as other brands exit the market. We can help bring the teen back to mass [rather than to specialty stores at malls]. Girls are shopping mass for other products and they still want price. They have to be educated. Fetish has a great history and great name.
Cosmar [nail care and artificial nails] was hardest hit in distribution. But, it is still a viable category and we are regaining space with several new technology products such as a French Explosion, a French nail kit and new nail shapes. If you walk into a Rite Aid, you’ll see that nails can be done well.
We also continue to rebuild our Nat Robbins pencil business. There are no better pencils on the market, especially at $2.99.
Tinkerbell is up for sale, but we will not sell anything else. We are not in the toy business, we want to get back to basics and stress what we do best.
WWD: How does Christmas look?
Cohen: Our Christmas was positively received. We hit 80 percent sell-through last year. We had a gift-with-purchase last year. This year, instead, we are stressing unique packaging and value. We’re very optimistic about Christmas.
WWD: Will you be bringing Christina to NACDS this year? Last year she caused a traffic jam.
Cohen: NACDS won’t allow us!