Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Steven Venables has found a new men’s fragrance niche.
The man who created the Swiss Army fragrance is now poised to market a scent based on legendary golfer Bobby Jones.
Venables, chief executive officer of Venex International LLC of Spring Lake Heights, N.J, obtained a sublicense with sportswear manufacturer Hickey-Freeman, a subsidiary of Hartmarx Corp. The apparel company had licensed the name from the heirs of Jones, who has been called the greatest amateur golfer in U.S. history.
Jones won his first major tournament in 1923 and retired eight years later at age 28. In those eight years, he won 13 titles: five U.S. Amateurs, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens and one British Amateur. He left a high-water mark in 1930 by winning the Open and Amateur championships in the U.S. and Great Britain in the same year.
He retired from competition without earning a penny, according to Hartmarx, and then with a group of investors purchased the acreage to build the Augusta National Golf Club.
Hartmarx launched its Bobby Jones line of men’s sportswear 11 years ago with the idea of creating a new standard in the category. Gary W. Leo, vice president of Hickey-Freeman, noted the new brand was launched with the temerity to charge $85 for a knit golf shirt at a time when such shirts sold for $35.
Those Bobby Jones shirts now retail for $150, underscoring the corporate claim that they are the “finest knit shirts in the world,” made with the top grade of cotton. As Leo remarked, “It’s ceo sportswear.”
The sportswear collection does $30 million at wholesale with distribution in 650 retail points of sale — including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and some Nordstrom doors, plus 65 resorts and country clubs. There also is a privately owned, 2,000-square-foot Bobby Jones boutique in Beverly Hills.
Into this environment has come Venables, brandishing a six-item men’s fragrance line looking like it would be at home in a club.
A 2.5-oz. eau de toilette spray will retail for $48 and 4.2-oz. version, which features a leather pouch for outer packaging, will be $68.
Each size is packaged in a green glass bottle, its lower half sheathed with green leather. The 4.2-oz. bottle is available either in the leather pouch or in a wood box, to retail for $98.
A 4.2-oz. aftershave and a 4.2-oz. aftershave balm will retail for $48. There also will be an 8.3-oz shower gel for $28.
The line includes a $98 gift set consisting of a 2.5-oz. eau de toilette spray, a 4.2-oz. aftershave balm and 8.3-oz. shower gel.
Venables said the line would be available for shipping in September. While he has just begun to approach retailers, Venables said the distribution would center on high-end specialty stores, about 100 in the first year. He also sees the line as a natural for resort stores and fine men’s shops, perhaps as many as 280 stores in the U.S.
Venables said there are overseas opportunities, particularly considering the popularity of the Jones line in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, like Taiwan. Venables is thinking of South America and travel retail, too.
Venables declined to predict what kind of volume could be done, given the exclusiveness of the distribution. But sources speculated the line could do about $10 million at retail the first year or two, about 50 percent of it generated in the U.S.
The fragrance, developed by Firmenich, has a clean top note drying into sophisticated woods, Venables noted. He added that it was important to have a clean and fresh scent, like many of the top introductions of the Nineties, “but also have something behind it.”
He considers the product “easy to wear, but sophisticated. It’s contemporary, but with a touch of class.”
Venables said the concept has universal appeal: “This product is truly lifestyle oriented and aspirational.”