CHICAGO STORES SELECT LAUNCHES CAREFULLY
Byline: Lisa Bertagnoli
CHICAGO — Retailers in the Midwest seem to handle fragrance marketing with Zen-like calm. Instead of aggressively promoting every new scent, they’re picking and choosing launches, focusing on older fragrances and relying on exclusivity to draw customers in.
The current launch scene is like “the flavor of the week club,” said Steffenie Yates, cosmetics and fragrance buyer for Halls in Kansas City, Mo. Not promoting each and every new fragrance is difficult, she said, because the customer has come to expect them. “It’s like gift-with-purchase,” she said. “We train the customer one way and now we want them to be different.”
Instead of aggressively touting new fragrances, Halls focuses on sales training and demonstrations of both new and existing fragrances, Yates said.
Personal appearances work especially well for Halls customers: An appearance by the creator of Zaharoff this spring helped Halls exceed launch plans for the fragrance by 50 percent, Yates said.
Floor space, demo tables and other perks are rewarded to vendors that support the stores with on-site visits and training seminars. “It’s not a coincidence that sales drop when we don’t see [vendors],” Yates said. “It’s human nature that salespeople will sell the lines of people who support them.”
Halls’ top women’s brands for May were Angel, Zaharoff, Lalique, Faberge, Tommy Girl, Chanel Classics, Allure, Annick Goutal and Tresor. Zaharoff and Faberge are Halls exclusives, while Lalique has limited distribution in the Kansas City market, Yates said.
Tommy Girl did well, thanks to a $20 canvas backpack offered with any $47 purchase. “Those came in and went out,” Yates said, adding that she wished her stores had received more of the backpacks.
Top men’s brands for May were Aramis, Tommy, Chrome, Lalique, Angel and Boucheron. Halls will launch Bulgari Black, Gucci Envy and Swiss Army for Father’s Day. Swiss Army, she said, should do well because it complements the store’s extensive line of Swiss Army watches and accessories.
Where Halls avoids fragrances of the week, Jacobson’s features them, said Irene Price, business manager for the Jackson, Mich.-based department store.
Each fragrance in the store gets its own week about every four months. During that time, visuals, sampling and custom basket-making help perk customer awareness, Price said. The featured fragrance’s sales “definitely surge” as a result, she said.
The feature week is part of the chain’s new concentration on its fragrance business. Jacobson’s has remodeled and expanded cosmetics and fragrance departments in seven of its 13 Midwest locations and is spending more on advertising, too.
Direct-mail fragrance books and fragrance enclosures with monthly statements are also a big part of the plan. Some statements mailed in April, for instance, offered a corporate gift of a water can flower/candle holder with any $50 fragrance purchase; others featured a St. John offer of a black tote with a fragrance purchase. Both promotions did well, Price said.
The June active sportswear catalog from Jacobson’s will include an Allure stitch-in offering a gift set of cologne spray, lotion and soap in a reusable black-and-white box. And a booklet showcasing men’s fragrances will be enclosed in the May statement, in time for Father’s Day, Price said.
Jacobson’s top women’s fragrances for May included Angel, Allure, Chanel No. 5, Pleasures, Bulgari, Happy, Donna Karan, Tiffany, Oscar de la Renta, Escada and St. John. Angel was the top seller in five Midwest doors, Price said.
Fall launches will include Estee Lauder’s Dazzling, St. John’s White Camellias and Bulgari Black.
For men, May’s good sellers were Angel, now in only a few doors; Tommy; Hugo; Chanel pour Monsieur and Polo. Angel for Men will be launched in all stores this fall, as will Gucci Envy.
J.C. Penney’s customers in Chicago are keen on value, said Kathy Hebert, fragrance buyer for the Dallas-based chain. “Price is no object, but value is key,” she said. For that reason, promotions such as gwp do well at the stores, and therefore the stores never stage purchase-with-purchase promotions.
Hebert termed Mother’s Day “favorable,” although she didn’t have exact figures. White Diamonds, Chanel, Wings and Georgio Red were the top sellers; a Patti LaBelle fragrance sold in the color and treatment area also did well.
Michael Jordan is far and away the top seller among men’s fragrances, especially in the Chicago area, Hebert said. For Father’s Day, Penney’s plans the usual promotions, she said.
Penney’s is looking to launch several new brands through existing vendors in August, though Hebert wouldn’t give details. “Our customers like newness, so we’re looking for those types of things,” she said.
Barneys, for its part, sidesteps traditional launches and promotions and focuses instead on exclusivity and sampling, said Heidi Manheimer, division merchandise manager for cosmetics. “We treat fragrance as a basic business,” she said, explaining that the chain is constantly on the lookout for exclusive products. For instance, when the Henri Bendel store in Chicago closes, Barneys will pick up L’Artisan, now a Bendel’s exclusive.
Because Barneys shoppers are heavy samplers, the store also spends considerable time training sales associates, Manheimer said. “Our customers are looking for quality and they find it through sampling,” she said.