Department Stores Roll the Dice With Fall Fragrance Launches

Despite a plethora of newness, the total prestige fragrance market is expected to be flat at best in the second half, and more likely down slightly.

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What that equates to, he believes, is likely a flat season, taking into account all newness. “At absolute best, we could end up plus 5 percent by yearend, considering how challenging the business was during the last holiday season,” noted Bousquet-Chavanne. “But that’s at best. There’s still a tremendous market-share battle when you’re talking about that rate of growth, and newness will take a share, as always.”

The result, noted Bousquet-Chavanne, is that major houses are being forced to examine the support behind core brands, not just the new ones. “To succeed, brands are going to need to stay on message. It’s the brands that have unique, well-crafted positions that will survive.”

That’s welcome news to several major retailers. “If you don’t support your core brands, you weaken the brand’s overall business, no matter what newness you bring to the counter,” noted one retailer, who declined to be named.

“The economy is going to be one of the most important factors that will affect the U.S. prestige fragrance market,” said Natalie Seidman, director of NPD Beauty. “Fragrance sales have had a strong relationship with economic performance over the past few years. Economists are expecting to see the beginnings of a turnaround in the second half of ’03 and whether that happens will affect fragrance sales growth. Some large launches are being planned for the fall that are expected to help drive fragrance sales growth in prestige.”

New brands cited by retailers and Seidman as likely to lead the pack this fall: Lancaster’s Still Jennifer Lopez; Armani’s Sensei; Clinique’s Simply; Estée Lauder’s Beyond Paradise; Ralph Lauren Blue; Burberry Brit, and Very Irresistible Givenchy on the women’s side, and Aramis’ Life, Kenneth Cole’s Black, Liz Claiborne’s Spark for Him, Dior’s Higher Energy and French Connection’s FCUK for Men on the men’s side. In general, many observed, there is more competition on the women’s side this fall.

While it has certainly provided excitement at counter, the constant influx of newness has trained consumers to be fickle, said several major retailers who declined to be named. As a result, the atmosphere is less likely to produce a classic like Chanel No.5 or Shalimar, because the consumer is always looking for the newest item.
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