All They Want for Christmas

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | November 10, 2011

is to maintain momentum. Fragrance is showing signs of life once again, but can welcome gains in prestige stick around through the critical holiday season?

If fragrance marketers had just one wish this holiday season, it would be for more of the same.

After a few years in the doldrums, it appears the ship has finally been righted in the fine fragrance sector.According to The NPD Group, Port Washington, NY, sales of women’s prestige fragrances for the first half of 2011 were up 8% and men’s rose 14% to $684 million and $335 million, respectively.

That’s a far cry from numbers reported just a few years ago.

“Two-thousand eight/2009 was absolutely horrible. The fragrance world stood still,” Rochelle Bloom, president of the Fragrance Foundation, told Happi. “Consumers felt that if they had to give up something, fragrance was it, as opposed to a lipstick or face cream.”

But that started to change in Fall 2010—and although the sector has yet to hit prerecession levels and the mass market is still lagging behind), prestige-side gains have been steady and more than welcome by marketers and retailers alike.

Getting Juicy


Not only has there been a resurgence category wise, there’s been a shift in where consumers are spending their dollars when it comes to fragrance. According to Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst at NPD, consumers appear more interested in actual EDTs and EDPs than they had been in the recent past.


Jingle G is the newest fragrance from Gwen

Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers collection.

“We see growth in juices,” she said, noting that while gift sets remain big, “that isn’t where the growth is.”

Some view the sea of gift sets on department store counters during the holiday season as an impediment, not an incentive.

“Brands know how to make fragrance extremely appealing visually, but anyone who knows me, knows that I have always believed that piling up gift sets upon gift sets at counter during the season is literally counter-productive,” said Bloom. “Those piles of gifts do nothing to appeal to the consumer and I would venture to say down-grade the very essence of fragrance as a work of art, a fashion accessory and an affordable luxury purchase.”

Yet, the Christmas holiday season is critical for fragrance marketers; companies invest time and resources into specially packed arrays and other collectibles designed to make them an easy gift option.

Estée Lauder, for example, is offering the Good Fortune Metal Compact and Solid Perfume Compact Collection, part of its yearly limited-edition offerings. The items are ornamented with semi-precious stones—think agate, malachite, lapis and rose quartz—with Estée Lauder’s Beautiful, Youth-Dew, Sensuous, Pleasures and White Linen fragrances.

Even venerable Chanel has rolled out fragrance “luxuries” that it calls ”ideal for gifting.”It is offering demi-parfums of its five most-celebrated scents—No. 5, Coco Mademoiselle, No. 19, Allure and Coco—in a deluxe gift box that is priced at $120.

Fashion Moves Forward Again

The trick for established fragrances is to make holiday offerings irresistible—especially since they will find themselves up against some rather strong new launches such as Gucci Guilty and the newest rollouts from designer Marc Jacobs.

Diane Von Furstenberg is back in the fragrance spotlight with a new scent called Diane.

Their successes signal a return to fashion/designer as attention grabbers in the fine fragrance market. Leading companies appear to be casing the runways and some well-known names in fashion are stepping back into the fragrance limelight.

Lauder’s Aramis and Designer Fragrances recently assumed the exclusive worldwide license for the fragrance business of Marni, the Milan-based luxury fashion company found by Consuelo and Gianni Castiglioni. Marni fans can expect the first product out next Fall.

Designer Oscar de la Renta is back and out with a new scent. Live in Love rolled out to counters last month featuring top notes of sparking ginger orchid, green muguet, bergamot, hyacinth, galbanum; a heart of jasmine, orange flower and rose; and a dry down of white amber, musk, white woods, sandalwood and cedarwood.

Fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg—the woman behind the ever-stylish wrap dress and the current president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America—is back at the forefront of fragrance too. Her newest scent, Diane, which hit counters in mid-September, opens with notes of frangipani and also features violet leaves and base notes of myrrh, musk and patchouli.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Arden has teamed up with John Varvatos and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s Rocawear on the men’s side.

According to Varvatos, John Varvatos USA is a scent for those who “challenge perceptions of reality, because they are the ones who open up doors we never knew existed.”

Working with Givaudan senior perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, the juice is said to boast “a game of contrasts,” specifically a mix of warm woody notes with unexpected freshness that conveys a relaxed attitude with masculinity. Top notes include red ginger essence from Laos, juniper berries and cedrat from Sicily. Heart notes of blue spruce, green cardamom absolute, and osmanthus absolute. Background notes include vetiver, belambre and tonka bean from Venezuela.

The package has the brand’s unique aesthetic—a bottle of smoky glass and silver metal, drawing inspiration from 19th century vials and industrial materials, with spring system cap that is reminiscent of antique beer bottles.

New Rocawear Evolution is billed as sexy, magnetic and addictive, embodying the swagger and sophistication of hip-hop culture and assured masculinity, according to Arden. Top notes are rum doused fruits, such as mandarin, mango and rhubarb; the middle has a soothing blend of coffee, incense and nutmeg and the base features sultry musks, woody amber and warm tonka bean. Grammy nominated Trey Songz has been tapped to serve as the scent’s frontman.

Coty, too, has been casing the runways for inspiration. The beauty firm recently inked a new deal with Elite, the well-known modeling agency. Announced in September, executives from Coty Beauty and Elite will team up on an international fragrance launch that will include a comprehensive media campaign as well as synergies with the Elite Model Look Contest. Details are still currently in development and will be announced closer to the launch, according to Coty.

“The marketing behind the Elite Models fragrance collection will bring out the emotional side of the brand and express a modern and cosmopolitan vision of women,” said Jurgen Scharfenstein, SVP of global marketing for Coty Beauty, in a press statement. “We are working toward distilling the glamorous appeal of Elite into a line of fragrances that deliver an out of this world experience.”

And expect more model scents as HatchBeauty is partnering with CBS Consumer Products to license a series of exclusive fragrances for The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model.” The first scent—Dream Come True—will be available in January at Targets nationwide.

Leave it to Beiber

Justin Bieber’s Someday was one of the biggest launches of the year.

The resurgence of fashion and designer brands in fragrance is not to say that celebrity has lost its appeal entirely. In fact, one of the most prominent launches of 2011 came from teen heartthrob Justin Beiber. His debut scent, Someday, was ranked No. 1 in June, July and August among all women’s fragrance launches in the US.

Perfumer Honorine Blanc of Firmenich created the juice as a delicious fruity–gourmand, appropriate for the age of its expected audience: teen girls. Top notes are mandarin, William pear and wild berries; the heart features jasmine, water lily, creamy florals and coconut orchid; and the dry down is composed of sandalwood, vanilla and soft musk.

But Someday does more than make teens smell good—it is giving to the greater good. The “Beib” has teamed up with Give Back Brands in which the profits of the fragrance will go to charity.

Fellow singers Taylor Swift and Keith Urban have entered the fragrance marketplace too.

Keith Urban sampled his debut fragrance during the Get Closer 2011 world tour.

Swift has been making the rounds on daytime and late night TV shows promoting her fragrance, Wonderstruck, which she created with Elizabeth Arden. It has notes of freesia, green tea, apple blossom, raspberry, dewberry, Hawaiian blanket, hibiscus, honeysuckle, vanilla, musk, peach and sandalwood.

Like Swift’s Wonderstruck, Phoenix by Keith Urban, created in partnership with Boom LLC, is Urban’s first foray into fragrance. It said to be a modern twist on a classic, with a leathery gourmand scent described as sexy, rich and masculine. Top notes include blackberries, cognac and plum, which segue into the aromas of dark chocolate and crisp fir balsam, followed by a finish of warm cashmere wood in the background.

Fans were given a sneak peek of the scent during Urban’s 50-plus city Get Closer 2011 world tour. The promotional campaign featured giveaways and sampling opportunities, including Phoenix-scented tattoos, at concert venue stops. Fans also had access to an exclusive online pre-sale on Urbans’ own URL prior its launch at mass market retailers including CVS and Sears in the US, Shopper’s Drug Mart in Canada and Target and David Jones in Australia last month.

More for Men

While country music may appeal to men, there are other subjects that often occupy more space in the male psyche. Get your mind out of the gutter—we’re talking about cars and barbeque.

Rolled out this summer, Que is a new barbecue-scented perfume and cologne from Pork Barrel BBQ, a grilling sauce and spice rub maker founded in 2008 by Heath Hall and Brett Thompson. Pork Barrel’s original BBQ sauce was named best sauce in America and one of “The 125 Best Foods for Men” by Men’s Health, but it remains to be seen whether the duo’s expertise translates from food to fragrance.

And there’s another new scent that comes via a grille—this time, the kind on an automobile. The first fragrance bearing the Mercedes-Benz moniker has been unveiled at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes. Created in partnership with the INCC Group, it will be available at selected specialist retailers in the first quarter of 2012.

The first scent to don the Mercedes Benz name is hitting the streets.

The juice, which was composed by perfumer Olivier Cresp of Firmenich, combines woody notes with floral freshness, according to the German luxury automobile maker. Top notes include Calabrian bergamot, lemon essence and Italian mandarin. The middle note features a warm, spicy mix of bourbon pepper, nutmeg, violet and galbanum resin. The base note provides a spicy finish to the perfume and includes American cedar wood, vetiver, grass and patchouli.

An Eye for Luxury

Exclusivity sells in any luxury market, and retailer Neiman Marcus had first dibs on several new fragrances this Fall. Its roster included debut scents as well as new takes from venerable perfume makers including Balenciaga L’Essence, Bottega Veneta, Creed Royal-Oud, A Dozen Roses, Givenchy Dahlia Noir and Prada Candy.

Bottega Veneta—the first fragrance from the brand—is inspired by the rolling hills of Italy and has notes of leather, bergamot, jasmine, plum, patchouli and oak moss. Givenchy Dahlia Noir, the first fragrance developed under the creative direction of Riccardo Tisci, has a multifaceted composition including mandarin, pink pepper, mimosa, sandalwood and vanilla. Prada Candy, with notes of musk and caramel, is feminine, sweet, sophisticated and comes in a bottle that features joyful colors and the iconic pink Saffiano leather stripe with raised gold Prada letters.

Bond No. 9 has just unveiled New York Amber.

Another luxury fragrance firm, Bond No. 9, has rolled out back-to-back scent stories this fall. The first, I Love New York, features a trio of juices. I Love New York for Her, in a pink bottle, is a pastry gourmand of rich vanilla frosting. The opening notes—mandarin zest and a blueberry muffin accord—segue into roses, pink peonies and patchouli with a drydown of musk, vanilla bourbon and soft leather accord. I Love New York for Him, in a blue bottle, has opening notes of grapefruit zest, juniper berry and ginger, with midnotes of lavender, geranium and leather and base notes of sandalwood, musk and amber. Lastly, in a black bottle, I Love New York for All is gourmand at its heart: coffee beans, cacao, and chestnut. Initially it energizes with bergamot, lily of the valley and pepper, and has base notes of patchouli, sandalwood and vanilla, according to the luxury fragrance house.

On the heels of I Love New York comes New York Amber, which hit counters on Nov. 1.According to Bond, founder Laurice Rahme has taken this legendary old-world classic and transformed it into a “self-assured, highly seductive, highly persuasive metro-perfume.” It is billed as a shared male-female blend, which has musky, earthy, honey-like tree resin as its key ingredient and a liquor-gold color. Its starter spice notes—saffron, nutmeg and white peppercorns—are lightened up with zesty bergamot. A classic bouquet of rose, jasmine and osmanthus takes over, with lingering base notes that include amber, oud, sandalwood, musk and myrrh.

And, as this article headed to press, news broke of a new Andy Warhol scent from Bond, its sixth in the series.

Scents for the Masses

While some consumers have pocketbooks for luxury scents, lower price points can help fragrance become an everyday indulgence for those on tighter budgets.

Bath & Body Works, for example, offers its Signature Collection, scents that it says fragrance aficionados consider a “best-kept secret” as they offer carefully calibrated blends of superior ingredients for a fraction of the cost of prestige brands. Signature Collection EDTs are priced just under $30, which surely appeal to consumers sticking to a budget.

Having rolled out Paris Amour in August, B&BW is looking for big things from the newest addition to the Signature Collection, Charmed Life. Charmed Life’s top notes include guava, apple, sparking pear and red berries, with mid notes of peony petals, soft jasmine, lily of the valley and coconut milk. The dry notes are apricot skin, vanilla, praline, sandalwood and musk.

The Signature Collection has offerings for men too. In October, B&BW launched Classic Men, billed as a spicy oriental scent. It has top notes of bourbon pepper, crisp apple, cardamom and black pepper, mid notes of nutmeg, orris and sandalwood, and dry notes of vanilla wood, guaiac wood, vetiver, patchouli and clean musk. Like the female juice, the men’s cologne is just $29.50.

Direct seller Avon has a new scent for Fall as well, Step Into Sexy, an oriental floral. Top notes of black raspberry are mingled with freesia flower and violet leaf. The heart features rosewood and violet blended with butterfly orchid. The base includes notes of cashmeran, sueded orris root and golden ambers, according to Avon.

Holiday Hopes

Whether or not mass market fragrance gets its groove back remains to be seen, but the resurgence of prestige fragrance couldn’t have come at a better time with the ever-important holiday season heating up.

Big picture-wise, analysts including Deloitte and Accenture have predicted mild gains for retailers this holiday season, tamped down a slow economic recovery, continued uncertainty and shoppers who are faced with higher prices for everyday staples like food and apparel.

Still, September retail sales numbers (the most recent at press time) were mainly positive, with Saks, Target and Bath & Body Works among those posting gains.

According to Accenture’s annual consumer holiday shopping study, 72% percent of US consumers expect their holiday spending to be “careful” or “controlled” in 2011. The million-dollar question is whether or they will buy scent as a gift for their friends and family—or for themselves.

Bloom is cautiously optimistic about the prospects. As she told Happi, “…going into 2011 holiday season we see definite signs of life. While not massive growth, I think we might see a growth between 3 and 5%, which would certainly be encouraging.”

The Holiday Hit List

Holiday offerings abound in the beauty business. Here’s a look at some seasonal offerings from the fine fragrance sector.

Arbonne International, LLC is offering Fragrance Trio ($198) for the holiday season. The collection includes The Dreamer (notes of Fuji apple, yuzu zest, white cyclamen and Baltic amber), The Dazzler (notes of green bamboo, bergamot, ylang-ylang and Australian sandalwood) and The Dynamo (notes of white cardamom, frosted pink grapefruit, night blooming jasmine and golden amber). Each 1.7fl.oz. scent can also be purchased for $78 a piece.

Jingle G ($25) is the newest fragrance in the Harajuku Lovers franchise. This oriental fruity floral, created by Adriana Medina of Givaudan, has top notes of tangerine, gardenia, and white star fruit; mid notes ofjasmine, orange blossom, and honeysuckle; and base notes of vanilla, cedarwood, and Laos benzion tears. Jingle G is “dressed” in a sparkly Santa suit and the bottle features a built-in hook so it can be an ornament or stocking stuffer, according to Coty Prestige.

Estée Lauder and Jay Strongwater have teamed up to offer the Beautiful Luck Elephant ($295) well as the Happiness blooming solid perfume ($275). Both adorned with Swarovski crystals, the Luck Elephant is exclusive to Neiman Marcus while the Happiness compact is stocked only at Saks Fifth Avenue.

And Bath & Body Works is toasting the season with Live Love Celebrate, which features a trio of cocktail-inspired scents. The collection features Strawberry Sparkler, Vanillatini and Jingle Bellini, which are available in its Shimmer Mist form, until January 2012.

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