ARDEN UNSURE WHEN TO RECAST BLACK PEARLS

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Black Pearls was Elizabeth Taylor's jewel of the season. But after Unilever Group's Elizabeth Arden division stopped the fragrance's $12 million 1995 launch last week the company's now wearing the scent like a scarlet letter.

Industry watchers say Arden will have to make some fancy moves to get the celebrity-backed scent onto shelves at outlets in major markets in the future.

The fragrance was shunned by Federated Department Stores, Dillard Department Stores and May Department Stores Co. after Arden President Kimberly A. Delsing proposed cutting seller commissions to 3% from the standard 5% and selling Black Pearls through J.C. Penney & Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. Rejections by more upscale retailers left Arden without a distribution channel in markets like New York, Boston and Washington. Ms. Delsing resigned Aug. 16 and was replaced by Peter England.

"We were disappointed that the launch didn't go through as planned," a Penney's spokesman said.

Whether another launch will take place hasn't been determined.

It was a bad week all around for Ms. Taylor; she and husband Larry Fortensky began a trial separation.

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