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It's not easy selling fragrances. This fall, at least 23 new scents will waft their way into a market that is less than potent-but hardly about to evaporate.

The women's mass-market segment has been particularly hard pressed. It's down 10.3% in dollars to $759 million for 52 weeks ended midyear 1996, and the men's mass-market isn't much better, down 7.3% in dollars to $499.1 million, reports Information Resources Inc.

Even traditionally strong scents in department stores are no longer experiencing robust sales with the $1.9 billion sector for women and men fragrances struggling in both unit and dollar sales, say industry executives.

"An enormous amount of new products, particularly in the prestige segment, is being brought to market in 1996," says consultant Allan Mottus of Mottus & Associates. "That's the good news. The bad news is that despite all the new entries, unit growth is at best 1%-2%."


Part of the problem is that this relentless battery of new introductions is crowding a category hampered by moderate prices. Marketers of prestige lines are facing consumers who increasingly are shunning fuller bouquets of perfumes, colognes and eau de toilettes for scented bath and body products.

"There has been a usage decline in fragrances in the last five years with the actual amount of fragrance used down 10 points," says Kathy Dwyer, president of Revlon Cosmetics. "But usage points in bath and body have grown substantially."

It obviously takes an optimist to be a fragrance marketer. Ms. Dwyer is among those aggressively attacking the business as she tries to give the same lift to mass-market fragrance that she did to cosmetics, a category in which Revlon is challenging Procter & Gamble Co.'s Cover Girl for the No. 1 spot.

Earlier this year, Revlon expanded its struggling Charlie brand-with a current share of 2.1%-into bath and body; this fall the company is introducing a fragrance Cherish, with more than $5 million in ad support.

The premier marketer of mass fragrances for now remains Coty, a unit of Joh. A. Benckiser GmbH. It markets No. 1 ranked Vanilla Fields, No. 2 ranked Jovan, Lady Stetson at No. 4, Exclamation at No. 6, Sand & Sable at No. 7, Vanilla Musk at No. 9 and newly introduced Ghost Myst at No. 10, according to IRI.

Coty dominates spending in the mass market for both women's and men's fragrances, with $85 million budgeted for '96 that will include the launch of Celebrate, a women's scent, and Raw Vanilla for men.


On top of media spending, Coty also samples heavily, employing direct mail and magazines, scent strips and trial sizes.

Benckiser also is the dominant player in men's mass-market fragrances, led by Stetson at No. 2 for the 52-week period ended midyear '96, and close on the heels of Procter & Gamble's leading Old Spice. Benckiser's other leaders: No. 3 Jovan, No. 4 Preferred Stock, No. 7 Aspen and No. 10 Stetson Sierra, according to IRI three-outlet data.

Coty's marketing efforts haven't been easy. Coty VP-Marketing & Development Mary Manning says the company's biggest concern is growth of specialty retailers, such as The Gap and Banana Republic.

Gap Inc. has become a prolific fragrance marketer, introducing GapSport unscented toiletries this past summer, with the hope of stealing some of Cosmair's Polo Sport thunder. For fall, it is moving ahead with the launch of its sixth Gap women's fragrance, Om.

The company also is marketing through its other divisions Classic at Banana Republic and Body Care at Old Navy Clothing Co.

The increased competition plus the decision by P&G to sell all mass-market fragrances except Old Spice has left mass marketers particularly unsettled.


"We as manufacturers must find reasons for consumers to wear fragrances besides image, lifestyle or any other platform that has been used," says Ms. Manning, "We must provide some validity."

The designer noise level will be huge this fall as Polo Sport turns up the marketing volume to better compete against Calvin Klein's new CK Be unisex entry and Tommy Hilfiger's Tommy Girl, with an expected $40 million-plus between them in spending.

Pat Sloan and Aminda Heckman

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