From perfume to incense to air fresheners, scented products continue to draw customers to retail checkouts, even in a stinky economy. That's what wholesalers in this category told Web Wholesaler, citing brand loyalty and demand for products that a strong core of shoppers consider essentials, not luxuries.
Ron Yakuel, president of FragranceX.com, agrees that there is still a luxury market out there, side by side with a bargain shopping customer base. "I think there are two types of customers shopping right now. Many are seeking value, and getting the most for their dollar is important," he says. "Others are looking to higher priced fragrances to satisfy their urge to splurge when those items are reasonably priced." Yakuel says that the higher selling perfumes are very often the ones that are seen as fashionable. "We're adding new products every day," he says. "The fragrance industry always has new items, especially celebrity scents." The best selling brands at FragranceX reflect that reality. The top five are Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana, Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani, Cool Water, Lolita Lempicka, and Angel. Although Yakuel says he always has a very positive outlook, he does sound one note of caution: "Stock up now," he advises retailers, "as pricing is only going up, and supplies are going down."
Pradeep Season Shrestha is VP of sales and purchasing for Park Fragrances Inc., which specializes in exclusive brands in the high to middle markets, such as Ted Lapidus, Faēconnable, and Jacques Bogart. He says customer devotion to a great product keeps even his expensive perfumes moving. "In this economy, people have cut down on their luxury expenditures, maybe buying once a month instead of twice," he says. "But if your product is good, with a decent retail price, then people will not mind. Rather than buy two of the low end fragrances, they'll buy one of the mid to high end ones." One of the company's most famous brands is Jivago, which is known for its 24K product, named after the 24 karat gold leaves with which the fragrance has been infused. "The perfume actually has gold particles inside the bottle," says Shrestha, "which can be seen from the outside. It is a very high end brand, selling in stores such as Nieman Marcus. We are the exclusive distributor for North America." A 2.5 ounce bottle of the more concentrated "parfum" style retails for $150 at Nieman Marcus.
Familiarity with that brand and its signature gold leaf is giving Park Fragrances a leg up on reintroducing the brand, which has been hard to get in recent years. "Everybody knew Jivago because of the gold," says Shrestha. "Different fragrances have their own customers. Jivago is selling because it has its own loyal customers." And that makes it easier to roll out a new product in the same line. "In February 2011, we are introducing Jivago Erotic Noire for ladies and men. We'll be doing Facebook, Twitter, billboards in Times Square, and a fashion tent for a launch in New York City with celebrities and magazine editors." That coordinated media campaign is important to selling a new product, he adds. "We bring the product to market in the right way, so everybody gets it, and then everybody knows it." But the key to success is still loyalty. "Once the end consumer has a connection to a brand, they like other products we launch, since they already have some kind of attachment with that brand."
For Park Fragrances, recent economic hurdles have been high, but by no means insurmountable, says Shrestha. "It's a challenge, I can't deny it," he says, "but we have succeeded with a vision, a strategy, the right product, the right timing, the right brands and marketing, and hard work." He also says that the enthusiasm of Web-based customers is a big sales driver. "Internet customers search like crazy. They go everywhere. They go to websites, to Amazon, to Ebay," he explains. "It's a known fact that you can get good prices on the Internet, and so the website is important so customers can go to the site, find out information about products, and buy from there. Sales are high because of the website."
There are many of the same top sellers at FragranceNet.com, according to the VP of business development, Patti Kapla. "Some of our top sellers for women are Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana, Euphoria by Calvin Klein, Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica McClintock, and Juicy Couture. And for men, Acqua Di Gio, Cool Water, Jean Paul Gaultier, Eternity, and Armani Code." Brand loyalty plays a big role in selling her product, she says. "We have new lines and new products all the time, but people are loyal to those." She plays down the notion that individual scents matter all that much, because perfumes smell different on each person. "Fragrances are very personal items. What smells good on you may not smell good on me. So people generally tend to be loyal to their fragrances."
FragranceNet.com also sells candles, scented oils, and aromatherapy, in addition to perfume. Middle Eastern scents are growing in popularity. "Your scents vary with the season. In the winter you would wear something heavier, a more Oriental or spicy fragrance. If you translate that to your household scents, your apple woods and your fresh linen are more summery, and cinnamon roll and harvest apple would be more wintry," says Kapla.
FragrenceNet has put a lot of its resources into establishing a truly standout Web presence. "We're only Web based. We developed the back end ourselves, and most orders come online," explains Kapla. "We have Facebook and Twitter, and we do social media. They are important from a branding standpoint. Are they important from a sales standpoint? I don't think any company has really monetized social networking, but it's important to be out there."
Danny Bhansali is a business consultant for Mod Perfumes, a distributor, wholesaler, and manufacturer of its brand, called Ron Marone. He has other ideas for ensuring sales in a tough economy. His new City Girl line has done very well, he says, on the marketing strength of its name. "We just came out with the City Girl line," he says. "It has three scents in it: City Girl Miami, City Girl New York, and City Girl LA. We've gotten great responses with vendors, and sales are very good. We've been getting repeat customers." He has had customers request other regional variations, for example, City Girl Costa Rica. "Naming is very important," he says. Of course, success comes with hitting all the right notes. "The scent has to be good, the packaging has to be good, and the bottle has to be good. Customers are looking for gift sets, too," he says. "But the right name can do the trick." And what about trending products more generally in the perfume business? "The sweet and the fruity scents are selling the best," says Bhansali.
In the incense, air fresheners, and sprays category, the current popular scents are the exotic ones. "Middle Eastern scents are doing well," says Samantha Heenan, senior buyer at Summit Road Distributing. She notes that other good sellers include African violets and some of the more unusual scents. That is a seasonal thing in her business, she explains. "I think the summer tends to sell a little more of the basic air fresheners." Her company, a convenience store supplier that carries air fresheners and incense, along with a variety of other general goods, has been doing well for a long time with some basic lines that customers keep coming back to. "The little tree is still very much a standard in air fresheners in the convenience store arena. That's been around for a long time," she says. "The top sellers are Forest Pond, Black Ice, and New Car. Those haven't changed at all." So in car fresheners as in perfume, loyalty is a key driver of sales. But there is room for growth with new products here, too. "I'm always looking for something new and unique. I've had some success with some licensing. I've bought several different air fresheners in the Ed Hardy licensing name, and they've done really well," says Heenan. "I think that's because of the license. When an Ed Hardy product comes to market, it is a hot, trendy thing."
But can brand loyalty and compelling scents be enough to keep a business healthy in a down economy? Suppliers like Heenan think so. "Most of our business is in impulse, rather than commodity," she says, "so we have not had a really bad time of it. Our sales have been flat, but we continue to pick up new business, and for the most part, keep the business we had. It hasn't hit our business as hard as other industries." She adds that the Internet component of the company's business is growing. "The Internet is a young part of our business, and it's definitely in a growth mode. It has grown and continues to grow. We try to sell everything that we offer on the Web," she says. "It may be five percent of our business now, but who knows? It might be 70 percent of our business in ten years. The potential is unlimited."
Gail Suggs, co-owner of Mystical Moments, makes and sells fragrance products, especially incense and scented oil. Coming up with new scents keeps her busy. "We create new products all the time. We're always creating new fragrances for our customers," she says. "Of course we have our holiday fragrances that we're constantly working with. After the first of the year we'll start on our spring fragrances." Suggs says she gets her insights by talking with people. "You want to take time with your customer to see what they need in different categories, what sells in different areas. You have to know your customer," she says. What Suggs has learned is that new customers need to start with the fundamentals. "What we usually try to do is to tell people to make sure that they buy the basics-cinnamons, vanillas, strawberries, watermelons, and so on. Get those first," she suggests. After that, vendors need to look at the calendar. "It depends on the time of the year," says Suggs. "You can't sell pumpkin pie scents in the summer. Fresh nice scents are working well now, for example."
Wholesale companies mentioned in this article include:
Park Fragrances Inc.
New York, NY 10001
Toll Free: 888-518-6574
5 Plant Ave.
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Toll Free: 888-557-3738
Email: ron@ FragranceX.com
900 Grand Blvd.
Deer Park, NY 11729
Tel.: 631-582-5204 Ext 4
Toll Free: 800-727-3867 Ext 4
585 Industrial Road
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Summit Road Distributing
649 Americal Road
Henderson, NC 27537
Toll Free: 877-477-3478
20387 NW SR 73
Clarksville, FL 32430
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