Grocery retailers are carefully rethinking their holiday fragrance sets this Christmas.
After being stuck with unsold inventory over the last several seasons, supermarkets are taking to heart shifts in fragrance trends to lighter scents and putting much emphasis on bath and body.
Supplanting fragrance gift sets are a melange of fragranced holiday gift assortments in bath and body -- from traditional fragrance houses such as Coty, Inc. or Parfums de Coeur -- to bath firms including San Francisco Soap Co., Karen Carson and Sarah Michaels. Robert Sheasby, executive vice president of J.B. Williams' San Francisco Soap said the company, based in Glen Rock, N.J., has created more gift sets for the upcoming holiday season, including a special display to help retailers gear up for the period.
Sets like these are appealing to retailers. Said John Slovinski, supervisor of nonfoods and HBA at Glazier Supermarkets, Inc., Philadelphia, "We'll be getting behind bath gift sets this year such as those from Sarah Michaels and San Francisco Soap."
Several forces are driving the move to more bath gift sets, according to Gary Crawford, director of nonfood operations at United Supermarkets in Lubbock, Texas. One is that consumers are using lighter scents. That caused a downturn in consumption of fragrances that left retailers with too much inventory and return problems over the past three Christmas selling periods.
"Even with advertising we didn't have a good response," said Crawford of traditional gift sets. He's walking away from eau de toilette sets in favor of single-item designer brands and bath sets such as those from Karen Carson Creations, Dayton, Ohio. "And in the future we know we have to stage up in these gift sets," he added. The bath gift sets will star in circulars starting after Thanksgiving, he added.
An official with a supermarket chain based in the Midwest said bath gift sets last year hit almost a 100% sell-through. One way the company achieved this is by improving the presentation of its bath gift sets. Rather than using wicker baskets, it has adopted the use of metallic pails that look better and can be used to house other items after the sets sell through.
Dollar sales in fragrances, which includes men's and women's, rose 8.2% in the food channel last year to $136 million, according to Information Resources, Chicago. This gain exceeds increases registered in drugstores.
With consumers no longer seeking out only traditional eau de cologne gift sets to give a friend or relative, Mark Laracy, president of Parfums de Coeur, Darien, Conn., said, "It isn't just about of a bottle of perfume anymore."
In addition to the shift in consumer attitudes toward lighter scents, pricing is a factor.
Price points in the bath category are more digestible for supermarket shoppers than the tickets associated with traditional perfumes. For example, where a gift set of fragrances could soar as high as $25, a bath gift collection is often priced under $15. This year, for example, Del Laboratories, Uniondale, N.Y., will feature bath kits such as a fragrance layering kit and a body wash trio at $9.99. The items sold separately would total more than $25.
Manufacturers of bath gift sets have also tried to improve their presentation. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Dial Corporation's Sarah Michaels, for example, offers gift sets in reusable containers such as wire soap racks.
Although bath gift sets have nudged out traditional fragrances, there are a few brands making a splash for 2000. Coty's Adidas Moves for Him and Her, for example, has emerged as a winning brand. "There's no reason why supermarkets can't get in on the Adidas craze," said Eric Thoreux, president of Coty Beauty in New York. Retailers agreed that Adidas has hit a promising note.
"We might be seeing the beginning of a fragrance resurgence with the success of Adidas," said Kathy Steirly, vice president of beauty merchandising for Eckerd Corp. in Clearwater, Fla. Another new item for Christmas 2000 comes from a nail company. Fing'rs, Camarillo, Calif., is rolling out Wild Scents, fragrances packaged in the shapes of animals such as elephants and bears. "This offers a great gift idea for teens," said Len InDelicato, president of Fing'rs.
Still, most supermarket retailers are skittish about delving too heavily into traditional fragrances. With consumers shifting away from the tried and true, many are also experimenting with color cosmetics gift ideas. Retailers such as H. E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, and Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., will be adding whimsical color cosmetics kits to holiday promotions. Last year, Wegmans sold a large amount of cosmetics train boxes filled with color cosmetics from Markwins International of LaVerne, Calif.
Bill McNemeny, executive vice president of marketing for Del Laboratories, said consumers are buying holiday color cosmetics for both themselves and as gifts. Among the Del lineup for Christmas 2000 are: Holidaze, a 36-piece pre-pack of lip sparklers, lip gloss, body glitter and nail color; mini lip gloss set with a holiday-themed display; and a body glitter gel set.
Caboodles Cosmetics will be featuring tree ornaments with products packaged inside.
"It is a great stocking stuffer that supermarkets can feature," said Gary Schofield, president of Caboodles Cosmetics in New Westminster, B.C.
Blue Cross Beauty Products, Pacoima, Calif., is also hoping food chains get into the action with its holiday items such as those packaged as holiday ornaments with flavors inspired by holiday classics such as Egg Nog and Candy Cane.
"Retailers are getting more behind holiday promotions because they inspire impulse sales and keep departments fresh," said Maurice Rasgon, executive vice president of the company.