Drug chains’ challenge: lure fragrance shoppers away from department stores

Drug stores trying to lure women into cosmetic department should never overlook the power of fragrance.

Nearly eight out of every 10 women use a fragrance, according to the findings of this year’s Gallup Beauty Purchase Survey, and the majority of fragrance users, 64 percent, spritz themselves at least once a day.

Department store fragrances are, and always have been, very popular. Nearly half (49 percent) of the women in the Gallup survey said they prefer a department store or specialty store brand.

It’s always been hard for mass brands and mass retailers to compete with the expensive advertising that supports the department store fragrance business. Most chains can’t give their shoppers the same kind of sophisticated service and merchandising that department stores provide.

But women resent the high prices they have to pay for department store brands, and there are also many who hate the hassle of getting to and from a department store.

An opportunity for mass

In the past, drug stores have always tried to go after these shoppers by stressing their low everyday prices on fragrance. Their ads often mention the convenience aspect of their stores.

The strategy has continued to work to some degree. According to Gallup, two out of every 10 fragrance users are loyal to a mass brand they purchased in a neighborhood store.

Still, drug stores report that their fragrance have been soft for the last several years, and drug buyers say they need to do more to lure fragrance shoppers out of department stores.

To better compete with department stores drug chains are increasing their ads for popular fragrance brands, are relying more on four color or ads and have introduced cosmetic ads printed on a heavier stock.

Chains are upgrading their selection of fragrances to include more department store brands, and they are using department store merchandising tricks, such as creating a fragrance of the day and spraying it on the bulb in a table lamp, or even directly on their cosmeticians

When consumers stop to ask What smells so good?,” the strategy has already put the cosmetician halfway into a likely sale.

Many chains are also holding training schools so cosmeticians can learn more about the different scents. Cosmeticians are then passing that knowledge on to their customers, as well as using that knowledge to help their customers find new brands that appeal to their individual tastes, whether they lean towards florals or musks.

Chains are also trying to find ways to make fragrance shopping fun. Many are now putting out testers and samplers encouraging shoppers to play with the-different scents until they find one–or sometimes two or three–that especially like.

Testers increase sales

Consumers and cosmeticians both report that when testers are available, sales go up. The customer can be sure they’re buying a product they like, one that blends in with their mystique and their taste preferences.

Brand preferences in fragrances ave always been fragmented, but consumers never seem to tire of fragrances with a classic scent and a classic positioning.

The three brands that ranked the highest in consumer preferences in this year’s Gallup study were all timeless classics: Beautiful, Oscar de la Renta, and Chanel.

When women buy fragrances for men as gifts, they also show a love for the classics.

The four fragrances that women give men most often turned out to be Polo, Drakkar Noir, Old Spice and Obsession For Men.

Apparently it’s one thing for women to experiment when they’re buying fragrances for themselves, but another story entirely when they’re buying a fragrance for a man. Most women, it seems, play it safe when they buy their men a fragrance as a gift.

Favorite fragrance brands

(based on women who used a

fragrance in the past four weeks)

All All

women women

1991 1993

Beautiful 2% 4%

Oscar de La Renta 4 4

Chanel 4 4

Avon 8 3

White Shoulders 4 3

Charlie 3 3

Liz Claiborne 3 3

Source: Drug Store News/Gallup Organization

1993 Consumer Survey.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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