- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

The scent of celebrities will be all over shopping malls this holiday season.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Derek Jeter and Hilary Duff are just some of the celebrities following the smell of money and releasing fragrances for the holidays, a season when about one-third of perfume sales are made.

Celebrity-endorsed fragrances have stormed the perfume industry, driving the industry’s first major sales increase since 2001 and making up a growing portion of the top-selling fragrances.

Perfume sales at department stores rose 3 percent to $2.94 billion last year, after years of hovering between $2.8 billion and $2.9 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., a market research company in Port Washington, N.Y.

Sales from celebrity fragrances have grown 80 percent to $148.5 million from 2003 to 2005, according to NPD.

“They’ve been terrific. They’ve brought a whole new customer to an industry that for the last five years has been flat and slow,” said Rochelle R. Bloom, president of the Fragrance Foundation, a New York trade group.

Britney Spears’ wildly successful fragrances — Curious, which became a top seller in department stores during the 2004 Christmas season, Fantasy and Curious In Control — are credited with introducing perfumes to tweens and teens. Elizabeth Arden Inc. is hoping to re-create that success with former Disney Channel star Miss Duff’s new scent, With Love.

The romance between celebrities and perfumes can be traced to the 1930s, when a bottle of Shocking perfume was modeled after actress Mae West. Elizabeth Taylor made endorsing perfumes glamorous with the success of White Diamonds in 1991.

But celebrities started following the scent after Jennifer Lopez’s Glow was released in late 2002 and raked in a reported $40 million during its first six months on shelves.

Last year, celebrity fragrances made up a quarter of the top 100 selling brands, up from 10 percent in 2003, according to NPD Group.

“[Celebrity fragrances] have been very important to the growth we’ve seen in women’s fragrances and we’re seeing it to a degree in men’s, ” said Leigh Anne Rowinski, a beauty trend analyst at Information Resources Inc. in Chicago.

With a few celebrities’ successful perfume debuts came hundreds of copycats.

“Now everyone has jumped in. I’m not sure if that enhances it,” Mrs. Bloom said. “There are such niche people, I don’t know whether they have enough draw to sustain a fragrance.”

While Mrs. Taylor, Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow bring an element of glamour to White Diamonds, Chanel No. 5 and Estee Lauder, respectively, the same can’t be said for less glamorous celebrities — a la gothic rocker Marilyn Manson, who is rumored to be in talks to get a cologne line.

“Everybody has come out with a fragrance,” Mrs. Bloom said. “I think it diminishes the category in a funny way … is it really a good deal for the industry? Is it going to move the industry forward? That’s a fine line.”

The boom of celebrity scents has sent the number of fragrances debuting each year up to about 350, Mrs. Bloom said, up from about 20 each year in the mid-1980s.

And it means fragrances don’t last as long. Once they debut, there is going to be another competitor within weeks.

“Very few fragrances are given the time to establish themselves,” Mrs. Bloom said. “If they’re not a home run from the first day on, they’re not given a chance.”

Competition in the perfume industry has become more fierce, Miss Rowinski said.

Perfume companies are no longer putting their money into creating a fragrance that’s going to last for generations, such as the 85-year-old Chanel No. 5. It’s too elusive. Instead, they pour money into short-term advertising that’s going to make a scent the hot, new item, even if it only lasts a season or so.

“It’s important to be a success this season,” Miss Rowinski said. “The classic fragrances will always be there — Chanel No. 5. They’re not trying to create a new Chanel No. 5. It’s about what’s happening right now, this season. The consumer will have moved on in six months to something new.”

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