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Fine Fragrance Finds Silver Lining

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: February 2, 2009, from the February 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.
Annick Goutal

Annick Goutal, the Paris-based fragrance house, grew out of the passion of its founder and namesake, and the company and its artisanal fragrances have grown into an international brand with an amazing growth curve.

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Gary Farn Ltd. is the U.S. distribution arm for Annick Goutal. Its president, Alison Farn, says the brand’s success lies in its artisanal beginnings. “Annick was a genius who collaborated with Isabelle Doyen, who is now with Camille Goutal,” says Farn. “Having a true artist at the beginning, at the heart of the brand, is very important. A customer can feel that and knows that.” Farn points out that in an economy such as the current one, there is value in being an artisanal brand. “The [luxury] category becomes representated by an artisanal brand, with more quality because it’s the artistic expression of the category rather than a commercial opportunity. That’s always the success we find with Annick Goutal—the attachment and connection a customer has with the brand is always based on emotion. Each fragrance is created for an intense moment in Annick’s, and now Camille’s, life.”

Perfumers Go Public

Annick Goutal, the brand, has built a following that reaches back to the earliest days of its creator’s vision and passion for perfume. That Doyen has been Annick Goutal’s nose from the beginning adds to the brand’s magic, and her contribution is certainly not kept secret. There are many who believe that bringing consumers closer to the perfumer and her art can add cachet to fragrance marketing. Bloom says,“It’s interesting to see the trend toward brands hiring in-house perfumers and also to see these same perfumers now [having] a public face.”

Jean-Michel Duriez at Rochas, Jean-Claude Ellena at Hermes and Matilde Laurent at Cartier are just three examples of in-house perfumers who are making news. As for perfumers getting a little face-time with consumers, Bloom points out the recent in-store appearance by Dior’s Francois Demachy at Saks Fifth Avenue’s launch of La Collection Particuliere. It certainly can’t hurt to find new ways to add excitement to launches and help consumers build even deeper connections with beloved brands.

Expansion Plans

Despite the gloom on the sales front, a number of fragrance houses are launching new scents or are in the midst of expansion plans. By Kilian, a niche brand founded by the grandson of The LVMH Group’s founder, reportedly will launch an eighth fragrance in 2009, and plans to expand U.S. distribution. Ferragamo Parfums—still glowing from a number of awards last year from organizations in Russia, Brazil and India—is in the midst of three new fragrance launches: Incanto Bliss, F by Ferragamo pour Homme Black and Ungaro Party.

Annick Goutal is also reportedly continuing an expansion plan that by press accounts will grow its freestanding store count from 11 to 40 during the next five years, and plans to introduce a new women’s fragrance in February 2009. Distribution expansion plans in the U.S. market, it should be noted, have not been greatly impacted by the economy. “I don’t want to say we’re altering our plans due to the economy, but at the same time, we take one step at a time, and our strategy has not altered that much by what’s going on in the economy,” says Farn. “We build this brand, and have been building this brand, with the intention that every year will be bigger than the year before. We’re going to be realistic and we’re going to be sensitive, but we’re not turning down the volume of our growth plan for Annick Goutal.”