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Divas smell money in fragrance biz

Beyoncé and Britney Spears among those launching new fragrances.
/ Source: Billboard

Some of today’s biggest music stars have ignited a boom in the once-dormant celebrity fragrance business.

Leading the way is Jennifer Lopez, who has two successful fragrance lines: Glow by J.Lo and Still Jennifer Lopez.

Celine Dion, Thalia and Jessica Simpson are among the other stars who have attached their names to fragrance products. Britney Spears and Beyoncé will enter the marketplace later this year.

Celebrities who launch fragrance products almost always have an ownership stake in the business.

“Even if the product line doesn’t sell that well, it’s a big moneymaker for the star because of the lucrative contract, which usually comes with a big-salary guarantee,” says Gina Pia Bandini, editor-in-chief of

Five years ago, the market for celebrity fragrances was largely inactive, according to beauty-industry experts. That situation changed with the runaway success of Glow by J.Lo, which debuted in 2002. Lopez’s fragrances are available mainly at specialty stores and department stores.

“Jennifer Lopez has been wildly successful because she’s a crossover star and she’s ubiquitous,” Didi Gluck, beauty director at Marie Claire magazine, observes.

“A star like Jennifer Lopez doesn’t come along every day,” adds Catherine Walsh, senior VP of cosmetics and American licenses at Lancaster Group Worldwide. “People buy these fragrances because they like the celebrity’s personality and lifestyle, and the fragrance helps them get a piece of that.”

According to Information Resources, which tracks retail sales of consumer goods at mass merchants, drug stores and supermarkets, U.S. sales of Glow by J.Lo jumped more than 4,000% at those outlets last year. Including sales of products sold separately and in gift packs, Glow by J.Lo earned more than $1.7 million in revenue in 2003.

Information Resources does not track sales at department stores, where the majority of Lopez’s fragrance products are sold. Those sales figures were unavailable.

Dion launched her perfume line last year. Celine Dion Parfums is available at mass merchants, drug stores and such department stores as Sears, JC Penney, Ulta and Kohl’s.

Dion’s line raked in sales of $11.7 million in 2003, making it the ninth-best-selling women’s fragrance of 2003 at U.S. retailers tracked by Information Resources. It was the only debut fragrance line to make the top 10.

Dion, who teamed with Coty for her fragrance venture, tells Billboard: “For years we were approached by a number of different fragrance and beauty companies, but it just didn’t feel natural. When we were approached by Coty, we really liked the way they understood who I was as a woman, as well as a performer, and how I was perceived in the market.”

Despite the success of Dion’s and Lopez’s products, the stars entered the fragrance market at a risky time.

Though fragrances remain the biggest category in the beauty industry, their sales have declined recently, according to NPD Beauty, a division of research firm NPD Group.

Of the three main beauty categories — skin care, makeup and fragrances — only fragrances had a sales decrease in 2003, dipping 2% compared with the previous year, to $2.8 billion.

During the same period, skin-care product sales jumped to $2 billion, up 6% from 2002, and makeup hit $2.6 billion, up 4%. Not surprisingly, Lopez, Spears and Simpson are among the celebrities extending their beauty brands to skin care or makeup.

The scent of musicWhy are fragrance companies flocking to music stars more than actresses or other celebrities?

“The beauty and the music industries are both used to dealing with consumers who are very fickle,” notes Michael Solomon, human sciences professor of consumer behavior at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Both industries understand the value of “striking while the iron is hot,” Solomon says, thereby making them a good fit.

“It’s all a matter of timing,” Marie Claire’s Gluck notes. “These companies want celebrities whose star is on the rise.”

Distribution is also a key factor. In that respect, Simpson’s product line, Dessert, could be a wild card because of its selective retail launch.

Simpson partnered with Dlish Fragrance to launch Dessert in April.

Dlish founder and president Randi Shinder says the company is somewhat of an underdog. “It’s much easier for a celebrity to go to one of the big beauty houses, but Jessica chose our independent company because she really believes in trying something new. She’s believable for these products because she’s also a target customer.”

Beyoncé vs. BritneyAt least two more celebrities will enter the fragrance field later this year.

Beyoncé has teamed with Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries, a division of Estee Lauder, to launch a new fragrance this fall. Also due by year’s end is Spears’ line of fragrance, skin-care and cosmetics products, a partnership with Elizabeth Arden.

Industry experts predict Beyoncé’s line will be the bigger hit.

“Beyoncé has more going on with crossover appeal,”’s Bandini says. “She’s a fashion role model, and her experience as a spokesmodel for L’Oreal is a huge plus. From a fashion perspective, Britney hasn’t morphed into anything beyond being a pop princess.”

Gluck also thinks Beyoncé may have the edge. “Her star is rising faster than Britney’s,” she says.

Solomon adds, “Elizabeth Arden and Britney Spears are a terrible match. Britney doesn’t have the versatility to pull off being a fashion icon, like Madonna has. The feeling among a lot of young people is that Britney is over.”

Elizabeth Arden president Paul West says Spears’ high profile, along with his company’s track record (including the success of Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds fragrance line) will make the Spears line a hit.

“We have a long-term plan and vision. Britney did a lot of homework for this fragrance. Her beauty products will be completely relevant to consumers.”