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Celebrities take scent-er stage
Britney, Paris and the Donald want your dollars for bottles of their scent.
November 19, 2004: 8:27 AM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - There's a heady aroma of celebrity scents in the air and it's getting thicker by the minute.

From a pop star on "domestic hiatus" to a real estate mogul with a reality show, and even a Wimbledon champ, the rich and the famous are almost tripping over each other in a mad rush to market a signature fragrance in time for the holidays.

"This season is all about celebrity fragrances and celebrity endorsements," said Felicia Milewicz, beauty director of Glamour magazine.

Such superstars as Britney Spears, Beyonce and Jessica Simpson got a head start, launching their perfumes earlier in the year.

Billionaire Donald Trump's eponymous scent, "Donald Trump: The Fragrance," is debuting this week in department stores across the nation.

And there are still more stars eager to join the celebrity perfume parade, including hotel-heiress-turned-reality-show-star Paris Hilton, whose namesake fragrance also hits stores this week.

"We had originally planned to launch Paris Hilton's perfume early next year but we pushed it up because Paris is such a big name right now," said Frank Buttacavoli, chief operating officer with Fort Lauderdale, Fl.-based fragrance maker Parlux Fragrances (Research).

Buttacavoli added that the company is also developing a signature scent for teenage tennis ace Maria Sharapova.

Missing the sweet smell of success

Industry watchers point out that celebrities and perfumes are a match made in retail heaven.

To the stars, the multi-billion dollar fragrance market is a lucrative opportunity to mint money. But more importantly, it's the fragrance industry that's really in need of some star power to lift sagging sales.

According to market research firm NPD Group, fragrance sales last year totaled $2.8 billion, down 2 percent from 2002.

"The business has been very difficult for the last five to six years," said retail consultant Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail. A change in consumer trends is partly to blame.

Said Liebmann. "In the past, a single fragrance had a life cycle of maybe six to seven years, because people would stay loyal to a scent for a longer period of time. The life cycle is much shorter now, especially with the younger consumers, who always want the latest product."

Glamour magazine's Milewicz agreed.

"Just like younger people like to experiment in their personal lives with dating different people, it is the same thing with fashion, music, even perfumes. They want what is hot right now," Milewicz said.

One star shines brighter than the other

Simply slapping a star's name across a bottle doesn't guarantee success, especially not when the market is already crowded.

So what makes one celebrity desirable over another to fragrance makers?

"It depends on the popularity of the person and who has a large audience appeal," said Kenneth Hirst, who has designed bottles for many celebrity fragrances, including "Celine" by Celine Dion and "Still" by Jennifer Lopez.

"Celine Dion is one of the most successful recording artists of all time. She has a huge fan base and a ready-made customer for products bearing her name," Hirst said. "Similarly, Jennifer Lopez is a multi-faceted entertainer. As a brand, she has lots of longevity."

The other approach is to catch a rising star of the moment while they're hot, like the star of NBC's reality show "The Apprentice," Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump is a definition of the American success story. He's more than a business name. He's an American icon. The allure of his lifestyle is unmistakable," said Jennifer Mann, spokeswoman for Aramis Fragrances & Designer Fragrances, explaining parent company Estee Lauder's decision to market the Trump fragrance.  Top of page

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