Innovation and Prosperity: A Primer on Private Brand Fragrance Development

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\"RRWhy aren’t more retailers getting into the private brand fragrance game?

In the fashion retail marketplace, developing your own private fragrance brand, especially for specialty apparel chains, is a powerful way to take share from larger multi-brand stores. The single brand strategy resonates so well with consumers today, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, at all levels of the marketplace — from mainstream to luxury. Multi-brand retailers can use private or exclusive brand fragrance to enhance their businesses. These proprietary brands reinforce uniqueness; can be used as promotional tools, gifts-with-purchase, or other innovative marketing techniques.

For retailers who have the will and the vision, the development of private brand fragrance products represent an opportunity for significant financial gains combined with the strategic leverage of merchandising exclusive, compelling products. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the creativity, imagination and innovation of your company – – just what is necessary today to differentiate yourself and be successful in the retail space. While nothing is ever guaranteed (and especially not in retail), the development of private brand fragrances can potentially lead to tens of millions of retail profits.

Curated Customization

Many specialty apparel brands have already reached saturation with apparel. They’ve added accessories and footwear, which are still growing, but many have avoided getting into fragrance and beauty. However, the fragrance sector is such an attractive untapped opportunity for specialty apparel brands because private brand products demonstrate a retailer’s deep and intimate knowledge of their customers, manifested in fragrance products uniquely and specifically designed to meet their needs and desires. Private brand fragrance products are your brand promise, and they need to exhibit the personality, tone and voice of your store. They must reflect your vision, integrated into the overall retail strategy. They cannot simply be thought of as individual SKU’s or even a portfolio of SKU’s. These distinctive products are mini billboards for the store. When they are promoted as unique and exclusive, the power of the store brand will explode.

This may sound daunting at first, but fear not. Start with a manageable plan and guidelines, plus flexibility. Innovative retailers experiment, pivot and change direction when they need to. The private brand fragrance development process should not be considered as a one-time thing with the lifespan of a fruit fly. Avoid private-brand doom by sketching out the vision to lay the foundation for a line of products that will reap benefits long beyond the time invested in their up-front development.

\"shutterstock_141450352\"Brand Champions

Passion, creativity and tenacity are the tools for success. The brand concept should reside in the brains and hearts of one, or at most, a few dedicated people who are responsible for the ideation, creation and nurturing of the new products. And critical to success: management support.

A fragrance brand has to be built from the bottom up. This is not just about editing a collection or scouring the globe under the pretense of attempting to produce the best assortment. In many cases, private brand leadership falls on the shoulders of the “all-too-busy” buyer. But effective brand innovators are a special breed, and the incubation process requires thoughtful processing. Management needs to allow these innovators a bit of time to tease out the process without the constraints that can stifle innovation, such as requiring 40% sell-through over the first weekend of a product introduction. The retailer’s overall product portfolio can benefit from relaxing a few of the important financial and operational benchmarks in the short run with an eye to larger successes.

Innovation Training

Innovation, by definition, is about different and new. We all agree that newness and points of difference are required for retail success, but it takes time for newness to catch on for customers. And is often is the case, catching on generally takes slightly longer than expected. Sales associates require time to learn and internalize how to think about a new brand. This sales training can be achieved via the usual company communication channels, and the keys to success are to immerse sales personnel in the brand vision with specific, albeit simple, wording and phrases to use when talking with the customer about the private label brands. Humor or a pithy slogan can help reinforce brand persona. Such training and building awareness of a private brand fragrance product within the organization is critical to successful merchandising and sales. The last three feet of the sale cannot be overlooked with it comes to private brand merchandise

Retail DNA

Successful private brand fragrance development takes place in an environment where the retailer’s overall brand equity carries over and supports every brand in the store. The private brand opportunity leverages that equity and DNA, and re-emphasizes for customers that they can trust the store. Furthermore, store associates can feel proud to provide products and stylish products with the right quality/value ratio. Presenting private fragrance products as cool and popular can help customers overcome the fear of buying something that their friends will not like. The bonus is that private brand often provides the extra impetus in the purchase decision needed to provide a lift in sales. You can manage the risk for private brand introductions by starting small and allowing for experimentation and pivoting based upon analysis and regular evaluation.

Is Your Corporate Culture Innovative?

What makes a corporate culture conducive to private brand innovation? Management needs to have an appetite for patience. The appointed innovation leader(s) need to feel supported in their endeavors and confident that they will be judged on their assessments of the marketplace. At Tru Fragrance, we have been partners with retailers to enable their success with product development, package design, operational excellence, cost advantages, low minimums, etc. Surely, the ultimate goal, and most objective determinant of success, is the continued sell through and related profitability. But the rules for private brand fragrance innovation are based on the long view. There will be strikeouts. And there will be dramatic home runs. This process is about a batting average, not about instant perfection. And the strikeouts are teachable moments, not failures.

The culture of the organization needs to be comfortable with the concept of risk- taking. Leaders also should recognize that the traditional role of a buyer could be expanded to embrace private brand development. It can actually enliven and even augment a buyer’s overall skill set. They are naturals for the job; they already take risks in their “open-to-buy” decisions. They also are experts in the marketplace and what sells. They are already invested in giving their customers what they want.

Many specialty apparel brands have resisted getting into fragrance and beauty. Why is that? It could be fear of minimums, lack of experience in the category, misconception that they have to add an entire organization to develop these products. There is no getting around the fact that creating your own private fragrance brands can cause apprehension. There is a lot on the line for the private brand leader. Management needs to support and acknowledge the risk taken on by employees, both psychologically and professionally.

The Easy Way Out?

It is all too easy for retail executives to dismiss the private brand opportunity. There are plenty of seemingly plausible arguments (and upon superficial observation, seem very real) not to undertake such a project. Just a few: private fragrance brands cannot exist next to national brands; private brand products take too long to create; our buyers aren’t trained to create private brand fragrances; or my personal favorite, private brand fragrance brands are incompatible with fast-fashion.

Perhaps underlying these reasons, or excuses, against private brand development, is the concept that true innovation is hard, risky and scary for organizations in general, and for retail executives and employees specifically. Acknowledging this risk and keeping focused on the significant rewards is a strategy for success.

Imagination and creativity in retail is critical. It is not optional. Private brand fragrance development is one of the best opportunities for a retailer to drive newness and freshness. And the payoff, beyond being a leader in innovation and creativity? You can reap the less ephemeral rewards of increased sale and profits.



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