After years of persuading consumers to carry monogrammed luggage and wear luxury clothing, Louis Vuitton is shifting its focus - albeit not entirely - to fragrance. In September, the label, owned by French conglomerate LVMH, will begin stocking its 473 stores with seven perfumes, each costing $240. Vuitton has sold fragrances before: An attempt in the 1940s was discontinued and soon forgotten. But this time the trunk maker has developed the range itself, hiring a master perfumer and setting up a fragrance laboratory in France’s lavender-rich Provence region, and has tapped actress Lea Seydoux to front its first campaign.
It’s a timely move, as sales of $3,000 handbags and $20,000 watches are seeing a larger sense of stagnation. China’s cooling economy and a spate of terror attacks around the world have some analysts bracing for the sector’s second-weakest year since 2009. Beauty rivals also are adding exclusive fragrances: L’Oreal last month agreed to buy France’s Atelier Cologne, a maker of $185 concoctions sold in high-end retailers like Harrods. Estee Lauder and Puig have also acquired niche perfumers in the past year as they outperform run-of-the-mill variants.
“At a time when luxury brand competition is so intense, you want to have something else to draw that aspirational shopper into the store,” said MainFirst Bank AG analyst John Guy. He estimates the perfumes could add more than 450 million euros ($496 million) of annual revenue in the next few years.
Per Glossy, the fragrances were developed at Louis Vutton’s new headquarters in Grasse, France, following the company’s 2013 purchase of Les Fountaines Parfumees, a perfumery with more than 350 types of plants and flowers. Michael Burke, Louis Vuiton’s chairman chief executive, told The New York Times that the five year lag between Cavallier-Belletrud’s appointment and the launch of the products was to take the time to avoid the pitfall of modern fragrances that are “far too mass and too marketed, lacking in personality.” In an effort to avoid this, the perfumes will be available only in Louis Vuitton stores.