Beauty Beat: Armani Parfums Seeks Growth Online.
By Matthew W. Evans and Jennifer Weil

NEW YORK — As Giorgio Armani Parfums continues to build upon a solid men's fragrance business, the L'Oréal-owned company is aiming to strengthen the women's side.

The firm expects to launch on Monday, an e-commerce site that executives feel eventually could become the brand's biggest door. In addition to spotlighting Armani fragrances, the site features in-depth content on the four-year-old Armani color cosmetics assortment.

Armani also is eyeing the launch of a women's fragrance in spring.

Other measures on the women's side include growing the Armani cosmetics assortment by 80 percent next year. It is now a $15 million business at retail in the U.S., according to estimates by industry sources. Part of this expansion includes introducing the line in 20 new doors next year, for a total of 50 doors by the end of next year. There's also a plan to launch skin care within the Armani cosmetics business, possibly within the next two years.

"It's definitely in our future," Jack Wiswall, president of designer fragrances at L'Oréal USA's luxury products division, said of Armani skin care. "With fragrance, color [and the addition of] skin care, we become very well rounded."

Meanwhile, "the Giorgio Armani men's fragrance business has become a leader," said Wiswall, who added that its Acqua di Giò scent, which was launched in 1997, is the number-one men's fragrance in U.S. department stores.

"The opportunity for us is to [reinforce] this position in the men's category and seize opportunities in the women's category," added Serge Jureidini, general manager of Giorgio Armani Parfums and Cosmetics at L'Oréal USA's luxury products division. "The women's category is definitely an area of growth."

The men's side generates about 80 percent of the Giorgio Armani Parfums business in the U.S., while women's accounts for the remainder.

On the men's side, the fragrance name Armani Black Code was recently changed to Armani Code.

"We made the decision with Mr. Armani," said Renaud de Lesquen, international general manager of Giorgio Armani Parfums et Cosmetiques, who was speaking in his office in Paris. "The new name is more appropriate."

De Lesquen said Armani Code was chosen primarily since it optimizes the brand's key value. He explained Armani embodies "the ultimate code of seduction for men" and added that the new name "goes well with the philosophy of going to the essential."

The Giorgio Armani scent, a Hollywood-inspired, ultraglam fragrance created as a sensual addition to its men's portfolio, first bowed in Europe in September 2004.

Since then, numerous other beauty brands have launched scents for men that include the word "black" in their names — Ralph Lauren Polo Black, Azzaro Silver Black and Paco Rabanne Black XS among them. De Lesquen concurred that the phenomenon contributed in a minor way to the word "black" being dropped from the Armani fragrance's name.

So, too, did the fact that "Black Code" might be misinterpreted as referring to an obscure 18th-century royal edict by King Louis XIV stipulating rules of ownership of slaves in Louisiana and a code of conduct concerning subjugated people.

"It is clear that that was never our intention," De Lesquen emphasized, insisting that there was never a connection.

Changing a fragrance's name after it comes to market is rare, yet not unheard of. Yves Saint Laurent Parfums, for instance, switched the appellation of its women's scent, Champagne, to Yvresse after an outcry from champagne makers in France.

De Lesquen said Armani Code's new name has in no way negatively impacted its sales at beauty bars around the world. In the U.S., for instance, the scent is expected to reach $50 million in retail sales by yearend, according to industry sources.

"The fragrance is doing fantastically," he said. "It is in the top 10 almost everywhere. We will end the year in the top five of male fragrance. Overall, the project has gone beyond our expectations."

Armani Code and Acqua di Giò combine to generate much of the brand's estimated $200 million in retail sales volume in the U.S. Together, they could reap sales of roughly $125 million in retail sales by yearend.

"From a design perspective, it was paramount to [maintain] the luxury aesthetic of the brand" on the Web site, said Ava Huang, vice president of marketing for Giorgio Armani Cosmetics. An animated "billboard vignette" will be continually updated on the site to highlight particular products. The visual gives color and imagery to the site's black motif — "Armani's signature color," said Huang.

A scrolling "beauty bar" is designed to facilitate browsing of the entire line. Shades are numbered on the site within different color categories, including foundations.

Industry sources project the site, which is accessible directly or via, could generate $2 million in sales during its first year. The brand's biggest door is now thought to generate in excess of $3 million.

The Armani cosmetics line, which comprises 300 stockkeeping units, is carried in Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Barneys New York, the Bloomingdale's store in SoHo and the designer's boutique in Las Vegas. The line's distribution base was expanded by 13 doors this year and it now stands at 30 doors including the new Web site.

Long term, the goal is to have the Armani cosmetics line follow the designer's fashion distribution and enter about 150 to 200 doors, according to Wiswall. "Basically, that's where we'd like to see it," he said.