WWD Thursday, March 24, 2005
Blu Mediterraneo Betting Less Is More
By Matthew W. Evans
NEW YORK — Acqua di Parma is feeling anything but a little blue.

The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand has high hopes for a relaunch of its Blu Mediterraneo fragrance, bath and body care collection: It’s betting a pared down, more focused line will produce better results for Acqua di Parma as a whole.

When Blu Mediterraneo was originally launched in 1999, it featured about 50 products, including five fragrances. Those will be discontinued this year and a redesigned Blu Mediterraneo collection will comprise 15 items, including three scents, which will be launched worldwide on April 1.

While there are far fewer products in the new Blu Mediterraneo line, executives for Acqua di Parma are expecting better sales performance from the truncated collection.

This is due in part to expanded international distribution of the line. Whereas Blu Mediterraneo was previously carried only in Italy and in the U.S., it will reach Acqua di Parma’s worldwide distribution network of 1,500 doors worldwide in 10 countries next month. In the U.S., it will be carried in 100 doors, including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

In the U.S., Blu Mediterraneo generates about 15 percent of sales of Acqua di Parma, a $10 million brand at retail. As a result of the relaunch, Blu Mediterraneo is expected to account for 25 percent of that business within the first year, a projected increase to about $2.5 million from $1.5 million. Industry sources estimate the U.S. market accounts for 20 percent of worldwide sales of Acqua di Parma.

“The in-store positioning of the prior assortment was not strong,” said Lance Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing for Acqua di Parma, who discussed the new Blu Mediterraneo strategy during a recent interview. “Some people thought ‘spa,’ some people thought ‘aromatherapy,’” he said. “What we’ve done is to refine it and make sure that it [complements] the lifestyle of Acqua di Parma.”

Patterson described this as a “chic, sober luxury culture.” Meanwhile, “Blu Mediterraneo represents a casual, hedonistic [and] natural part of the Italian lifestyle,” said Patterson. “It invokes the relaxing part of your life.” He used the metaphor of the workweek, when one might tend to be outwardly chic and sober, to describe Acqua di Parma’s core line, compared with weekend endeavors, like “going on vacation or to a seaside home” in describing Blu Mediterraneo.

Blu Mediterraneo features three fragrances: Relaxing Capri Orange, Invigorating Tuscan Cypress and Pampering Sicilian Almond, with three bath and body care products aligned with each scent. For instance, Sicilian Almond features 60- and 120-ml. eaux de toilette for $57 and $88, respectively, as well as Softening Shower Cream, 200 ml. for $35; Pampering Body Cream, 200 ml. for $58, and Soothing Body Oil, 200 ml. for $57.

Prices in the 15-item collection range from $27 for Nourishing Lip Balm SPF 10 to $88 for each of the three eaux de toilette. Blu Mediterraneo will be supported “through aggressive sampling,” according to Patterson, which will feature the so-called “discovery kit,” a sample set featuring a 2-ml. eau de toilette spray and a body care sample item.

Acqua di Parma, which was founded in 1916 with the launch of its Colonia scent, was introduced in the U.S. 10 years ago. LVMH bought a stake in the Italian brand in 2001 for an undisclosed sum and then acquired the half it did not own for $10.9 million in 2003.

When Blu Mediterraneo is re-launched next month, there will be some 75 stockkeeping units in the full Acqua di Parma assortment in the U.S., including its existing Colonia Assoluta and Iris Nobile scents. The products, which are produced in Italy, are also distributed to about 25 hotels worldwide as part of an Acqua di Parma amenities business.