To Fend Off Sephora, Target Launches First Exclusive Fragrance

Target, which is in the midst of a number of aggressive private-label launches, is going a new route, introducing its first-ever exclusive fragrance. 

Called Good Chemistry, the vegan and paraben-free scents include four different collections, aimed at people’s personality: Confident and Charming, Good and Grounded, Vibrant and Playful, or Cool and Collected. And it’s just one more way the Minneapolis-based retailer hopes to woo back beauty shoppers that have increasingly turned to places like Sephora, Ulta and Amazon for their beauty needs.

“Target’s push into beauty demonstrates that they are trying to combat an increasing trend of sales shifting from mass merchandisers to specialty beauty stores (like Sephora or Ulta) and online (to platforms like Amazon),” says Tom Gehani, director of retail client strategy and research at L2, the digital think tank. “From 2011 to 2016, mass merchants like Target went from 14% of beauty sales to 12%, while specialty retailers like Sephora and Ulta grew by 22%.” 



Target is already riding high on the recent launch of private-label lines meant to help it recapture some of its former Tar-Jay swagger. For kids, for instance, it’s got Cloud Island (babies), Cat & Jack (kids’ clothing) and Pillow Fort (décor.) Hearth & Hand with Magnolia is aimed at Millennials looking to spruce up their home décor, while JoyLab and A New Day apparel are appealing to style conscious women.

And last year, it launched a K-beauty collection, a celebrity haircare line and a natural skincare brand.

But while consumers may be crazy for private-label apparel or throw pillows, fragrance could prove a more complex sell. Loyalists love their prestige fragrances, sold at department stores, but those sales are struggling: The NPD Group says in the 12-month period ended in November, they’ve gained just 1% to $3.9 billion. And celebrity fragrances are everywhere.

Still, Target’s fragrance-without-a-face launch may benefit from the one thing physical retailers can do that online can’t: Let consumers explore in person.

“Across all of the categories in their assortment, exclusivity will become increasingly important to maintaining differentiation,” says Gehani. “And fragrance and beauty, in particular, represent an area where the opportunity to “trial” the product in stores is important, and a differentiating factor Target can have over Amazon.”

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