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Baby Perfume in France: The Sweet Smell of Success

February 9, 1994

PARIS (AP) _ Toilet water for tykes?

Manufacturers are hot on the scent of an expanding new market: perfumes for petites.

With Guerlain’s launch of ″Petit″ in April, the prestigious perfumer joins others already selling to children through their mothers.

″Petit″ smells of natural flower and fruit scents, from camomile to rose and violet. If baby doesn’t go for it, Maman might. The frosty bottles in pretty yellow boxes sell for about $33.

The children’s scent market was worth $22 million last year and is growing more than 10 percent a year, according to the French Perfume Federation.

That’s double the rate of growth in general perfume-product sales.

″We’re looking to become the leader in the children’s market,″ said Bernard Fornas, marketing manager for Guerlain.

Don’t call them perfumes. Toiletries for babies generally contain no alcohol. Older children’s fragrances are about 30 percent alcohol.

The best seller is Tartine et Chocolat’s ″Ptitsenbon″ (meaning little one smells good), distributed in association with Givenchy. The toiletries come in baby-blue packages, the gel and mousse in teddy-bear bottles.

The Givenchy-Tartine line for baby earned $8.5 million last year, up 25 percent from the previous year.

″I think clean babies smell fine by themselves, and don’t need toilet water,″ said Mathieu Clayeux, a hotel manager and father of two.

His wife, Veronique, disagreed. ″Our girls, 4 and 6, have used Tartine et Chocolat, given as a baptism present. We liked it, they liked it, and now the older girl is asking for some kind of cologne for herself. At school a nice perfume and bottle are becoming a kind of status symbol.″

Privileged French children were ″scented″ as far back as the 1930s by the likes of toiletries producer Roger et Gallet.

Then came Mahel, a fragrance launched in 1986 by a children’s wear manufacturer.

Other companies soon followed suit, including Jacadi, Yves Rocher and Annick Goutal, who named her products for her children: Camille and Charlotte, and Hadrien for boys.

Shao-ko uses cartoon figures to give its packaging kid-appeal. Toilet water comes in alphabet block boxes with Minnie and Mickey on them; a big gift box opens up like a Babar house.

″Kids love our toyland aspect,″ said Alexandre Bigle, the president and founder of Shao-ko, which did $2.8 million in sales in 1993, 30 percent over 1992.