Footwear brand Steve Madden is stepping into fragrance.
After 28 years in business, the brand is launching its first perfume line, just as other fast-fashion and mass retail brands are looking to fragrance as an additional way to add easy money to their bottom line. The launch consists of five fragrances, all $18, with names like “She Plays With Fire” and “We Need to Talk,” in the hopes of appealing to the brand’s large customer base, including its core base of millennials. To promote the launch, the brand is hosting a two-day pop-up, called The Factory by Steve Madden, in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.
The design of the pop-up is aimed to appeal to young millennial and Gen-Z girls, Madden’s usual target audience, particularly those attracted to “the vibe and grittiness of New York City,” said Quynh Mai, founder of digital agency Moving Image & Content, which designed the pop-up. The pop-up asked five individual artists to interpret the perfumes, resulting in giant matchbooks, aluminum foil with light-pink hearts on the wall and more. A preview event on Friday will invite 70 (unpaid) influencers to create user-generated content, as well as provide the first reviews of the five scents on social.
“Knowing the marketing value of UGC content, we shifted away from a traditional ad campaign to spread our message authentically and organically through our audience,” Mai said. “Since fragrance itself is ephemeral, a two-day pop-up with an immersive installation co-created by five different artists seemed fitting.”
Following the pop-up, the perfume will be available online and in retail stores — both its own and wholesale partners’ — with the perfumes located at the checkout counter. The brand hopes that placing perfume there will entice younger customers to make a last-minute impulse purchase.
“We want to make it impulsive. You come in and see it, and it’s only 20 bucks,” Steve Madden, design chief of the eponymous brand, said. “Beauty is huge, and it’s a good time to enter the space.”
Like many other retailers — H&M and Target, for example — the mass retail brand is latching onto the beauty boom through perfume. Perfume has high margins and is bouncing back from a rough patch of sales, so brands have the opportunity to make a profit. During the first quarter of 2018, the sale of women’s perfumes grew by 7 percent to $335 million, compared to last year, when sales for the segment were flat at the beginning of the year, according to NPD Group’s most recent market data.
The perfume launch is part of a longer “toe-to-head” strategy of branching out from footwear and into other categories, including handbags, according to a Steve Madden spokeswoman. The brand conducted focus groups to determine if its young customers were looking for a perfume from the brand. It then launched into an 18-month development of the fragrance. Overall, the Steve Madden brand has performed well over the past several quarters, with “high single-digit” percentage growth in the U.S. and greater than 30 percent growth in international markets during the second quarter of this year, according to the second-quarter earnings report released in late July.
“We have the shoes, then the bags; now we are doing different things. So now you can finish it off with a scent,” the spokeswoman said. “It’s the final touch to your outfit.”