Fans gather at Macy's to see Justin Beiber and the launch of his perfume… (Jennifer S. Altman, For…)
Reporting from New York — — Macy's Herald Square is teeming with tweenage girls this muggy, late June afternoon. One of them, Miranda Santiago, has chosen to spend part of her vacation from Argentina camped outside the store, near a life-sized cardboard cutout of singer Justin Bieber promoting his just-released fragrance for women, Someday. Never mind that most of the "women" here today are in middle school.
"I love him! I love him!" wails Santiago. "When I use the perfume, I feel him!" She and the others are vying to be among the first 325 to buy Bieber's $135 VIP gift set the following morning, which comes with a chance to meet Bieber at Macy's later in the week.
Bieber himself saunters down the purple carpet two days later, ensconced in rings of security, as 300-some fans shriek in unison. He's already finished a "Today" show appearance that morning,
during which Bieber circled Rockefeller Plaza spritzing wrists with perfume.
As Bieber mounts the stage, the chanting swells: "Justin, Justin, Justin." He stares blankly into the swirl of journalists, fans, store employees and perfume execs. Then he instinctively straightens up, remembers to smile, and calls out: "OK, love you, peace," before heading offstage.
The 17-year-old singer sold more than 3.7 million albums, nearly 14 million digital tracks and 987,730 concert tickets in the U.S. in 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan and Pollstar. So why, he's asked in the green room of the "Today" show, is he bothering with perfume, with all net profits being donated to charity?
"I wanted to create my own [scent] that I liked on a girl," he says with all the succinct polish of a well-edited press release. Bieber acknowledges that perfume is also a great way to interact with fans. "I'm able to be, like, 'Oh, you're wearing Someday.' And it's just — I don't know," he says. Then he shoots a look at one of his handlers. "And I wanted it to be charity as well."
Bieber's arrival as a perfumer is another de rigueur part of the 21st century celebrity lifestyle, as much a part of the portfolio as a robust Facebook page, an active Twitter feed and an adopted charity. The trend has even become part of TV content itself: an episode of E!'s reality show "Khloe & Lamar" followed the couple sampling scents while developing their new unisex fragrance, Unbreakable.
"Most talent in this day and age are not only focused on being an actor, they're focused on creating a sort of 360-degree wheel of opportunity for themselves," says Peter Hess, CAA's co-head of commercial endorsements. Hess helped put together the deal for Sarah Jessica Parker's hugely successful perfume, Lovely. "Now clients are wanting equity and ownership of companies and stuff like that."
Though sales of celebrity luxury perfumes have declined in the U.S. — from $168 million in 2005 to $106.2 million in 2010, according to market research firm NPD — there are actually more star fragrances crowding store shelves than ever before. Last year saw 69 new celebrity perfume launches — as compared with 31 in 2005, says Michael Edwards, who produces one of the industry's most comprehensive databases for Fragrances of the World.
This year alone in the U.S., Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Fergie, Rihanna and Kate Walsh added their scents to the glut of Hollywood "juice," which already includes fragrances by Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Halle Berry, Paris Hilton and Celine Dion, among many others. Parker has nine perfumes, Britney Spears 10. Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Bieber's girlfriend, Selena Gomez, have fragrances in the works for 2012.
"It's a virtual rite of passage for celebrities — you almost have to have your own scent," says Chandler Burr, fragrance-culture expert and author of "The Perfect Scent." "If you're willing to put in the face time, it's a phenomenal way to talk with fans. If you do it, and it's a success, it's insanely lucrative." That money, in standard licensing deals, typically comes from royalties of net sales — on average a range of 4% to 6%. Sales of Bieber's Someday have been through the roof, netting over $3 million for Macy's in its first three weeks. It's considered by those in the industry one of the most successful celebrity fra?grance launches.
Left to his own devices, Bieber might have started a sneaker line — he loves shoes, he says. But perfume is more prestigious, according to Robert Hollander, president and cofounder of Give Back Brands, the new, L.A.-based philanthropic beauty company that's producing Someday with Bieber, its first client: "It solidifies that talent is major talent, particularly when you're in big department stores."