Jill Belasco, CEO of Coscentrix, is an entrepreneur through and through. She recently spoke with Beauty Insider about her new firm, which makes and develops fragrance items for branded and private label customers. She also shared her affinity for fragrance’s latest innovation—rollerballs—and what it means to be a U.S.-based manufacturer these days. (Hint: A lot!)

BI: You’ve mentioned that one of the reasons why you’re able to keep many of your retail partners for so long is because you manufacture in-house. Why is that so important?

It’s really important. Backlash may even be the right word for it as costs have gone up in China and there are the environmental issues [there] that aren’t associated with making products here. So there’s a little bit of a “Made in the U.S.A.” thing going on now. And, by working in-house, we can turn on a dime. Yes, customers may pay a little more – but not always! We have become much more competitive with pricing as labor costs in Asia have skyrocketed.

BI: Are you seeing more retailers enter into fragrance?
Fragrance sales have been a little tough in the specialty store channel, but our growth comes not only from specialty stores and brands who need a contract filler but outside customers in Asia and Europe who want products made in the U.S.

BI: What makes the private label fragrance world challenging these days?

What’s different today is that you’re talking smaller quantities; customers buy more efficiently. The systems are such that people know what they need, they won’t have two years worth of stock, so production runs are smaller. Gone are the days when we say, ‘You have to take 100,000 pieces or we can’t do business.’ People run a tighter inventory and they need a quicker turn so suppliers have to meet that and sharpen prices.

BI: What innovations are you seeing in fragrance that most excites you?

The rollerball is one that’s interesting—it changes the way people do business, the way the consumer approaches fragrance. Walk into Sephora and there’s a wall full of rollerballs. Five years ago if you saw one it was a big deal. Rollerball scents sell for $20 or $30 and someone says, ‘I’ll try it!’ rather having to commit $60 or $80 for a 50 ml scent. Now she buys fragrance in a whole new way, like online, or she’ll wander into an apparel retailer and give their brand a shot. I feel like she tries more because of the possibility of getting a lower entry point. She now also sees fragrance as not just what she sprays on her wrist but also how she scents her environment. From a drugstore plug-in diffuser to the fragrance counter at Bergdorf’s – it’s all part of her fragrance “wardrobe”. When you read sales data on fragrance and it’s flat, it’s usually because they don’t take into consideration the range of fragrance products that are sold to a consumer.

BI: Can we expect to smell through our computers any time soon?

I think there are people in Japan who are doing studies that can electronically supply scent. We should be able to. We can stream music, so we should be able to stream fragrance, too.

Jill is one of 4 Achievers in the 2012 CEW Achiever Awards. Click
here to register to attend the Achiever Awards Luncheon on November 2nd.