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Arden steps into tricky teen zone

New York, March 14 (Reuters): Cosmetics maker Elizabeth Arden Inc., a company not particularly known for its teenage appeal, is bringing pop princess Britney Spears on board to develop her own fragrance.

The move is risky, analysts said, as Spears’ image as an oft-veering out of control entertainer is a far cry from staunch Elizabeth Arden fragrance brands for mature women like Red Door, White Shoulders and Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion.

On the other hand, it’s a chance to penetrate a younger and broader market than the company has ever reached, analysts said.

Under the licensing deal announced Friday, 22-year-old Spears will develop and market her own line of fragrance, skincare and colour cosmetics. It will launch the fragrance first, at high-end department stores this fall.

“(Spears) is a talented, fashionable woman who appeals to a young and international consumer base,” Paul West, president of Elizabeth Arden, said in a statement. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ken Harris, partner at consumer products and retail consultancy Cannondale Associates, called the move “a very clear signal to other fragrance marketers that they’re getting into the game in a big way. It’s a bold statement”.

He said it could prove a victory for Arden, “if Britney Spears continues to release number one hits, and if she is able to maintain a sense of composure”.

Spears’ star at the record stores isn’t fading — her most recent effort, In The Zone, has sold more than five million copies.

The same can’t be said of her innocent allure, after the past year’s quickie marriage in Las Vegas and annulment two days later, and constant tabloid reports of cigarette smoking and booze-fuelled rampages.

“Britney has the image of a pop icon. What Arden bought was the pop icon without any of the baggage,” Harris added.

Analyst David Maura of First Albany Corp. said the deal is certainly more controversial than Arden’s signing Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2002 to promote the Red Door fragrance.

Hiring Zeta-Jones — who is in her thirties — was the first step in Arden’s strategy to target a more youthful customer, and even then “there was a lot of discussion”, he said. “But she brought the brand back to the mainstream.”

Maura said he expected the Spears line to be successful once its distribution has moved from the department stores to the mass-market retailers — Arden’s mainstay.

In contrast to Spears’ marketing deals with PepsiCo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s America Online in the past, Harris said the Arden line’s success is directly linked to her name, akin to Martha Stewart’s Everyday housewares at Kmart.

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