• Pamela Brill

Claire Burke

For Claire Burke,celebrating 50 years in the home fragrance business evokes the sweet smell of success. The company was formed when its namesake blended flowers and herbs to create Claire Burke Potpourri. Today, Claire Burke maintains its stronghold in home fragrance market. Gifts & Decorative Accessories spoke with Mark Grodsky, president and COO of the company's Esscentual Brands, about how Claire Burke balances new product development with its core brand.

Gifts & Decorative Accessories: How did founder Claire Burke harness her experience in interior design to launch a business in home fragrance?

Mark Grodsky: Claire Burke realized that home fragrance was an extension of interior design. She knew that even the most extraordinary room wasn't complete without the right accessories and an exquisite scent to tie it all together. With a $200 investment, she launched her business creating combinations of botanical elements and complex fragrances, which became her trademark.

GDA: What was the company's initial product, and how was it marketed?

MG: Claire began by mixing dried flowers and herbs in her bathtub to create our flagship product, Original Potpourri. As sales grew, operations moved to an old brick house that could accommodate consumer demand. Deciding to expand their business, Claire and her husband took their products on the road. They stopped at every Virginia gift store to sell their hand-mixed potpourri. Product lines grew as the times changed, with packaging and quality product still valued as the cornerstone of the brand.

GDA: What have been some of the company's challenges?

MG: In the early days, we were nearly the only brand in home fragrance. Since then, it's turned into a competitive market — not only with new brands, but also product and fragrance development.

Additionally, the entire face of retail has changed. Claire Burke has adapted to this environment by becoming involved in various multichannel marketing efforts. Last January, we launched our retailer website, www.myesscentualbrands.com, which allows gift merchants to place orders, view product information, download sales materials and review their account history 24/7.

GDA: How will Claire Burke commemorate its 50th anniversary?

MG: We've launched two collectible items for limited release: a limited edition glass vase filled with Original Potpourri, and our exclusive Eau de Parfum, also offered in the Original fragrance.

GDA: How has Claire Burke responded to industry trends?

MG:We consistently work with fragrance houses, the Color Institute and suppliers to determine the latest trends. Although packaging, products and fragrances are continuously updated to reflect the contemporary Claire Burke customer, Claire's vision and passion for home fragrance remain the inspiration for the brand.

Pamela BrillPamela Brill | Editor-at-Large, Gifts and Decorative Accessories

Pamela Brill, the proud mother of two young daughters, has been writing about parenting and children's products for over a decade. Before she began her freelance writing career, she served at the helm of two industry publications: Small World, which specialized in baby products, and Playthings, which is now part of Gifts & Decorative Accessories. She is currently an Editor-at-Large for Gifts & Decorative Accessories. Her previous blog postings can be viewed at www.talkingwalnut.com

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