Enticing Uninspired Consumers

November 11, 2005

After Sept. 11, challenges remain on how to get women to the fragrance counter.

The aftermath of September 11 kept an already slumping market in a downward spiral and an "uninspired" consumer was born. This was the topic of The Fragrance Foundation's fall 2002/winter 2003 trends forecast, "Great Expectations, motivating the uninspired consumer," in May.

The Ladies' Home Journal (LHJ) conducted a series of polls, the first of which coincided with Sept. 11. In these polls, women said they focused less on themselves and more on the nation. Prior to Sept. 11, women were concerned with simplifying life, but afterward, wanted to regain control and future certainty. The most intriguing observation was that the recession really wasn't that bad, yet consumers changed their buying behavior.

"This was the first recession in history where spending wasn't down," said David Lagani, vice president and publisher of LHJ at Meredith Publishing. "But women were shopping for what they needed, not what they wanted."

In a January poll, LHJ readers said even though there were great deals in the market, there was a lack of quality and assortment. An April poll found women were more concerned with the war on terrorism than economic conditions. The opposite was true in January, illustrating the increased need for women to feel secure.

A hardened woman emerged from the advent of Sept. 11, according to Myrna Blyth, editorial director, Meredith Publishing. This entailed a woman who knew she held up the economy and had to maintain some normalcy.

"After 9/11, women acted differently. Their security was threatened in a very direct way and they had a very tough-minded reaction," noted Ms. Blyth. "Traditionally, women have not been enthusiastic about their involvement in war. But whether it was their abiding concern for security or the fight against terrorism, women got involved."

For "not needed" items, LHJ's April survey showed convenience and service were three times more important than price, and if it was a "special" product, especially something memorable, women were six times more likely to spend a great deal of money. "Fragrance, for a variety of reasons, fits that bill," insisted Mr. Lagani.

Fragrance has also changed dramatically in the past decade from luxurious items to a holistic experience, lifting the burden of today's stresses.

"In the last 10 years, the industry has caught up to the notion that fragrance is important," said Annette Green, president of The Fragrance Foundation. "Well-being is what fragrance is about today in addition to luxury. But both need to be there to create a successful fragrance."

Like Rosie the Riveter, women today realize their impact on the economy. The challenge is tempting them to buy fragrance.
So what do consumers prefer these days? The Fragrance Foundation's Fall/Winter 2002/2003 Trends Report revealed the women's fragrance market features light and fruity fragrances during the day and floriental scents with a twist at night. As for the men's fragrance market, fresh and spicy notes are worn in the daytime and classic heavier scents in the nighttime.

Kellyanne Conway, president of the polling company, said despite the androgynous response to war, consumers' view on fragrance is very gender-specific. Women primarily use fragrance to feel good about themselves, while men apply it to be more attractive. Yet both agree an established brand is more important than a new brand, Ms. Conway said.

"Women are brand-loyal, but not brand monogamous," noted Ms. Conway. "Consumers will pay more for quality, and the one non-categorical word that means quality to consumers is 'freshness.' This is so important to the notion of fragrance."

Ms. Conway suggested an un-tapped fragrance category is the mothers-to-be-someday population, specifically women ages 28-40. These women expect to have kids and base their life decisions on this outlook. The Fragrance Foundation also pointed to trends emerging in the infants/children market with light aromachology, while teens demand individualistic scents.

Some experts believe that an established brand is not the answer to slumping sales. "Customers are still attracted to newness," insisted Barbara Zinn Moore, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, Lord & Taylor. "It makes the fragrance special and memorable."

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