Fine Fragrance Trends

October 31, 2006

Celebrities hold steady in the fragrance market while organics make their way into the perfume arena.

Fine Fragrance Trends

Celebrities hold steady in the fragrance market while organics make their way into the perfume arena.

LaToyah Burke
Associate Editor

Fragrance has the ability to make a good first impression. Whether it’s that cute guy who just walked by or grandma coming to stay for the holidays, the scents that we wear can have a lasting effect on our perceptions of each other. With so many fragrances available, it’s hard to distinguish what’s good in a mixed bag of mass, specialty and prestige fragrances.

Charted Choices

Fine fragrance is not just a segmented market. It has become multi-faceted, offering consumers a smorgasbord of high-quality, multi-dimensional adventures in the name of smell. From customized fragrances made with essential oils, to celebrity endorsed/created perfumes and luxury market moguls venturing off into scent, the possibilities in this lucrative industry are endless. Whichever the consumer chooses, the fine fragrance industry is ready to point her in the appropriate direction.

Personal care innovations that utilize organic ingredients are growing in popularity.
U.S. fragrance sales rose just 1.8% last year to slightly more than $6 billion (retail), according to Lauren Beth of Euromonitor International. Of that total, prestige fragrance rose 3.2% to more than $4.7 billion, while sales of mass market scents declined 2.8% to about $1.3 billion. Taking a closer look at each sector, men’s prestige fragrance sales rose 5.3% last year to more than $1.3 billion, while women’s prestige fragrance sales rose 2.4% to more than $3.3 billion. In the mass segment, men’s fragrance sales declined 1.2% to $428 million, while women’s scents fell 3.5% to $853 million. Taking a broader view, Euromonitor puts global fine fragrance sales at $27.6 billion (retail) an increase of 4.9%. Of that total, premium fragrance sales rose 3.2% to nearly $16.8 billion and mass fragrance sales jumped 7.6% to $10.8 billion.   


Celebrities, be they actors/actresses, models, athletes, musicians even dolls have the power to sell fragrances. Gone are the days when premium fragrance was associated with a well-known, established brand noted for delivering elegance, high fashion and accessories to highly affluent consumers. Prestige scent is being offered in ways that relate to all types of consumers. Marketing strategies and celebrity endorsements let consumers know that  fragrance is the accessory to an otherwise boring, scentless lifestyle.

 It seems that we have blurred the lines a bit, in an effort to encompass those entities that are outside the confines of the classic celebrity. If, according to definition, a celebrity is a person, widely recognized in society and is one who commands a high degree of public and media attention, then a celebrity entity can be the entire cast of a television show, a doll, member of an award winning hall of fame baseball team, so on and so forth. If the premise is that a premium fragrance is one made popular by the brand it has associated itself with, we’ve got a lot to cover.

AMC Beauty created the OC scents for him and her in an effort to appeal to the show's fan base.
U.S. mass fragrance sales are dwindling but globally they are strong according to Claire Briney of Euromonitor International. “Due to a lack of new product innovation both men’s and women’s mass fragrances sales declined in 2005.” Ms. Briney attributed the decline to increased accessibility to premium fragrances in mass market channels like Wal-Mart, drug-store chains and Target.

In the celebrity realm, the prestige launch from Sean John, Unforgivable, performed surprisingly well. Due to its success, the fragrance will be launched internationally in spring of 2007. Betsey Johnson an avant-garde designer, whose fashion has its own audience,  launched her Betsey Johnson Fragrance collection in the fall. It will undoubtedly make an impressive showing with its proposed colorful audacity, ultra femininity and sensual signature.

To the plethora of individuals deemed celebrities in the name of fine fragrance, add Vera Wang, noted wedding dress designer to the stars. She has just recently launched Vera Wang Princess, an ode to youth and young women everywhere. The fragrance is being touted as incorporating the magical and the mystical, fearless and fascinating. The prestige scent dares fragrance-loving fashionistas to visit VeraWangPrincessBeauty.com and unleash their inner princess. Visitors will find the Vera Wang Princess game, amusing yet highly developed artwork by Izak, behind-the-scenes footage from the advertising campaign with Camilla Belle, prizes and even a MySpace template complete with instant messenger icons and wallpapers.

Celebrities in the name of sport are also getting in on the action. David Beckham, acclaimed soccer player and his wife, Victoria of Spice Girls fame, have signed a deal with Coty in which to create a Beckham Beauty House of fragrances and ancillaries. The first fragrance Instinct, for him has fared well with consumers in Europe. Since its debut the cologne has sold $6 million in the U.K. alone. Intimately, a his-and-her fragrance hopes to tap into the consumer by relating the power-couples presence and carefully crafted image to the picture-perfect marriage the couple portrays. 

There have also been extensions to the fine fragrance category. A partnership between WBCP and AMC Beauty launched the O.C.’s his and her fragrances. According to Karen McTier, executive vice president of domestic licensing and worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, “AMC Beauty is known for creating wonderful fragrances tied to recognizable brands and bringing them to the young consumer.”

Vera Wang challenges young women to unleash their inner princess.
The juxtaposition of a hit-television show and a fragrance has been continued with the cast of Desperate Housewives closing in on this area of the market as well. Fragrances from both have proven fragrance can be a successful extension of the television empires from which they derive. The celebrity bandwagon doesn’t stop there. It seems that everyone connected to the celebrity world is getting his or her slice of the fine fragrance pie.

Shifting Focus

The fine fragrance market has undergone some major changes. A shift from those fragrances that utilize a traditional alcohol base to those that are using organic alcohol is just one change. Also non-traditional companies are mixing things up a bit by marketing luxury fragrances. Some of which adjoin well-known luxury brands with established scent makers. Another shift stems from consumers looking to take control over the products they use for daily grooming, enter customizable fragrances.

Consumers want hygienic and grooming aids to reflect a vegan or perhaps organic lifestyle. They are searching for products that boast of natural, food grade ingredients.

According to Patricia S. Pao, The Pao Principle, “overall U.S. cosmetics and toiletries market grew by a respectable 3.5% in 2005 while natural personal care grew by 14.6%. This fast-growing category represented a small percentage of total fragrance sales in 2005 but the demand for non-synthetic fragrance is growing.”

The emphasis on customizable fragrance comes from health concerns and allergies that sometimes have a perceived link to synthetically produced fragrances. Consumers are turning back to essential oils, which are free of phthalates and synthetic aldehydes. Pao also suggests that offerings in this segment will be priced competitively, if not lower, since they’ll be devoid of advertising costs.
A newcomer to the fragrance business Mobiado, a luxury mobile phone manufacturer from the U.K. has teamed up with well-respected luxury fragrance manufacturer out of Canada, Bissol, to create its first cologne for men. Perfume No. 919 (Mobiado Limited Edition) is the first fragrance designed specifically for the sophisticated luxury mobile phone user. The fragrance boasts an Australian lime note in addition to what are described by Mobiado as top notes of mandarin, juniper berry, elemi; middle notes of white musk, bamboo and oak moss; and base notes of vanilla, cedar wood and sandalwood. Moreover, each bottle contains a small piece of solid yellow cedar wood to make the connection that similar to fine wine, the scent continues to age over time and produce a continuously evolving scent.
 Mobiado's Bissol No. 919 bottle is made of aluminum and incorporates an O-ring to prevent leaks.

As organic ingredients become mainstays in a more eco-friendly lifestyle, fragrance makers have to take note. “We are looking into organics as a means of manufacturing fine fragrance. Organic ingredients are not easy to find and are even harder to secure approval for use, but we recognize that organics are becoming an increasingly important addition to lifestyle,” said Ralph Macchio, senior vice president of research and development, Coty Inc.

Major players like Coty continue to post strong numbers and growth within the fragrance market. Fragrance accounts for 65% of Coty’s sales which ranks them at No.1 according to Euromonitor.
Though the organic segment of the prestige fragrance market is perhaps under-developed, Nature’s Gate Organics, based in Los Angeles C.A., a pioneer in natural beauty and personal care products, recently introduced three scents as part of its Fragranza collection, which utilize certified organic alcohol.

According to company executives, the collection prides itself on being the inaugural prestige-quality fragrance collection that is phthalate-free, formulated from flower, fruit and plant essence-based fragrances and uses organic alcohol distilled from certified organically grown grain.

“The idea of using 100% certified organic alcohol in fragrance is a novel one, and one that is totally in keeping with the Nature’s Gate approach to beauty and health,” said Casi Hudson, director of marketing at Nature’s Gate. “It offers the ultimate in self-expression.”

The three scents, Labrinto, Presento and Sicuro are designed to interact with each wearer’s skin chemistry. They are available at health food stores, pharmacies, drugstores and grocery stores as well as on the company website.

New Homes for Some

Another change has taken place in form of ownership. Some familiar scents have new homes, with recent acquisition proposals by Elizabeth Arden, Victory International and Inter Parfums.

Brand licenses and certain assets previously owned by Riviera Concepts Inc. have been acquired by Elizabeth Arden, such as, the Badgley Mischka fragrance, Alfred Sung’s Sung, Shi and Jewel, the Hummer fragrance for men, which is partly owned by General Motors and other designer brands which include Nanette Lepore, Cynthia Rowley, LuLu Guinness and others. In mid-August Parlux Fragrances Inc. announced plans to sell the rights to Perry Ellis to Victory International, however, at press time Parlux rescinded the offer. Inter Parfums a mass fragrance producer recently acquired Van Cleef & Arpels rights from YSL. Inter Parfums is noted for prestige fragrances Burberry, Diane Von Furstenberg and Christian Lacroix among others.

What Boys and Girls Want

Fine fragrance executives have sought innovative ways to lure younger consumers into a segmented market that has already been reserved for the more affluent, older consumers. Statistics compiled from the WSL Strategic Retail “How America Shops” report show that purveyors of fine scent, both male and female, prefer to pick up their fragrance of choice from department stores but that younger shoppers will frequent specialty stores or big box stores in search of their favorite scent.

The market has taken notice of this trend by offering specialty store brand fragrances from mainstays like Gap and Banana Republic, which are noted for their commanding consumer base within the youth market. In the personal care sector, recent advertisements reflect an overhaul, driven by Inter Parfums, intended to reintroduce prestige fragrance to the Banana Republic brand accompanied by a similar effort with Gap to follow in 2007. Previously, forays into personal care by both companies did little to substantiate their claim in the cosmetic market. This venture is expected to increase sales within the brand by extending the well-known name and growing its image as more than just a clothing retailer.

According to Karen Grant, senior beauty industry analyst at NDP, “education is key, it’s important for companies to get their message across to younger consumers who they wish to bring into the marketplace.”

A large percentage of males in younger age groups (13-17) are leaving the prestige cologne category, due to the overwhelming popularity of Axe and Tag brand cologne sprays. To remedy the situation experts say marketers need to be able to transition the Axe and Tag wearers to fine fragrance brands and introduce younger consumers to higher-end fragrance in one seamless step.

 Puig teamed up with Barbie to launch "B," which is sold with a choice of matching belt or tank top.
Not-so-famous celebrity contenders are teaming up with authorities in the name of scent and vying for a stake in the premium fragrance claim. Barbie, a well-known brand, first introduced young girls to its fragrance item Barbie Pink perfume. Teaming up with Puig, Barbie will target girls in the tween/pre-teen group, ages 8-13, with “B.”

Men’s Sales Slip

Men’s fragrance sales are relatively flat, according to the “How America Shops” report compiled by WSL Strategic Retail. The report claims that 71% of males surveyed are making the same amount of fragrance purchases with 24% buying less and 5% buying more. This is a 19% decrease in spending from 2004.

Even fashion house veterans have reworked their strategies for marketing prestige scents. Yves Saint Laurent introduced L’Homme Yves Saint Laurent in September. It is targeted to young men entering the fine fragrance market for the first time. The goal is to graduate a young man from the body spray category into the next realm of aroma. The YSL fragrance is for the sure-of-himself type of man, the man who has solidified his position within the work force. The target audience for this fragrance is the 25-30-year-old crowd, the younger man who wants to be taken seriously. Advertisements featuring actor Olivier Martinez have already grabbed the attention of would be gentlemen. L’Homme Yves Saint Laurent promises to assert a man’s style with masculine seduction.

Let’s not forget the ladies. Although they have the overwhelming power in the fragrance buying market, WSL Strategic Retail points out in the “How America Shops” report, that there has been a significant change in spending during the past year. In 2005, 62% of women matched their fragrance spending of the previous year while 30% bought less perfume than last year and only 7% bought more.

Department stores and specialty beauty stores are holding on to the fragrance shopper. However, older shoppers are going to the department stores while young shoppers look toward specialty stores. 

Available at just about 2,000 department and specialty stores, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely is now being accompanied by its sister scent. Lovely Liquid Satin is the new addition to Coty’s prestige line partnership with Ms. Parker. This fragrance is not at all like its predecessor; it’s an alcohol-free, silicone-based sprayable scent.

Additionally, there are two ways to achieve the sensation of Liquid Satin, in a serum spray 3.4 oz. for $65 and a serum wand, .15 oz., which rolls on and is easily carried in one’s purse (a feature that appeals to young consumers in search of convenience) for $30. The bottle itself is the only thing that remains similar, Ms. Parker opted for a frosted glass as opposed to the clear glass original.

Direct Sellers

Though Avon is one of the biggest fragrance makers in the U.S., direct selling empire Mary Kay is attempting to make a contribution to the prestige fragrance sector. Mary Kay recently launched Affection, a modern, oriental, long-lasting chypre. Mary Kay’s first fragrance launch in five years, Affection will attempt to take consumers away from the body-splash and mass fragrance sector and introduce them to fine fragrance.

“We anticipate Affection will be the biggest fragrance launch in Mary Kay’s history and it’s the next stop in expanding our product offering to today’s modern woman. It is a contemporary, expressive and unique signature scent,” said Ivette Franco, Mary Kay vice president of brand development.

Affection was created by Mary Kay’s own fragrance experts along with Claude Dir, Quest International’s vice president and perfumer. In an effort to echo the fact that a woman’s fragrance choices are an extension of her spirit, “Fragrance is an emotional purchase and women want an upscale fragrance that combines complex notes to develop a signature scent that is luxurious and captivating,” said Mr. Dir.

Avon, on the other hand, has an unconventional approach to prestige fragrance. Avon introduces a celebrity-endorsed fragrance from seven-time baseball All-Star, Derek Jeter this month. Driven, the scent, being touted as the signature men’s fragrance, is the first installment of a line of products to be marketed under the Derek Jeter brand. “Life without limits” is the proclamation being made for the line of men’s grooming products to be offered by Avon in conjunction with Mr. Jeter.

The fine fragrance industry is consistently welcoming newcomers like Sarbez, which sells its fragrance of the same name directly to consumers via the website, www.sarbezperfume.com. Sarbez’s creator, Peggy Dean claims to have created a unique fragrance in a marketplace. Sarbez is a fine perfume offered in a spray bottle, which Ms. Dean attributes to time and economy.

According to the website, Ms. Dean states, “In our fast paced world, you can choose to wear perfume with a couple of quick mist sprays and be on your way.”

In the second quarter of 2006, according to Unity Marketing’s Luxury Tracking report 32% of luxury consumers spent their luxury dollars on fragrance and other beauty products that’s up slightly from 31% in the first quarter. In 2005 luxury consumers spent 68% on fragrance while in the first half of 2006 luxury consumers purchased about 60%. When it came to how these items are purchased, 57% of luxury shoppers said a brand or designer that they trust influenced their last purchase. With the launch of Driven, Avon is sure to capture a cadre of Yankee fans.

Sustaining Interest

Though interest in unisex colognes has waned in recent years, there seems to be resurgence via premium fragrance producers. Brands aside from Coty’s CKone and CKbe are getting into the androgynous zone. Jean Paul Gaultier has claimed to bridge the sexual gap between male and female with its Gaultier 2. Hermes introduced Un Jardin Sur le Nil, a summer fragrance intended for both genders. This effort may be a nod to the men’s grooming sector and the effort to create a unisex medicine cabinet in U.S. and Western European homes.

Peering deeper into changes within the fine fragrance market there is a cultural divide amongst who’s buying what between Hispanics and African-Americans. Also noted in the WSL Strategic Retail “How America Shops” report, Hispanic women are buying less perfume than they did last year. They are buying 47% less than previous years, 43% are purchasing with the same frequency and 10% are purchasing more perfume.

African-American women are buying the same amount of perfume at a rate of 59% while 46% are buying less and 23% are buying more. Social and economic trends continue to dictate the patterns of discretionary spending. According to WSL Strategic Retail’s report, within both Hispanic and African-American markets “core products such as food and prescriptions saw significant increases.” In the future we can look forward to marketing strategies that address an ethnic market.

Spending on hair care, skin care and clothing was all up significantly over the previous year, according to the report. No doubt, this has to do with the increase in advertisement spending dedicated to target groups. In order to experience the gains that were found in the hair and skin care markets among ethnic groups, advertisers within the fine fragrance market will need to target these groups specifically with products that meet the needs of each.

Looking to land that job, a signature fragrance should make a statement; it should declare independence and speak of an earnest work ethic. Be the audacious, spontaneous woman, not unlike Hilary Swank who wears Guerlain’s Insolence. Trying to revive a flat-lining relationship that’s had its fill of working late and unappealing TV-dinners? Try one of Demeter’s Natural Attraction line, perhaps Always Sexy which couples ylang-ylang, regulate the adrenaline flow and relax the nerves, with the edible scents of vanilla, ginger, honey and nutmeg and tops it off with patchouli, known to be a classic aphrodisiac. To connect with that inner-diva/fashionista, try the seductive, bold scent for women Baby Phat Goddess. When it comes to the search and selection of scent, albeit overwhelming, there is alas, something for everyone.