The European fine fragrance market is a mature one and struggled to put on a 1% sales increase in 2013, according to Euromonitor. Still experiencing the aftereffects of the economic downturn, European consumers were more circumspect about their spending on luxury items, looking for discounted bargains or trading down to smaller pack sizes.
Overall, fine fragrance sales in Western Europe reached $9.6 billion, two-thirds of which were in the women’s fragrance category. Both men’s and women’s fine fragrances scraped a 1% increase in sales in 2013. Women’s fine fragrance sales in France, Italy and Spain declined year-on-year, while Germany and the UK bucked the European trend, increasing by 1.8% and 4.7%, respectively. The UK has proved to be particularly resilient in recent years, boosted by the success of new pillar launches from major brands and the growth of niche luxury fragrances.
Fragrance usage is well established with a high percentage of consumers applying it as part of a daily routine. Recent data from Mintel show that the traditional formats of eau de toilette and eau de parfum are commonly used in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Daily usage is highest among French consumers, with 51% applying scent once a day, compared to 43% of Germans, 38% of Italian and 36% of Spanish. A smaller proportion apply fragrance more than once a day—11% French and 10% German. Some 22% of Italian and 17% of Spanish consumers put on fragrance more than once a day.
Fragrance Launch Mania
Fine fragrances have become fragmented due to the large number of new launches coming not only from established brands but also from fashion retailers such as Desigual, Mango, Victoria’s Secret and Hollister. It seems that everyone is trying her hand at launching fragrance, from established toiletries brands such as L’Occitane (Pivoine) and Roger et Gallet (Fleur de Figuier) to the perfumers behind successful brands, such as Serge Lutens.
The global trend for new fragrance launches continues unabated, according to Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World 2014, which recorded 1,432 new fragrances in 2013, the majority of which (953) were in the women’s fragrance sector. New men’s fragrances reached 286 and there has been a growing trend for unisex fragrances (193).
According to Mintel, 68% of European fragrance launches in 2013 were women’s and 20% were male fragrances. The remainder were unisex fragrances or ones not clearly positioned as women’s or men’s.
NPD Group, which also tracks European fine fragrance trends, found that the most successful new launches did not impact much on sales growth, with the exception of the UK. In the UK, the top three fragrances were valued at 5%, 2.2% in France, 1.6% in Italy and 1.2% in Spain. The UK was where fragrance launches made the most impact on sales growth: 17% of sales growth came from new women’s fragrances and 20% from new men’s brands.
Successful new women’s fragrance launches in 2013 included Estée Lauder Modern Muse, Giorgio Armani Si, Elizabeth Arden Untold, Jimmy Choo Flash, Marc Jacobs Honey and Our Moment by boy band One Direction. In men’s, the top new brands included Paco Rabanne Invictus, Hugo Red, Polo Red, Gucci Guilty Black Pour Homme.
Dealing with such a large number of launches has created a market with a great deal of diversity. Each year, different segments take on more or less prominence, such as celebrity, which is beginning to wane. Meanwhile, niche fragrances are attracting a lot more interest, with 395 launches in 2013. Notable niche launches include Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily, Laine de Verre by Serge Lutens (translated as “glass wool”), Outrageous from Editions de Parfums by Frederic Malle and Ingrid by Andy Tauer. All the while, multinationals have been eyeing up the success of niche and many now have their own private collections, enabling them to reach consumers who do not want to wear mainstream scents.
Popular Ingredient Trends
For some time, the trend for sweet, fruity and gourmand fragrances has been strong especially among new brands targeting the youth market. “Fun” fragrances, such as See by Chloe, La Petite Robe Noire by Guerlain and Dior Addict Eau Délice have targeted teens and women in their twenties who have disposable income and use fragrance daily.
According to Mintel, floral notes, such as rose, jasmine, tuberose and ylang ylang continue to be popular and were included in many 2013 new launches. Examples include Balenciaga L’Eau Rose, Valentina Acqua Floreale, Michael Kors Glam Jasmine and White Musk Smoky Rose.
The growth and acceptance of oud as an important ingredient has been significant in the creation of new fragrance brands.
“For some years, international fragrance brands have worked with oud, a cherished Middle Eastern ingredients also known as oud or agarwood,” noted Emmanuelle Moeglin, fragrance analyst, Mintel. “Originally, brands chose oud as a way of tapping the profitable Middle Eastern fragrance market, but in 2013 they selected it to appeal to Western tastes, too.”
Oud was the primary note of many ultra-prestige launches for both Western and Middle Eastern markets.
According to Moeglin, the growing popularity of richer and exotic perfumes in the West has put oud at the heart of Western fragrance olfactory construction and has taken it beyond nice collections to a more mainstream position.
“The limited edition of Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb, Rose Explosion and Benefit’s Under my Spell Noelle were both designed with Western consumers in mind and did not hesitate to advertise the presence of oud in their fragrance pyramids,” she added.
New Ways with Fragrance
Standing out in the fragrance market is no mean feat, particularly within the retail arena. Recently, there has been a trend for brand boutiques, limited mainly to the larger companies. For example, Guerlain has refurbished its flagship store on the Champs-Elysées and Dyptique has opened a concession in Liberty department store. Meanwhile, London’s Covent Garden has become a hub for premium brand boutiques that include Chanel, Dior and Burberry.
It’s another way to engage with consumers to help them navigate the vast number of brands on sale and find the right fragrance.
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Imogen Matthews is a respected consultant, journalist and researcher focusing on trends in the beauty industry. She regularly contributes to many of the world’s foremost beauty trade titles. Every year in April, she publishes The Premium Market Report, focusing on trends in the UK premium beauty markets.