The Post-Pandemic Opportunity in Fragrance | BoF Professional, The Business of Beauty, News & Analysis

In 2020, perfume emerged as a star of the pandemic as customers turned to perfumes, colognes, candles and extra to flee the then-grim actuality. A yr later, the class has but to decelerate.
While different magnificence sectors suffered all through 2020, by August, perfume gross sales had elevated year-over-year. In the primary quarter of 2021, perfume gross sales reached $954 million, based on information from the NPD Group, an 82 % improve from the primary quarter of 2020, and a 35 % improve from pre-pandemic 2019.
“Last yr, the rise in perfume gross sales was customers eager to be transported to a distinct time. This yr, it’s all about beginning contemporary and new,” stated Larissa Jensen, vp and wonder business advisor at NPD. “They need to get on the market they usually desire a new perfume after they do.”
With momentum nonetheless robust, manufacturers are keen to take a position in the house: Ulta Beauty launched over 70 new fragrances in 2020 and plans to debut much more this yr. Beauty large Coty launched a number of fragrances this yr, with the corporate’s luxurious fragrances from Marc Jacobs, Burberry and Gucci “outperforming,” based on the corporate’s Q3 earnings report.
Smaller corporations see alternatives, too. Boy Smells, the five-year-old candle firm, launched fragrances for the primary time this yr, whereas Scentbird, the startup that mails customers perfume samples, debuted a number of new scents by its in-house perfume manufacturers Sanctuary and Confessions of a Rebel.
But at the same time as perfume gross sales soar, the business is altering. Messaging about attraction and intercourse have largely been tweaked to deal with self-care. Shoppers are more and more searching for out corporations that concentrate on sustainability and evolving gender norms. And on the subject of shopping for new scents, in shops and on-line are each vital channels, and so perfume corporations should rethink how they’ll place discovery.
Marketing That Smells New
Within the business, the advertising of perfume has shifted away from hyper-sexualised, rigidly-gendered messages.
Along with the remaining of the style and wonder industries, an rising quantity of manufacturers are experimenting with gender-neutral scents. The transfer is particularly vital to Gen-Z prospects, who’re extra comfy with gender fluidity than earlier generations. Fifty % of Gen Z-ers consider gender labels are antiquated, based on a survey from promoting insights agency Bigeye.
In perfume, the transfer towards gender neutrality dates again to 1994 with the launch of the primary unisex fragrance, Calvin Klein’s CK One, which went on to turn out to be a best-seller. But whereas CK One and different gender-neutral scents sometimes follow citrus notes, some perfume corporations are embracing stereotypically female fragrances like rose and advertising the scents to everybody. Boy Smells’ newly-debuted fragrances, for instance, are gender-neutral, however co-founder Matthew Herman stated the corporate purposefully makes use of scents which have historically been related to one gender, like rose or musk, and infrequently mixes them.
“We need to combine historically masculine and female notes and throw away outdated gender concepts that males are alleged to odor like wooden and musk and ladies odor like flowers,” he stated.
Marketing a perfume to everybody helps manufacturers solid a wider internet, an vital tactic for small manufacturers competing with perfume giants.
“If you say you’re a girl’s perfume, you pigeonhole your self, however in case you say nothing, you let anybody recognize it,” stated co-founder Alissa Sullivan, co-founder of new perfume startup Liis, which launched this month.
Still, in the “very conventional” perfume business, stated Jensen, many patrons desire gendered fragrances. But there’s nonetheless a chance to evolve. Penny Coy, vp of merchandising at Ulta Beauty, stated a number of new Ulta shops opening this yr will show fragrances categorised by model, fairly than gender, as its current shops do.
“We need to convey to the visitors that it’s completely nice to buy either-or,” stated Coy.
The tone of promoting round perfume has additionally shifted: A traditionally sexualised business, perfumes and colognes usually relied on gender stereotypes and objectifying ladies in their advertising. Instead, manufacturers are advertising fragrances as one thing that customers should purchase for themselves — an particularly engaging message in the course of the pandemic.
“Fragrance campaigns have been about intercourse and attraction — like how in case you put on the most recent Dolce & Gabanna perfume, you’ll then get to have intercourse on a rock on the Amalfi Coast,” stated Herman. “But customers are extra emotionally succesful right this moment. Fragrance ought to have extra progress and self-reflection [in marketing].”
“If you say you’re a girl’s perfume, you pigeonhole your self, however in case you say nothing, you let anybody recognize it.”
Spritzed With Sustainability
Fragrances are additionally being marketed — and manufactured — with sustainability in thoughts, together with the elevated use of upcycled elements.
“It’s an important option to make higher use of the earth’s sources to cut back our affect on the atmosphere,” stated Emily Bond, the top of nice perfume North America at Givaudan, one of the world’s largest perfume producers, of upcycled fragrances. Givaudan has used upcycled elements for fragrances just like the Nue Co.’s Forest Lungs and St. Rose’s Vigilante and expects that shopper curiosity in upcycled fragrances will solely improve because the clear magnificence craze continues.
However, upcycling presents hurdles: Herman stated upcycled elements are costly and that many perfume corporations are ready for the method to turn out to be extra accessible. Marketing upcycled elements may be troublesome as nicely, with customers used to anticipating “newness” in magnificence, stated Bee Shapiro, founder of the perfume firm Ellis Brooklyn, which makes use of upcycled elements in each its Salt perfume and an upcoming perfume launching in September.
“We discuss upcycling,and folks remark, ‘is that this utilizing rubbish?’” Shapiro stated. “The magnificence story must be informed a little bit otherwise.”
Thinking About Discovery
With shops shuttered in 2020, many patrons started shopping for fragrances on-line. Even with retailer doorways reopened, manufacturers are engaged on methods to keep up that channel and see purchasable samples because the cornerstone to their acquisition technique.
“Discovering a brand new scent could be very uncommon [online],” Jensen stated. “Everyone must be artistic in phrases of how they promote on-line.”
Boy Smells and Liis each launched their fragrances with pattern units. Herman stated whereas Boy Smells doesn’t earn cash on the pattern units (4 scents bought for $16), the advertising worth makes them price the associated fee.
“It’s the easiest way to succeed in the DTC buyer and permit them to expertise the complete vary of the product,” he stated.
Even with an eye fixed on digital, perfume labels huge and small are nonetheless leaning into retail. Boy Smells began wholesaling its fragrances to Nordstrom in March whereas Liis shall be bought at idea shops like Arielle Shoshana in Fairfax, Va., Rennes in Philadelphia and the Sunroom Boutique in Austin, Tex. Earlier this month, Coty debuted a touchless perfume system for customers to odor fragrances, which can roll out at magnificence retailers quickly.
“We have been fascinated about what the brand new norm was going to be, and really shortly, the thought [became] a related system, touchless, to respect the thought of hygiene and security,” stated Thierry Moliere, senior vp of sustainability, tech and innovation at Coty. He added that the system — which may disperse a single droplet for customers, which is potent sufficient to odor, however not overpowering — can be meant to enhance in-store searching, because it received’t overwhelm the house with scent.
Continuing to take a position in bodily retail experiences shall be essential for the long run of perfume, based on Moliere.
“E-commerce is a key driver, however fragrance is an olfactory expertise and the bodily level of sale is vital and demanding,” Moliere stated.
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