Latest Fragrance Trends: What I learned at the Fragrance Foundation's 'Hot off the Press' Event


Each February, people from across the fragrance industry come to hear the latest trends and insights at the Fragrance Foundation’s Hot off The Press breakfast briefing.

At this year’s event, I was fortunate to be invited to contribute my current thinking from the Premium Market Report along with speakers from Google, NPD, My Market Insight and NPD.

Overall, activity in the UK fragrance industry is at an all-time high, creating a vibrant and robust environment.

However, it strikes me that there are contradictions in the fragrance industry, which should be a cause for concern to fragrance brands and retailers:

  1. The UK market has barely grown in 4 years, yet brands and retailers continue to invest heavily in new product development and the media.

  2. The multinationals spend big bucks on promoting new brands, but it’s luxury niche brands that are putting on sales growth.

  3. The rush to digitise fragrance is changing consumer behaviour, yet it’s old-fashioned print, not social media that is getting influencers’ attention.

So Why have Fragrance Sales been so Sluggish?

NPD’s senior account manager, Beauty UK, NPD, Teresa Fisher, put the market trends into context:

  1. The fragrance market grew by just 1.4% in 2016 to reach £1.25bn.

  2. Mainstream brands (under £60) accounted for 3 out of 4 purchases, but this is where there’s been the biggest sales decline in 2016.

  3. Premium couture and niche/luxury fragrance -just 1 in 4 purchases - grew solidly and saved the fragrance market from decline.

Are More Fragrance Launches the Answer?

Drawing on the latest Fragrances of the World® data, I showed that 2016 was another record year for global fragrances: over 2,000 launches in total. And there’s been a dramatic move away from feminine fragrance launches towards shared scents, which accounted for 44% of all launches.

But in the UK, at least, new fragrance launches appear to have fallen flat. According to NPD, sales of new launches declined by 17%.

Consumers were more likely to go for existing classics, which increased by 4% in value in 2016.

Surely it’s time that the industry stopped shooting out new fragrances when it’s obvious that the majority fail to reach their sales target?

Instead, brands need to focus on what they have and engage with consumers who seek authenticity and heritage -not today’s celebrity offering that will disappear tomorrow.

Consumers are Changing how they Search for and Buy Fragrance

Google’s head -branding, Aileen Dalisay, revealed that 4 in 5 UK consumers are open to purchasing fragrance online. Already, nearly 70% go online to compare prices, while others use the internet to browse, read consumer reviews and find a store to make a purchase.

This bodes well for fragrance sales online, which was the only category of the market with healthy growth. According to NPD, e-commerce sales jumped by 18%, while physical retail declined by 0.2%.

Where does this leave the retailers? Fragrance is not the easiest of categories to sell online, but here’s a fact:

According to Google, 55% of online fragrance queries are on mobile- -that’s over 300 million queries and growing by 15% year on year.

While most people prefer to buy fragrance from a store, online is offering brands the biggest growth opportunities. Brands and retailers urgently need to address this trend and make sure they’re not missing out.

The Power of Print Media Continues

Print is still a key part of fragrance brands’ media strategy, confirmed My Market Insights’ founder, Mike Ramseyer. He demonstrated how in 2016, the number of fragrance products in print media (PR) reached a high point of 2,425.

Print advertising is also holding up, with 350 fragrance products advertised in the print press in 2016, up from 323 in 2010.

However, this is not the total picture, as fragrance brands need to build multi-platforms -combining online, social and print.

Successful influencers are the way forward, but engaging with social media stars who have millions of followers is not a clever strategy, stated Sue Todd, founder, Magnetic Media.

Research from Magnetic has identified two types of influencer that operate across multiple categories -makers and shakers.

Shakers are the stereotypical influencer who have a large social network and see their role as passing on useful information to others.

Makers have smaller social networks, but have a bigger impact, because they are more passionate and knowledgeable than Shakers. For them, it’s about making meaningful connections, not having the largest following.

Magnetic found that magazine channels are often where influencers are sourcing their information and acquiring knowledge.

So if fragrance brands are looking to influence influencers, they need to focus on magazine titles that offer them access to that audience. In particular, fragrance brands are in a good position to provide the type of content Makers are likely to be seeking.

There is Much to Consider

On the surface, fragrance is a large and seemingly buoyant category. However, very low sales growth suggests otherwise and brands now have to address the issues outlined here, if they are to thrive in the future.