Fragrance Sales Pick Up As Consumers Reengage With The Outside World

 Fragrance Sales Pick Up As Consumers Reengage With The Outside World

Spring is in the air and so is fragrance.

Following more than a year of a pandemic-focus on skincare, it seems fragrance is having its moment in the spotlight.

According to a new beauty report from 1010data, the year-over-year growth for online fragrance sales from 2019 to 2020 was 45%. The top five e-commerce merchants selling fragrance, based on the report, include Macy’s

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at 95%, Ulta Beauty

ULTA
83%, Sephora 71% and Amazon

AMZN
28%. Clean and organic beauty categories grew 56% year over year and fragrance brands in this category saw the biggest growth spurt. Specifically, online sales grew 980% at Pure Instinct Fragrance, 147% at Ellis Brooklyn and 113% at Pacifica.

“Living in close quarters with little variation to routines and scenery, fragrances and scents have provided a much-needed break from the routine,” says Jonah Ellin, chief product officer at 1010data, which provides analytical intelligence to the retail, consumer and financial markets.

New fragrance launches include Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Fragrance, a collaboration with celebrity florist Jeff Leatham featuring three scents inspired by flowers; Michelle Pfeiffer’s light and floral Windows Down; and Tom Ford’s Tubéreuse Nue, with notes of tuberose and jasmine.

And after five years in the making, cult beauty favorite The Ordinary recently launched its first fragrance for the home, a spicy peppery scent with warm notes of cedar called Shop. Azzi Glasser, the award-winning perfume designer who helped create Shop, says the fragrance captures the essence of “happiness and joy with a sense of calmness”— sounds like the perfect concoction for today’s pandemic climate.

“For me, I travel to my fantasy time bubble, a dreamy sense of nature,” says Glasser, describing what comes to mind when smelling Shop. “I feel the sea and the warm beach close to me, together with the cool mountains and a breeze of earth’s natural elements.”

Fragrance sales started picking up last holiday, even though fragrance sales were down overall 8% for 2020, according to NPD Group, with brands like Estée Lauder

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reporting strong sales for high-end fragrances like Jo Malone and Le Labo.

“This was propped up by the success of gift sets (fragrance along with lotion, shower gel or candles), as consumers responded well to the value that a gift set offered,” says Katie Thomas, who leads the Kearney Consumer Institute, an internal think tank at global strategy and management consulting firm, Kearney.

Experts like Thomas surmise that fragrance will continue to perform well in 2021 as consumers re-engage with the world.

“Gift sets will continue to perform strongly as consumers navigate persistent financial uncertainty,” Thomas says. “Many consumers will still be working from home, which will support home fragrance, but the lift in candles may taper slightly as we emerge from winter. Luxury and traditional perfumes will demonstrate ongoing recovery as restaurants and stores reopen and consumers can increase their activities outside the home.”

Throughout the pandemic, consumers turned to home comforts like new furniture, candles and fragrance to make their interiors more pleasant, notes Chris Ventry, vice president in the consumer and retail practice of SSA & Company, a global management consultant focused on strategy execution.

“Scent, being a meaningful memory trigger, boded well for candles, perfumes and colognes,” Ventry says. It “might even be a way to feel more ‘dressed up’ and presentable on Zoom calls, going back to the scent-to-memory factor, maybe to remind them of a different time.”

Launching a new fragrance during a pandemic without being able to walk through a department store or a Sephora and test the scents can be tricky for perfume makers.

“Brands have to rely more on marketing pizzaz, social media influencers and brand recognition over the actual ability to drive testing of scent prior to purchase,” Ventry says. “I go back to the idea of evocative ‘tasting notes’ that conjure up more than just the scent, but the story surrounding it. Think the J.Peterman catalogue and the magic of good copywriting.”

Perfumes and fragrances may seem pointless in a mask-wearing and social-distancing world, however they remain popular items for gifting, says Monika Kochhar, chief executive officer and co-founder of SmartGift.

“It might be less about less about eliciting a response from someone else, more about wearing fragrance for one’s own pleasure,” Kochhar says. “In that regard, it becomes a ‘me luxury’ that has the effect of changing things up. Fragrances are highly evocative of times, places and memories, and can magic up many a Proustian moment. And it’s not only perfumes that are doing well. Home-related fragrances are another area within the category that is faring well.”