With the blossoming of the perfume market, writes Debbie Davis, scent manufacturers around the world are pulling out the stoppers
Saturday 05 July 1997
According to the research specialists Euromonitor, the market for perfume is booming. Last year in America, sales topped pounds 2.2bn. France came a close second with pounds 925m, making the French market for perfume bigger than our market for staple products such as potatoes and sliced bread.
Look closely at Euromonitor's statistics on how much deodorant and bath oil we use compared with our French or Japanese counterparts, and you start to realise the big cultural differences that remain between nations. Perfume may be the third largest sector of the wider cosmetics and toiletries market in France, but in Japan the market barely exists. Culturally, a strong scent is inappropriate in Japan; if women do use perfume, it may be designed to last for only an hour. So you apply it at the start of your lunch hour, and return to the workplace without offending colleagues. On the other hand, Euromonitor says, Japan's market for skin care is the largest in the world. Differences in the basic beauty regime of women, and to a lesser extent men, fuel heavy expenditure. Japanese women regularly use several different types of moisturisers, while Japanese men buy face- packs, nose-packs, male-specific hair bleach and eyebrow-design kits. The kits include an eyebrow brush and comb, special scissors, tweezers and an eyebrow pencil. There is even a template to help men to achieve designer eyebrows.
Consumers worldwide may have a never-ending appetite for new products, but all is not roses in the English garden of fragrance. Euromonitor estimates that the average Frenchwoman spent about pounds 36 last year on perfumes, almost double that of her UK counterpart. Perfumes and fragrances, meaning full- strength scent, and eau de parfum and eau de toilette, distributed through both premium and mass-market channels, make up one of the least dynamic areas of the beauty industry in the UK. Compared with the wider cosmetics and toiletries markets, the perfumes and fragrances sector was the only one to decline in value terms between 1992 and 1996, according to Euromonitor.
So if we are spending less, are we smelling less sweet? Probably not, because although British women are buying less of fragrance's haute couture, we have jumped in at the deep end with bathtime and skin-care smellies. Sales of scents such as Calvin Klein's CKOne, which epitomise the whole- body approach to smelling good, have consequently gone off the clock.
"CKOne is head and shoulders above everything else," says Tracy Wharton, retail operations manager of Selfridge's perfumery and cosmetics hall. It took Selfridges less than six months to clock up pounds 1m-worth of sales of this politically correct, inoffensive scent. CKOne goes anywhere, anatomically, socially and geographically. Its refillable travel bottles cry out to be taken to the gym. And you can buy it anywhere: from the cosmetic hall of a department store, from a counter at Tower Records, off the shelf of a discount chemist. In short, it is the antithesis of the French perfumes that dominated the market from the time of Louis XVI to the early Seventies.
Roger Dove, PR manager at the French perfume company Guerlain, has watched the market change. "Twenty-five years ago, perfume was a real luxury which nobody bought for themselves," he says. But, like overseas travel, "price has had an impact across the market, and now the masses can afford to buy it," says Mr Dove. For an extremely reasonable pounds 28.50, Selfridges offers a 50ml CKOne eau de toilette spray plus heavily scented CKOne body wash and body moisturiser packs in a 100ml size.
Classic French perfumes such as Shalimar and Mitsouko by Guerlain are fighting back. Glamorous bottle shapes from the past are making a return, and there are campaigns to persuade us to behave more like our French counterparts, and pay a king's ransom for tiny bottles of full-strength perfume.
"In the UK and the US, women don't understand that perfume is the softest of the fragrance strengths," says Mr Dove. "We buy eau de toilette, which has qualities more suited to a good dietary product. Its instability as a mixture means that 50 per cent leaves the skin within half an hour of application, whereas 50 per cent of perfume remains on the skin after 24 hours. The rapidity with which eau de toilette is lost makes it strong but short-lived; perfume is soft and sedate by comparison."
Guerlain may have a point about strengths, but it is on less sure ground with consumers when it talks about perfumers and their assistants. "Perfume is the true expression of a scent because it is the only thing the perfumer creates. The eau de parfum and eau de toilette of a scent are created by the assistant," says Mr Dove.
Consumers, who have demanded and got brands that are consistent and open about their provenance, will find this one hard to swallow. Earlier this month, the industry recognised another communication gap between the perfumer and his customers. At the Fragrance Foundation Awards, the perfume equivalent of the Oscars, the innovation of the year award went not to a fragrance, but to a system that helps perfumers understand customers' likes and dislikes. Developed by Quest, a fragrance manufacturer, the Multimedia Initiative Redefining Intelligent Aromatic Design (Miriad) is essentially art psychotherapy for perfumers who are frustrated by our lack of ability to put into words what we like about a smell. Intrepid poets may have tried to capture the essence of a scent, but like most people they lack the perfumer's vocabulary. Miriad allows perfumers to use a series of concentric circles, coded by colour and width, which build up into pictures representing a particular mix of smells which you or I may like. The Fragrance Foundation felt that Miriad would inspire new ways of using raw materials.
Selfridges sees anything up to 50 new perfume launches annually. This summer we have the US designer Tommy Hilfiger launching tommy girl, his new perfume for women. Is it galling for companies such as Estee Lauder, which slave away year in and year out, to watch the Hilfigers of this world stack up phenomenal perfume sales almost overnight? Hardly. Who owns the Hilfiger perfumes? You guessed it: tommy girl, and tommy, Hilfiger's perfume for men, are made by Estee Lauder companies.
These new perfumes will do well if they outsell Chanel No 5, which always comes back at Christmas as the top seller - though that certainty is under threat this year with the threatened boycott of Chanel by ecologists. They claim that the use of essential oils extracted from an exotic tree is threatening Brazil's rainforests.
Even so, there is something about the lasting power of French perfume which American designer gels have yet to topple.
Eau de monde
A life of sweet facts.
What countries spend on perfume.
In dollars, per capita.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market
21 January 2015 12:32 PM
A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier
20 January 2015 09:34 AM
Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.
15 January 2015 12:23 PM
The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000
14 January 2015 08:55 AM
A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children
14 January 2015 08:59 AM
Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
Donald MacInnes: My wasted hours in the retail deserts of Dixons-Carphone
Bargain Hunter: From The Outsider to 1984, catch a cut-price classic, read it in the rye
Pension firms must ask consumers more questions, says City Watchdog
Money Insider: Smart alternatives to the pensioner bond
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village