Nasal warfare

With the blossoming of the perfume market, writes Debbie Davis, scent manufacturers around the world are pulling out the stoppers

The French ladle it on, the Italians steer clear, Japanese men have a penchant for eyebrow tweezers, and the British have a fondness for subtle bathtime smellies.

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.

Japan 6

Spain 11

Italy 12

US 20

UK 22

Germany 22

France 35

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Have you won one of the £1m Premium Bonds' jackpots?

Video: The Independent's Personal Finance Editor runs you through the key facts about Premium Bonds

Give me the money: but not all providers are ready for transfers to Junior Isas

Parents will be able to switch dormant child trust funds to more competitive Junior Isa

Millions of dormant junior savings accounts were yesterday given the go-ahead to swap to better deals as the Government agreed to allow switching. Samantha Downes reports
Hard labour: a woman bears the load in a factory. But equal treatment is causing pension problems

Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme

Workers were promised that the state would pay inflation increases on parts of their pensions. But now the DWP disagrees
The Budget, says one critic, should have done more to encourage construction of affordable homes

Help for buyers but where are the homes?

A vote-winning Budget promised less tax, greater savings flexibility, and government handouts for first-time housebuyers
'It will be no wonder if people lack the enthusiasm to save taxfree,' says one expert. But there are ways to beat low rates on cash Isas

How to make the most of Isas: You can save more money now, the returns are tax-free and the rules are flexible

Rob Griffin sees how you can surmount the one big obstacle

Growing number of women under the age of 35 are turning to online gambling

Online gaming is changing the profile of victims, who see it as an answer to difficult relationships but sink deeper into trouble

Ethical investments: Lack of awareness means investors are supporting industries they oppose

Many of us have good intentions now but either we don't switch accounts or we back 'nasty' activities without realising
Payday lenders fail to recognise customers in financial difficulty, the FCA said

Payday lenders accused of unfair practices by watchdog

The Financial Conduct Authority found non-compliance in all reviewed firms

Hooray, you're going to live longer! But what should you do to celebrate?

Pension expert John Lawson talks on why improved longevity is something to plan for carefully

Pension freedom: Steve Webb answers your questions on the big shake-up

The new freedoms arrive in April but many of you have told us that you see problems as well as opportunities. The pensions minister Steve Webb responds
Pension Minister Steve Webb

There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pensions Minister

The DWP and the FCA have joined forces to investigate transaction charges in occupational pension schemes

Scottish Power was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator

The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

This phoenix rose from the stage at the London Olympics. The insurer grew out of zombie life insurance funds

Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen

A retired adviser got his money back from the insurer after claiming he had been overcharged. Thousands of others may have a strong case
Expect a new wave of fishing expeditions by fraudsters now we can invest our life savings

Cold callers and your pension: watch out for dangerous boiler room scams

Sean O'Grady received a cold call last week that was much more sinister than normal. Yes, someone wants to get their hands on his pension...

Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity

The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

    £18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat