Shopping: `Fragrance fatigue' blamed for drop in scent market

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The Independent Online
SALES OF perfume are declining, with the UK market shrinking by pounds 6m in the past two years, according to analysts. Scent sales are also stagnating across continental Europe, except in France.

Even for a special occasion such as Christmas, perfume is not as glamourous as it once was. Simon Horne of the Body Shop said: "In the Nineties people are looking to things like aromatherapy, to more natural fragrances and ways of living their lives, and a reflection of that is a simpler perfume."

If simpler is a synonym for cheaper, tests by Which? magazine seem to support this idea. In blindfold trials, sniffers failed to detect price differences, and some said that cheaper scents smelt more expensive than some expensive perfumes.

Industry insiders believe the increasing sophistication of consumers may also be leading to fragrance fatigue.

In the past decade, 813 perfumes have been launched, most concocted, bottled and marketed at a cost to the manufacturer of less than pounds 10.

Predictably this deluge of new products has left some losers. Yardley collapsed in August with debts of pounds 120m and other big manufacturers are also cutting back.

Retailers are combating the changing climate in differing ways. Sales volume is being maintained at Superdrug, with discounts of up to 30 per cent on top brands, while supermarkets such as Asda are competing with discounts of up to 75 per cent.

Prestige outlets such as Selfridges, on Oxford Street in London, are using other methods. Stephanie Thomas, the store's retail manager said: "We sell gift sets, or coffret sets as they are called, and that is probably why we have pulled through. Customers are looking for a higher grade of service from us and added value is what we provide."