Inside the high-end fragrance boom

At the headquarters and factory of Omani perfumery Amouage in Muscat, managing director Marco Parsiegla sits above 10,000 bottles of “Interlude 53”, an ultra-concentrated perfume extract that the brand ages for six months. before selling it at 500 dollars per 100 milliliter bottle.

This is the fourth batch of Interlude 53 the brand has produced since launching its ‘Exceptional Extract’ range in 2020, which includes iconic fragrances aged for months and concentrated to fragrance oil levels of up to 56%. , several times more than the amount of perfume. in a typical eau de parfum.

Parsiegla, a longtime executive in Procter & Gamble’s fragrance licensing division who joined Amouage in 2019, wasn’t sure how customers would react to the experience, which resulted in fragrances 40% higher than the prices. already raised from the mark. But he ended up with a sale on his hands.

“Consumers are really interested in high quality these days,” Parsiegla said. “The next generation wants something unique, and when there’s a high concentration of natural ingredients, it reacts differently on everyone’s skin.”

More recently, the brand has gone even further, with its Director of Experience Renaud Salmon bringing together a group of guest perfumers to design a new line of pure perfume oils (called “attars”) that sell for $500 for a 12 milliliter bottle, with notes that explore the brand’s Omani heritage such as incense, oud and cistus.

Amouage’s business grew alongside its premium offering, with revenue up 50% last year to $150 million, and ending the year 20% above 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The brand, which is owned by the SABCO Group of the Sultanate of Oman and has long been successful in the Middle East, now has markets such as the United States, Nigeria and even China (notoriously difficult to penetrate for perfumes) among its main markets.

The brand’s growth is accompanied by renewed activity in high-end perfumery.

Last October, LVMH struck a deal to buy Officine Universelle Buly 1803, a French perfumer and body cream maker that has grown to operate 33 stores since opening its first boutique in 2014. water base at $150, said it plans to open 12 more stores this year.

Swedish fragrance house Byredo, synonymous with minimalist packaging and evocative names like “Tree House” and “Sellier” (French for saddler) has opened new stores including in Los Angeles and Shenzhen for its $195 perfumes and candles. at $90.

The push seems to pay off. The market for specialty names such as Amouage, Creed and Maison Francis Kurkdjian is estimated to have grown 5-10% above 2019 levels to reach 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) l year, according to consultancy Bain. Market research firm NPD estimates super premium niche brands doubled their sales last year, compared to 49% growth in the broader fragrance market as the category rebounded from the pandemic.

At Dior "Private" flagship of perfumery in Paris.  Christian Dior perfumes.

Luxury fashion brands are also ramping up their business in high-end fragrances: Christian Dior’s “Privée” line, recognizable by its austere white packaging and best known for its $260 “Bois d’Argent” fragrance, was originally intended only for Dior. fashion boutiques, but has grown to include almost 70 directly owned outlets, including dedicated corners at Le Bon Marché and Harrods. The line now operates boutiques on rue Saint Honoré and the Champs-Elysées in Paris. While more accessible and widely distributed fragrances like Dior’s $70 “Sauvage” continue to drive the company, Privée fragrances like Bois d’Argent from the Hedi Slimane era enjoy a cult status and helped attract many millennial customers to the business.

Chanel also offers a range of boutique perfumes called “Les Exclusifs”, which it has been developing continuously since 2006.

NPD says luxury brands’ “house brand” fragrance lines – a segment defined by prices above $175 per bottle – are growing rapidly, with sales up 85% year over year. other. Combined with niche pure-players, super-premium pricing now accounts for almost 10% of total fragrance sales, compared to just 1-2% of sales a decade ago, according to Larissa Jensen, NPD vice president and industry of the beauty. to advise.

This growth has been fueled by consumers moving away from the outright gendered and hyper-sexualized messages that have long characterized the fragrance market. “The industry has remained very stagnant in terms of consumer positioning,” Jensen said. Super premium ranges, on the other hand, are often gender-neutral and are generally marketed with a more “evolved” positioning.

“We’ve seen a very clear shift towards images that talk about other things [than sex] like art and travel, or on the notes and ingredients of the perfume itself,” she said.

High-end perfumers are also gaining market share by devoting fewer resources to advertising and investing more in the product itself. Rare and natural ingredients have become more common, along with experimental scents that intrigue customers, even though they are unlikely to become a signature scent. (Anyone who’s ever smelled The Orange Free State’s “Magnificent Secretion” will remember it, though few would wear it regularly.)

LVMH acquired the Parisian apothecary brand Oficine Buly last October.  Bouly.

“It’s about moving away from the stereotype of just being an aspirational category and providing intrinsic value,” said Bain analyst Federica Levato.

This point of view has been taken up by niche perfumers. “I think the brand was more important to a lot of consumers than the perfume itself. Now it’s the other way around,” says Victoire De Taillac, co-founder of Buly. , it’s something more intimate. It’s for you and about you.

The nightclub is one of 11 "high perfumery" released by Hedi Slimane for Celine since 2019. Celine.

“The first investment is always the product,” said Parsiegla d’Amouage.

The rising tide of niche perfumes does not lift all boats. L’Oreal-owned Atelier Cologne, a $150 cologne maker known for its bright citrus aromas, was acquired by L’Oreal in 2016, is currently in the process of winding down its northeastern operations. Americans both in stores and online, WWD reported last week.

Yet, with growth in fragrance sales increasingly focused on the higher end of the market, more luxury brands are getting in on the action.

At Celine, since the arrival of Hedi Slimane in 2018, the designer has made what he calls “haute perfumery” (like haute couture, but much less expensive) a central initiative to develop the brand. It launched a full line of nine different scents, priced at $240 each, with a dedicated store in Paris in 2019, and has since added two more scents and a line of candles. The brand announced South Korean pop star Lisa as its global fragrance ambassador in December and released its first video ad featuring the Blackpink singer earlier last week.

Earlier this month, Italian fashion giant Dolce & Gabbana announced it was taking over its fragrance business in-house after a licensing deal with Shiseido expired. The fashion house said its new strategy would feature “higher price positioning, with the use of refined raw materials and excellent ‘go to market’ strategies, as well as agreements with vertically integrated Italian suppliers.

“The so-called ‘high’ segment of the fragrance world opens up the possibility of expressing the most qualitative part of the brand,” said Dolce & Gabbana Beauty CEO Gianluca Toniolo.

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