Trends influence the world of fragrance as much as any other industry. However, in the midst of the pandemic, the world of olfactory scents experienced a remarkable shift. With people stuck at home, unable to go out and generally un-eager to dress to impress, the demand for perfumes in Europe dropped significantly, leaving the market in disarray. Perfumes sales dropped by 75% during this time, as people shifted to focusing on active and loungewear. However, it wasn’t all bad news for the fragrance industry, as for the first time, it was able to conquer the world of online sales, as well as expand into the Eastern market. Equally, the world of olfactory senses was able to delve into some surprising and bold new creations which continue to push the boundaries of what fragrance is. Let’s take a look at how the pandemic left its mark on the ever-changing world of fragrance.
The world of scent has found it hard to transition to online sales, as people can’t get a good idea of fragrance notes unless they visit a store and try a sample. Consequently, the transition from in-store to online shopping has been slow and the expectation during lockdown was that perfume sales would simply drop, as people were unable to try samples and would most likely avoid purchasing items. However, whilst overall sales dropped, online sales rose 45% which surprised industry experts who have wondered for years if the olfactory world could make the jump to the online market. The rise in online sales has marked the shift to home-based scents, as people stuck at home wanted to make sure every room in their house felt unique. The concept of fragrance has therefore expanded as the home is increasingly perceived as an extension of the body and as such each space holds its own unique identity reflected in a customised fragrance.
Equally, in a world consumed by the sanitary scent of hand sanitiser, people looked for an exciting, pungent burst of aroma to arouse their sense of smell to battle against the boredom of being confined to the same space. The market undoubtedly delivered, and a tomato candle, a coriander candle and room spray became household favourites. With restaurants closed, and as people reminisced about their favourite foods, even stranger concoctions were born, perhaps most notably the McDonalds Big Mac candle collection, which featured the six ingredients all made into candle form. Perhaps before the pandemic this would have been seen as a grotesque creation, however during the repetitive and boring pandemic day, a quick whiff of burger sauce could excite the senses and bring about some olfactory stimulation in an otherwise mundane season! The release of these unique scents has called into question the boundary between fragrance and everyday aromas, which typically would not be considered part of the perfumery tradition but are now on the rise as people seek comfort in previously everyday odours.
Not all perfume markets have suffered due to the pandemic, as perfume and olfactory stimulation are now an important part of self-care. A study by Firmenich found that 56% of consumers appreciated and took comfort in fragrances during lockdown. We can see this in the South Korean market, where there has been a sharp rise in the use of incense sticks in the younger generations. Unlike their more traditional elders, they do not use these for religious purposes, but in order to relax and unwind after work. Equally, scented body products increased in sales by 90% in 2021. A large portion of those sales went to niche perfume houses, which now account for 90% of all perfume transactions. Niche perfumery is dominating the market because fragrance has become the main means of expression, replacing makeup and clothes due to mask requirements and most people continuing to work from home. Individuals want to buy a perfume that they feel is exclusively theirs, and the more famous luxury perfume brands, which are widely used, can’t fulfil the desire for a signature scent. This demand for exclusivity is spreading into the European market, as Beautinow, a Europe-based company that exports niche perfume to China is expanding within Europe due to demand.
It is exciting to think of what the future of fragrance has in store. The rise of bolder scents, and the interconnection between the home and the self, mean that there is undoubtedly more change on the horizon. Perhaps the most heart-warming outcome of all the pandemic era transformation is the rise of niche perfumery, which means that perfume could become even more specialised and each perfumer celebrated for their craftsmanship and flare. About time!
To read more about Niche Perfumery and the History of Fragrance, read more of our articles here.