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Why perfumery is big business

Why perfumery is big business

A desire for exclusivity is driving consumers to niche fragrance brands – says Geoffrey Nejman

In 2016, I will celebrate 20 years as co-founder of luxury perfume brand Parfums M.Micallef. It is safe to say that the per- fume market has grown substantially since the mid-1990s, particularly the niche market. Where I used to be able to count other niche brands on one hand, there are now hundreds in Europe alone. Smell connects us with powerful memories, reflects our deepest desires and is intrinsic to our mood. Put simply, it connects who we are with what we wish to portray to the outside world. At the most basic level, smelling good is equated with being good. We purchase a fragrance not simply to buy a product but to dream a lifestyle and a chapter in our own personal story.

A perfect storm of advertising, globalisation and an increasing quest for uniqueness has seen perfume become an essential part of our culture for both genders. A boom in male grooming and an affinity for appreciating the finer things in life has made it more socially acceptable than ever for men to be openly interested in a traditionally feminine product. Using the right fragrance is now as crucial a social indicator as what we wear or where we go. A scent tells a thousand words and makes a lasting impression on who we meet.

The availability of inexpensive, synthetic ingredients means that a high volume of fragrances can be manufactured cheaply and offer a taste of a celebrity or covetable, high-end brand to the masses for an entry-level price tag. The power of advertising and social media mean that a brand message can be conveyed to millions – promising a life changing experience with one spritz of a perfume. Global markets such as Iran, that were previously difficult to reach, have become regions with great potential. Equally with easy travel opportunities, plus the rise in internet shopping, products can be more easily distributed and bought than ever before.

While these factors contribute to the popularity of huge global brands, their artistic concept is often projected in the same way worldwide. This ‘copy and paste’ model is used to target everyone everywhere. Synergy may work well in maintaining a strong brand image but wealthy consumers are becoming bored. They want to be seduced by something more distinctive and rare, a concept that eventually trickles down into the main stream. As widely available scents are losing their mystique, big brands are offering limited editions that can only be bought in particular regions or are only available for short periods of time. This reveals the increasing demand for the elite, a concept that niche brands specialise in.

With the internet allowing news to travel at the click of a button, influential perfume connoisseurs are looking for a less commoditised scent, a product that can offer them exclusivity. This quest for the limited edition has resulted in a substantial boom in the niche market, offering something different that can be customised to offer a true one-of-a-kind product. Having something aesthetically pleasing and sweet smelling is no longer enough for the luxury consumer; they want something special, that is truly and only theirs. In addition, customers are becoming progressively more knowledgeable about fragrances. They are demanding better ingredients and more interesting combinations. Brands have to fight ever harder to stand out and be noticed. Whereas in a multi-brand store each fragrance is just one in a hundred, smaller boutiques allow personality and identity to shine through, reflecting and indulging the desires of the customer. As ambassadors of the brand, a good boutique is able to offer the kind of service synonymous with luxury; quality and exclusivity that ensures its powerful customers come back for more.

Ultimately, perfume is big business because scents are silent yet powerful extensions of our personalities, our hopes, dreams and innermost desires enclosed in a bottle. In a fast-paced modern age where originality is highly coveted yet difficult to obtain, the intimate, personal connection fragrance offers is timeless and therefore hugely marketable.

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