Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smells Like 2010: Hits & Flops in Perfume

In an article in the New York Times, penned by Catherine Saint Louis, we learn which fragrances made it and which tanked last year, according to the NPD Group market research team. Oddly enough the text reads like a nicely placed endorsement instead of a critical commentary one would expect on the results, but of course the scope of the article never was to criticize, merely to report. Additionally, it's mentioned that "Final annual tallies from NPD won’t be available until later this month". So why the rush dear?

The most important feature is this quote however:
"Ms. Grant dared to hope for “at least a flat year,” which would be an improvement, she said, considering that “fragrance has pretty much been in decline, except for a few years with celebrity fragrances” since 2001."
So which were the big sellers? In the mainstream circuit, they were:
Gucci Guilty
Chanel Chance Eau Tendre
Bleu de Chanel (apparently the biggest men's premiere in Bloomingdale's ever)
Ralph Lauren Big Pony collection

May I say yawn, at this point...
The celebrity fragrances were many (as usual, especially in view of the above quote) but apparently they didn't do that well, Beyonce's Heat mentioned in those. It's a bit contradictory to what was circulated at the moment of launch, when Heat was quoted as being a "fly off the shelves" item that was unprecedented. Hmmm.....
The other interesting thing that begs for commentary is Jennifer Aniston's celebrity perfume, initially hailed as Lola Vie (LOL@vie, if you're slow on the up-taking) and then changed into simply Aniston . Everyone is reporting that it didn't sell well, it flopped etc. Now, where's the catch? It's definitely not a reflection on Jennifer's popularity which remains as strong as ever. It's simple really: Aniston, the fragrance, was launched as an exclusive at Harrod's in the UK who didn't ship outside the country, thus effectively cutting off the core audience of Jennifer (America) from access to the product that would first and foremost appeal to them! The rationale behind such a distribution move remains to be seen, as Aniston did make it all the way to London to appear to the launch, hugging the bottle in rapture, apparently oblivious to what would ensue.
Best-selling fragrances in the niche sector (according to Barney's and Aedes)?
Byredo M/Ink
Bois 1920 Classic
Santa Maria Novella Melograno
Gendarme original cologne
Aedes de Venustas by L'Artisan
F.Malle Portrait of a Lady

Somehow, I don't think the rather iconoclastic minerals & musks M/Ink or the intricately complex Aedes de Venustas fragrance can be viewed in the same light as Gendarme, or Portrait of a Lady, which cater to more traditional tastes. But this is what has been reported all the same. Melograno is such an old niche mainstay that I can't but think these are repeat buyers.
As to trands to look out for in fragrance for 2011? The continuation of oud in the mainstream, more flankers coming up (one for Marc Jacob's Daisy for sure), the resurgence of powder (according to Karen Dubin of Sniffapalooza and her love of...Love, Chloé) and the return of ThreeASFOUR by Colette (a concept perfume).

For a glimpse on what we thought as best in 2010, please refer to our 2010 Best & Worst list.


  1. Go Melograno! A beautiful beautiful scent, not new, not over publicised- what perfume should be- interesting, complex, delicious

    Can you tell I like it?

    Happy New Year x

  2. Hello K and happy new year to you as well!

    I agree that Melograno is an elegant success. It's just surprising that niche customers (who are supposedly so after the latest thing) are shooting it to the top of the lists; that's all.
    Some of the choices as reported sound rather odd (did so many people buy the latest Byredo?)

  3. Anonymous20:26

    I wonder if the lack of a clear favorite (top selling perfume that sells a zillion bottles) is an indicator that the market is getting more sophisticated; ie, people are buying what they like, not what's popular. So maybe not enough bottles of Lyric sold to label it as a "top seller," but I wonder what the sales trends have been, say, by House?
    It would be interesting to see more specific data!

  4. Anonymous00:58

    That is bad marketing for Jennifer Anniston's fragrance! Had they launched in LA and/or NYC it would be THE scent every teen and woman would likely seek out.

    And there are new avenues to selling. Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwen Stefani, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Mary J. Blige have been using the Home Shopping Network or QVC, with reduced prices and configurations made exclusively for these selling networks. or

    Jennifer Anniston is going to have to get down with the people to sell her juice. An exclusive launch in Harrods isn't where most fragrance customers are at anymore, imo.

    ~ Susan

  5. Dee,

    I would love for this to be true, as it would mean an improvement of the market (and just how very lovely it would be to mount public transport then, eh?), but alas I'm very much afraid it just means that most people are jaded. Just witness how many complain about perfume and avoid it or how many buy hundreds to satisfy their unsatisfied urge (unsatisfied one would presume because of a debasement of quality).
    Even us, perfume enthusiasts, can't keep up with everything and it's hard to muster sustained enthusiasm when there are thousands of launches vying for our attention all the time.
    The NPD Group does give specific date, but not too specific (by house for instance). I'm all for more transparency in the proceedings!! :-)

  6. susan,

    hmm, somehow I know that it was not Jennifer's decision to launch exclusively to Harrod's. ~It was all an Angelina plot to get her to look stupid!~ Just kidding.... :D

    Honestly, can you see Aniston having aspirations of exclusivity/hauteur etc? Her image is nothing of the sort. She's not Paltrow. But the producing company's decision to do so has ended having her getting the flak and people are rehashing information how the fragrance doesn't sell well, which is essentially not her fault. Poor Jen, one might say. Although I hear the fragrance isn't anything to write home about, but then, how many are today? Especially celebrity scents, which are a forgone conclusion most of the time...So double the pity as she could get the flak for justifiable reasons (i.e. juice not good) instead of having most newspapers readers assume that people just don't like her anymore.

    Your succinct point on using alternative ways to sell, including the HSN or QVC is very clever. I agree there is great potential there for this kind of product.


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