THE FUTURE OF FRAGRANCE – THE RETAIL PERSPECTIVE
For this edition of ACCORDS, the Fragrance Foundation reached out to retailers to get their perspective on how the fragrance market has changed, and how it has been in many ways revolutionized by the pandemic. As we enter a new era, how have our shopping habits transformed and how will we continue to fortify ourselves with fragrance moving forward? No one has a closer eye on the consumer than those who watched and learned as their companies navigated the past year.
“Throughout the pandemic, we saw our customers responding to fragrances,” says Julie Walsh, VP, Divisional Business Manager, Fragrances, at Macy’s Inc. “Scent is powerful. It reminds you of people and places. It makes you happy and brings you comfort. We all needed that this past year!” Elizabeth Miller, VP, Divisional Merchandise Manager for Cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s agrees that this is why the fragrance business showed so much success in 2020. “Smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. In a time where we are all longing for normalcy, it follows that we would look to scents that call back some of our favorite times, whether it’s a wedding day, a special vacation, or another memorable moment. In the past year, our Bloomingdale’s customers shifted from spending on experiences to investing in ‘little luxuries,’ including home and personal fragrance that bring a sense of comfort.”
Retailers pivoted to meet both a surge in demand and the shift to digital that the pandemic necessitated. “We had to think of how to engage the customer digitally, creating compelling content to keep her engaged, connected and excited to come back to hear the story around our fragrances in store, and how to ensure safety through touchless scented sampling,” says Mark Knitowski, VP, Product Development Innovation & Fragrance at Victoria’s Secret Beauty. “Our customers voted for collection fragrances, layering of scents and body products as well as candles and home fragrance,” says Gemma Lionello, EVP, GMM Beauty & Accessories, Nordstrom. “Our team did a great job connecting with our customers through digital events and digital master classes that were very well received. Our customers were able to learn about scent layering and finding new favorites with special event kits that our teams sent to their home. Sampling continued to be one of our core service values and our customers enjoyed being able to try several scents before they decided what to buy.”
All agree that the upswing in fragrance sales, as well as the agility of both retailers and consumers who will be excited to shop for their next scent both online and in store, will continue into the future. “While we anticipate our customer getting back to spending on travel and experiences, we believe the future of fragrance is bright,” says Elizabeth Miller, VP, DMM for Cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s. “Luxury continues to grow exponentially, as does our customer’s appetite for investing in quality items like luxury fragrances. We see the focus on pillar/hero fragrances within lines, while also evolving to include new formats and formulations of our customer’s favorite fragrances. As more shoppers return to our Bloomingdale’s stores, we see a return to in-store activations that our customer craves, and finally, utilizing technology to enhance the customer’s experience.” The key, says Knitowski is maintaining the gains. “We need to take this momentum we are seeing to catapult the category onward. The customer sees fragrance as special again, we need to hold her attention and think forward to what she wants next.”
“The respect and trust our teams have with our brand partners continues to lay the foundation for success,” says Penny Coy, VP Merchandising, Fragrance at Ulta Beauty. “Our guests have reacted so positively to the many partnerships around new launches, exclusives and spotlights on legacy.” As for the future? Coy sums up the retailers’ positive consensus perfectly. “We are very optimistic for the category to continue on its trajectory,” she says. “Our fragrance team mantra is “Can’t stop, won’t stop!”