There was a time when the sizing of perfume and fragrance couldn’t get any bigger. Brands and designers were piling into flacons of 200ml and upwards, trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of consumers for their hit ‘juices’. Two hundred millilitres is more conducive to the drinks cabinet than the bathroom. Then came lockdowns.
Left - Brands such as Versace and Moschino are producing 'lockdown sizes' of 10ml fragrances for £20
A McKinsey report in May, 2020, said, with regards to the global beauty market, “2020 will be one of the worst years it has ever endured.” The report said consumer retail spending on beauty products was experiencing a sharp decline (up to 20%) as well, leading to an unprecedented projected $175 billion USD loss in revenue for the industry this year. 90% of women stated, in the report, they used little to no makeup while working from home.
It said, in May, “based on the scenarios most expected by global executives and current trends, we estimate global beauty-industry revenues could fall 20 to 30 percent in 2020. In the United States, if there is a COVID-19 recurrence later in the year, the decline could be as much as 35 percent.”
Unilever too has reported declining revenues in its personal care division. An update in April warned about shrinking personal care sales because more people working from home meant they were washing their hair less often, putting off shaving and even ditching deodorant. Four months on, in its Q3 report, it said personal care sales had continued to slump.
Graham Pitkethly, Unilever’s chief financial officer, said "fewer personal care occasions from going to work or socialising” impacted sales. Skincare declined high-single digit and deodorants declined low-single digit. Though there was a slowing of declines when we came out of lockdown during the summer.
The greedy fragrance industry has been built upon a biggest is best attitude when it comes to their products, and especially gifting, when, in fact, a little should go a long way. Brands have realised that demand has changed and are now launching smaller sizes in 10ml or 20ml editions. Moschino and Versace has 10ml options in many of their fragrances including ‘Toy Boy’, ’Dylan Blue’ and ‘Eros’ for £20. Eight & Bob has added a range with a 30ml (with optional artisan leather case), a size which isn’t often seen in bridge/niche brands. Much of this sizing was ironically called ‘Travel Size’ when, in fact, it’s the lack of travel and leaving the house which is creating the demand. Tocca has a ‘Travel Trio Set’ containing three 20ml bottles, while Goutal Paris is offering a ‘discovery set’ containing four classic 10ml fragrances from their range.
Sarah Binns, Head of Training at KGA, one of the UK & Ireland’s leading fragrance distributors, currently representing over 25 premium perfume brands, says, “Ironically I saw this ‘travel size’ trend start pre COVID-19 in response to the always on the go lifestyle and as a way to entice younger consumers into the category with a lower price point on luxury brands. Retailers had started requesting smaller sizes in fragrances to showcase in their pick ’n’ mix style locations near till points. It is interesting to see how this new size category has become so valuable in the current climate too.” she says.
“I think a lot of brands had started to develop these sizes pre lockdown for other reasons, but they have really come into their own with the current situation. Brands are aware that consumers are nervous to spend on something they can’t try first so this is a great solution.” says Binns.
The McKinsey report said, in most major beauty-industry markets, in-store shopping accounted for up to 85 percent of beauty-product purchases prior to the COVID-19 crisis, with some variation by subcategory. Even online-savvy American millennials and Gen Zers (those born between 1980 and 1996) made close to 60% of their purchases in stores. With the closure of premium beauty-product outlets because of COVID-19, approximately 30 percent of the beauty-industry market was shut down. Some of these stores will never open again, and new openings will likely be delayed for at least a year.
Suzy Nightingale, Senior Writer at The Perfume Society says, “We’re definitely seeing more fragrances offered in smaller ‘try me’ sizes, and although beauty products have been used less in lockdown; we’ve actually seen a huge rise in sales of our discovery boxes and brand sets, which offer sample vials, miniature bottles and travel sizes to try at home. Classic scents have even made a comeback as people reach for a familiar fragrances as a comfort blanket, reminding them of happier times.” she says.
Right - Goutal Paris 4 x 10ml fragrance sizes exclusively available at John Lewis: www.johnlewis.com - £68
“I think there’s been a desperate longing for ‘newness’, and we’ve also had fragrance lovers tell us they don’t want to associate this year with a single scent.” says Nightingale. “Simultaneously, many fragrance houses suddenly realised that, if people can’t get to shops or, when they do, tester bottles aren’t readily available anymore. This fast-tracked something we’ve all been asking for anyway: smaller size bottles we can try before we buy, or use to explore a diversity of scents or fragrance notes out of our usual comfort zones.
“I definitely see this trend continuing - online previously had the hurdle of being a difficult place to buy your first full-size bottle of perfume if you’d not smelled it already. Nowadays, people want greater choice and the chance to flirt with lots of fragrances. Sometimes more IS more, but it doesn’t always mean a bigger bottle…” she says.
While the term ‘lockdown sizing’ won’t be used by the brands, it’s an interesting twist on the entry ‘travel size’ offer. These prices are keener and entice people to buy before they try. This is the beauty industry's version of a micro-bag; an entry level product aimed at younger and less affluent consumers.
“Smaller sizes bring accessibility, the signature scent is becoming a thing of the past and it is much easier to build a large fragrance collection with these entry price options. In an environment when you often can’t test the product before you purchase, it’s a smaller risk to invest in a mini size first.” says Binns.
“I think this trend will continue within the COVID-19 environment as a way to experience new products before making a larger investment in the full size. Once we are able to travel again I’m sure that they will become even more popular for their portability.” she says.
How many people are wearing fragrance at home, or, at least, in the quantity they used to without social engagements and interaction with other people or work colleagues? The cheaper prices are also a factor in their popularity. When fully branded and looking as good as the full size bottles, rather than a simple tester, these items look much more desirable.
“Consumer confidence is low and this always has an effect on spending within beauty. People are reaching for products that make them feel good as oppose to looking or smelling good for other’s benefit. Fragrance sales were hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic but we have seen a steady increase as people rediscover the joy of treating themselves or showing love to others with a gift that encourages wellbeing” says Binns.
Sales in smaller sizes are better than no sales at all for the beauty industry, and the margins will be higher. The fragrance industry will hope these smaller lockdown sizes will encourage and continue the habit of individuals wearing fragrance even if we continue to be on our own.
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