By  on September 9, 1994

LONDON -- In Britain's sluggish market, consumers are buying fine fragrances to the detriment of mass market fragrances. But they still aren't buying enough to turn around the nationwide decline in men's and women's fragrance sales that has been ongoing since 1993.

Nationwide, sales of men's fine fragrances increased less than 1 percent to $223.45 million (145.1 million pounds) from $222 million (144.8 million pounds) during the 12 months ending June 1994 compared with the previous year, according to A.C. Nielsen data.

But overall men's sales, including mass market fragrances, fell by 1.2 percent from $335.87 million (218.1 million pounds) to $331.87 million (215.5 million pounds).

Women's sales nationwide also have dropped off, as total fragrance sales declined in both the holiday period and for the year as a whole.

According to Nielsen data, fine fragrance sales dropped slightly to $420.27 million (272.9 million pounds) for the year ending June 1994 from $422.11 million (274.1 million pounds) in June 1993.

But because of a 9 percent drop in mass market fragrance sales over the same period, fine fragrances actually increased their share of the total fragrance market from 70.8 percent to 72.7 percent.

"Fine fragrances have become more accessible due to discounting and because department stores don't hold the monopoly on fine fragrances anymore," said Cathryn Coles, account director at Nielsen, by way of explaining the shift of the prestige brands.

Coles pointed to Boots the Chemists Ltd., a nationwide chain of about 1,000 stores that has taken a large share of the market, as a prime example of the change in shopping patterns.

"Their men's fine fragrance share has increased from 37.5 to 39.7 percent in 12 months," she said.

In London, however, department store merchants say shoppers are still flocking to their fragrance bars to purchase scents.

"Our men's fragrance and skin care sales for the first half of 1994 have increased by 40 percent, aided by our exclusive launch of Calvin Klein's Escape [for Men] in March," said Hilary Dart, perfumery buyer at Selfridges.

"Even without including Escape's incredible effect on sales," she continued, "the men's business increased by about 17 percent."

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