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Bricks-and-Mortar Consolidation Could Affect Men’s Fragrance Purchasing Habits

Scentbird research suggests brands will be challenged to find new avenues to sample their scents.

The closing of department stores could pinch the fragrance business hardest when it comes to male shoppers.

That’s according to a survey of 4,735 men and women conducted by Scentbird in a Scent Discover Questionnaire. Men, more so than women, gravitate to department stores. The department store industry, however, continues to undergo consolidation including the announcement earlier this year Macy’s would shutter about 100 doors.

Sixty four percent of the survey sample said they shop Macy’s and 30 percent mentioned another department store. The timing is precarious as men’s scent sales in prestige are expanding faster than women’s. According to recently released numbers from NPD, men’s fragrance sales grew faster than women’s, 4 percent versus 1 percent for the second quarter of 2017. Men’s comprise just over one-third of the total market.

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The closure of department stores could be a windfall for specialty doors, but also mass marketers and off-pricers, according to fragrance and beauty specialist David Pina. “Ulta and Sephora have taken steps forward as a fragrance destination. The opportunities in chain drug to transition from glass enclosures to self-serve is critical in keeping up with the current retail trends. New opportunities coming to the market from retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls exponentially bring more exposure to the fragrance category.”

Women have been quicker to migrate to other fragrance channels, especially Sephora. Based on the findings, women like both department stores and Sephora with 54 percent indicating those are their top go-to doors. Ulta Beauty was close behind at 50 percent. Both of those retailers are expanding briskly.

Only 28 percent of men mentioned Sephora. Nordstrom clocked in second with 27 percent.

Not surprisingly, scent is the number-one driver for fragrance selection for 91 percent of women and 86 percent of men, according to the poll.

But getting the juice into consumers’ hands via samplers has been a challenge with the closure of not only retail doors, but also downturns in magazine and scent strip circulation.

“Eighty percent of women and 76 percent of men feel sampling is very important in their purchase decision,” said Rachel ten Brink, chief marketing officer and cofounder of Scentbird, a subscription service. “As the number of places where consumers can try a scent decreases, brands will be challenged to find new avenues to reach the consumer and sample their scents.”

Back to men, those market dynamics could once again impact them the most. “The business has been migrating to specialty retailers like Sephora and Ulta and online. The specialty retailers are mostly female-oriented. The result of all these macro market forces is less opportunity for sampling to men,” explained Dale N. Dewey, chief executive officer of InStyle Fragrances.

Indeed, men like to visit stores for fragrance exposure. The survey found 39 percent browse a store, 33 percent look to advertising, 31 percent rely on recommendations from friends, 28 percent turn to subscription services, 27 percent eye social media, 24 percent seek samples in store, 24 percent consult articles online or in magazines and 16 percent search YouTube videos. Forty four percent of women also indicated browsing a store, followed by recommendations from a friend (36 percent), samples from a subscription service (35 percent), samples received in store (33 percent), advertising (32 percent), social media (29 percent), advertising online or in magazine (29 percent) and YouTube videos (19 percent).

But when it comes to preference on how to receive samples, subscription services ranked first with both men and women, followed by receiving a sample at a store.

Conventional wisdom would suggest online fragrance sales might face obstacles from lack of ability to sniff before purchasing. Experts think store closures could encourage more clicks, especially in regard to replenishment. According to the Scent Discovery Questionnaire, 38 percent of the males queried indicated they shop online, while 34 percent of women said the buy fragrances on the web.  “Store closures are direct coloration to fragrance purchases especially new launches.  The core business will continue to remain strong because if consumers are buying a specific brand or scent, they will always be able to find it in the endless isles of dot-com,” said John R. Burgfechtel, executive vice president, corporate strategy for Sheralven Enterprises Ltd., a fragrance sales, manufacturing and distribution company.

For its part, Macy’s believes it has the bases covered. The retailer has an extensive online fragrance menu to complement physical doors.  “We have to constantly reinvent ourselves. Our brand has great recognition, but we have to reach our consumer in different ways,” said Linda Levy, Omni Group vice president/dmm Fragrances for Macy’s Inc. during a panel presentation earlier this year. “There is still a need for traditional media, but we have to reach out in social and digital and talk to the consumer differently today. We want to create this omnichannel experience — we want it to be fluid and guide consumers whether online or in store.” She added that Macy’s offers more than 100 women’s fragrances and more than 100 men’s scents. To help consumers sift through the options, the retailer now merchandises them by mood or ingredient.