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Critical Mass: Lighter Scents Drive Fragrance Category

Ongoing declines in traditional eaux de toilette can be traced to consumer preferences for lighter mists, which also carry reduced price tags, said retailers.

NEW YORK ­— It seems mass-market consumers prefer fragrances to whisper rather than shout.

Ongoing declines in traditional eaux de toilette can be traced to consumer preferences for lighter mists, which also carry reduced price tags, said retailers.

“There’s a disconnect between fragrance customers and the fragrance industry,” said Mark Crames, chief executive officer of Demeter Fragrance Library. “Ninety-nine percent of what is being launched is high prestige or couture.”

But the reality at the local Wal-Mart, CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens is that the customer is looking for value, said retailers. That search is driving demand for lighter mists in the form of alternative designer mimics, lighter flankers of major brands and mist extensions of bath products.

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Sales tell the story. The category dubbed women’s fragrance experience, which includes traditional eaux de toilette, declined almost 6 percent to $511 million, according to multichannel data from Symphony IRI Group, for the 52-week period ended Dec. 30. For the same period, body mists grew almost 8 percent to $154 million. Units soared more than 10 percent. Men’s traditional fragrances declined a little more than 2 percent to $348 million, and men’s toiletries, grooming and aftershave shrunk 1.8 percent to $600 million. Men’s body mists rose 2.6 percent to $298 million.

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Despite the segment’s growth, the overall fragrance category needs a boost. “There’s a lot of momentum [in beauty], but we still need to figure out how to rejuvenate the fragrance segment,” said Larry Levin, executive vice president and general manager of consumer and shopper insights at Symphony IRI.

For many, the key to reviving fragrance sales is to borrow a page from Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. “They realized there was a younger market that likes to try new products, layer them and get more affordable choices,” said David Pina, the creative director for InStyle Fragrances, which will unveil a collection of lighter scents in its designer alternatives for $5.99 each.

Calgon, which is now a division of Parfums de Coeur, knows many young girls are frequenting the specialty bath department for everyday fragrances. Earlier this month, Calgon launched its four fragrances in the [Heart] Calgon line at an event with “Modern Family” star Sarah Hyland. Wearing a bold blue dress and sitting in a cupcake chair at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan, Hyland said she’s not too proud to shop Target and Walgreens — she wishes she had a Wal-Mart near her — and buys products from CoverGirl and L’Oréal. For daily fragrance needs she likes body mists, especially the Fresh Start scent in [Heart] Calgon. “They aren’t as potent. They are super light and fresh,” said the 22-year-old. Hyland test-drove the scents for her boyfriend, actor Matt Prokop, before committing to being the face of the new Calgon collection.

Sharon Shue Hidey, marketing director for Calgon, added body mists are priced right — retailing for less than $5 — for economically strapped consumers who can try different scents and “spray more frequently.”

James Stammer, ceo of Parfums de Coeur, added its customer research indicated that body mists have become part of the daily regimen. “[Women] use them before they leave their home in the morning, then again after they workout and again to freshen up in the evening,” he said. “It is not uncommon for a woman to have several fragrance body mists at home, one or two in her car and even a few more at work or at school.”

Derek Bowen, senior vice president of marketing for Coty Beauty U.S., said that although the body mists and body sprays are doing well, sales are incremental and help grow the category. “It is not at the expense of traditional edt’s,” said Bowen. “Consumers are looking to experience scenting in different ways. We are seeing this dimensionalized through consumer acceptance of alternate forms of fragrance.” He cited a host examples from Coty, including body mists from Beyoncé and Halle Berry; Playboy VIP for Him Body Spray and Playboy for Her Body Mist, and from the Adidas for Women Personal Care Collection. CVS puts muscle behind sprays including its own collection of Essence of Beauty mists, and it carries designer alternatives under the Perfects Scents name from InStyle.

Men can’t be overlooked either in the lighter craze. The success of PDC’s Bod Man — it is the number-one-selling mass fragrance, according to IRI — as well as the impact Axe and other body sprays have had on the market, prove men approve of lighter options. InStyle president Rob Luby said trends in men’s skin care have inspired his company to add a line of moisturizing body sprays for men called M365 Body Blasts with antioxidants and vitamins. “M365 combines skin care with the highest-quality fragrances in a long-wearing Body Spray.” The scents include an impression of Paco Rabanne One Million, Azzaro Chrome and Gucci Guilty, along with other top sellers.

One buyer said the hope is these lighter scents will serve as a “gateway” to multiple purchases, and eventually an upgrade to traditional scents. The buyer said, “We feel it is better to move 10 items of a lesser-priced fragrance than to have others gather dust.”