The constant struggle of the fragrance market has become a cliché — and it’s all the industry seems to focus on. But this holiday season could just be a good one.

This story first appeared in the October 17, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The NPD Group reported in its annual holiday survey that 17 percent of consumers plan to buy fragrance during the holidays, the fifth most-popular purchase of the season. Niche scents are on the rise, so this could be the year of artisanal perfumes.

Meanwhile, clothing was at the top of the list, with 44 percent of consumers, followed by toys, books and food and beverages.

“[Fragrance] is always a top-of-mind category,” said Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst at NPD. “We have been seeing a lot more women’s fragrances on the market this year, and those tend to resonate more with consumers. But fragrance always tends to be a top category around the holidays. It’s just a question of whether their actions will fulfill that reality.”

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Many consumers plan to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to start their holiday shopping because sales then begin in abundance. At the time of the study, which was completed in September by 3,527 individuals aged 18 and older, 16 percent of consumers had already started their holiday shopping, with an additional 19 percent stating they plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving. Eighteen percent claim they will start during Thanksgiving weekend, which is a sharp contrast to last year’s 13 percent. Twelve percent plan to shop on Black Friday, while the remaining 6 percent plan to do their shopping on Saturday and/or Sunday.

But the majority of sales searching won’t be in stores. According to NPD, online will be the main sales channel for holiday shopping for 60 percent of consumers, from pre-shopping homework to the checkout counter. Special sale prices, overall value and free shipping are key drivers for online shopping.

To that end, the majority of consumers intend to spend the same as or more than last year, and fewer reported that they plan to spend less.

“The convenience factor is the number-one appeal [for shopping online],” Grant said. “With beauty, there are more brands coming out online doing amazing things in terms of engaging the consumer. Both the multibrand points as well as the individual brand sites have so many different incentives and blasts to get you to look at their online space. That’s where they’re customizing the offerings and giving you the first peak.”

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