Are women under 35 years of age the best bet for perfume makers? With total sales of 390 million euros YTD end of August 2016, the segment of perfumes targeting Millennial women account for one third of women’s perfumes sales in value. According to The NPD Group, this segment reported a significant resurgence over the past two years in France and is now one of the main drivers of the market growing by +5% over the period August 2014 - August 2015 and +4% over the period August 2015 - August 2016 in a market that dropped by 2% in 2016. The trend far exceeds the French market with a double-digit growth several other European countries including Spain and Italy.
Two strategic options
In order to attract digital-native women whose expectations and consumption patterns are deemed to widely differ from those of their elders, brands have opted for two different strategies. The first one consists in launching a brand-new concept, such as Olympea by Paco Rabanne (best European  launch in 2015). The second strategy consists in the reinterpretation and rejuvenation of a major classic line such as YSL’s Black Opium (best European launch in 2014) or Poison Girl by Dior (best European launch in 2016, based on YTD figures October 2016).
“Big names adopt a very targeted communication to attract women under 35. For example, bottles of reinterpreted classics are entirely customized, with more girly or glittery colours. Brands also try to build familial stories by choosing movie star’s children or former beauty icons as global ambassadors. A key role is given to music as well as to digital marketing which offers immersive experiences thus multiplying consumers’ commitment on social networks. Furthermore, communication is often unconventional, putting forward a more rebellious or offbeat way of life than their elders,” says Mathilde Lion, Beauty Expert Europe at The NPD Group.
Fall 2016 has only accentuated the trend, with several key launches typically targeting Millennials such as YSL’s Mon Paris, N° 5 L’Eau by Chanel or Kenzo’s World (the three top performing launches of October 2016, according to The NDP Group). “However, while these new proposals are clearly meeting success, we did not survey the real age of those actually buying these perfumes and that could be a source of surprises,” adds Mathilde Lion. Indeed, both prestige brands and retailers are aware of the difficulty to attract younger consumers in the selective channel.
Dissonant male market
As far as men’s fragrances are concerned, the trend contrasts with the women’s market. According to NPD, sales of fragrances targeting younger men have fallen sharply over the last two years (-7% YTD August 2015, -8% YTD August 2016). However, the market research company deems that this segment, which accounts for only 18% of the entire prestige men’s fragrance market, has a great potential for growth. Depending on their success, recent launches might therefore reverse the trend.