A recession is looming, so why are luxury fragrance sales booming?

At Liberty, fragrance sales are up 82% year over year, despite financial pressures on people across the country. “Although perfume is a luxury, we’ve seen that people are willing to invest if they can,” she says. “Perfume can have a lot of meaning for people, it’s a means of transport, of storing memories and of boosting the mood. It really is a product of well-being, and a product that people savor and really enjoy when they use it.

The ability of personal care products to lift spirits in turbulent times is a popular topic of discussion in the beauty industry. Many of us are familiar with the Lipstick Index: a term coined by Leonard Lauder, president of Estée Lauder, to describe the increase in cosmetics sales during a recession. While the validity of his hypothesis has been hotly debated over the years, an uptick in mascara sales during the coronavirus pandemic has led many to suggest a similar mascara index, as we’ve all floundered to find ways to improve our appearance – and our mood – in the face of constant mask-wearing.

Mia Collins, Head of Beauty at Harrods, believes the increasingly blurred line between beauty and well-being plays a part in this. “There has been a huge conversation about wellness and self-care over the past few years. People are now very much aware of the role scent plays in this, and indeed more and more clinical studies are proving that certain scents directly stimulate different parts of the brain, causing different feelings,” she notes. . “Also, as people become more attuned to how fragrances can make them smell, they see their scent as another form of self-expression. So people are looking at their fragrance purchases from the same way as any other accessory they wear and present to the world – allocating a budget equal to that of their shoes or bags.

Another factor that explains our growing perfume bills is that perfume has simply become more expensive. A decade ago spending over £125 on a fragrance would have been unheard of for the average consumer, while the niche fragrance boom of recent years has meant that those from Frederic Malle, DS & Durga and Byredo now often go good. in triple digits.

According to Emma Fishwick, senior account manager at The NPD Group, the average price of fragrances from January to the end of July 2022 increased by 9% compared to last year. She attributes this – among other factors – to an increase in the manufacturers’ base price, a reduction in the number of promotions available on fragrances and the fact that many customers are opting for larger bottles, as well as more durable formats such as than eaux de parfum, which usually have a higher price. In fact, she says, sales of flavored juices over 100ml were up 50% in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. And they’re not cheap – a bottle of the much-loved Portrait by Frédéric Malle of a Lady eau de parfum costs £270 for 100ml at Liberty, while 100ml of Le Labo’s cult Santal 33 eau de parfum costs £200 at Harrods.

Fishwick says consumers’ current spending habits follow a pattern we’ve seen before. “In previous years, when consumer spending was challenged, consumers tended to lean on heritage brands they knew and trusted. If you’re buying your favorite perfume juice, you might be tempted to buy a bigger bottle that will last longer and thus offer better value for money,” she explains. “But as the cost of living crisis continues and pressure increases on the cords of the consumer exchange, it is possible that consumers will switch to smaller sizes and lower formats which generally have a lower average price.”

Will a recession put an end to this stratospheric rise in perfume sales? That remains to be seen. But what we do know is that the reasons for investing in a new fragrance are varied and personal. And this perfume should perhaps not be considered a frivolous purchase, based solely on a good smell.

“People are now buying fragrances with a nuanced set of goals – it’s not just about a scent that makes them smell nice or reflects a certain lifestyle,” Collins says. “A perfume is also what it makes someone feel.”

Donovan B. Sanford