Artistic Perfumery & the Pandemic: What happened since last year?

2021 . 07 . 30 | written by Karen Marin

Add to my selection

Essencional's original content





As part of the Esxence on Air program, the webinar entitled Artistic Perfumery & Pandemic revealed the findings obtained from a survey conducted in Spring 2021 by the Essencional Study Center in collaboration with the Develon Group. The objectives of the survey were twofold: to get information from the end-users on how the pandemic may have affected consumption habits, and, for professionals (brands, retailers, influencers, PR, journalists), to find out how they adapted business practices during this challenging period.


The feedback came mostly from Italian women. An impressive 54% of the respondents only wear niche brands and 65% buy anywhere from 2 to 7 fragrances per year. 82% said they wore artistic perfumery during lockdown to feel better while 57% said it gives them more pleasure than commercial scents. 42% indicate their usage didn’t change during lockdown while 27% said it actually increased. Marco Ricchetti sees this trend as a text-book case of how during an economic crisis, and the worst the world has seen since WW11, there are winning and losing sectors. Fragrance was resilient and made its way into the home as nearly 70% of those surveyed also bought home fragrance to create a calm and cozy haven.


Almost 80% of total respondents kept going to physical stores and 86% felt safe in the stores. Some people also bought online, often due to attractive prices and convenience. One third said they only bought at small or independent shops to be supportive, in solidarity with small businesses. For the people who were hesitant to go to physical stores, their primary reasons included health concerns, or they found better prices online or they felt pressured to buy. An unfortunate 57% of the respondents reported the in-store experience was less satisfying, meaning there is work to be done. Silvio Levi concurred, “But we need to make it a much more enjoyable experience when people do come in.”


Consultation services blossomed during the pandemic, however, only 16% of our participants took part in free services and a mere 3% opted for paid services. All respondents said they would repeat a free beauty or perfume consultation while 80% of the people who paid for a service would do it again. In addition to consultations, respondents looked into classes or trainings to get general information about fragrance, or to learn more at home with the use of raw material or olfactory sets, although only 10% actually bought them. I commented on this point because, given the wealth of information available on the internet, it’s possible to get some direction and advice without needing to pay for it.


People did invest in discovery kits and samples to try fragrance, generally buying from online perfumeries or directly from brands. These trials may have encouraged experimentation as 30% of the respondents indicated they discovered new olfactory families during the pandemic. Chiara Toniello observed that since the range of fragrance families explored was vast, it means people are willing to experiment, and in turn independent perfumeries can benefit by making it possible for people to try a broad variety of scents.


The good news is that 44% of the respondents are members of an online artistic perfumery community. Most are there for knowledge, to know about new launches or specific products, while just over a quarter are looking to find better prices or to buy samples. The best news is that 63% participate in communities to share their passion with other fragrance lovers. As I commented, “People are on there to get information, for education but also just the love of fragrance that they want to be online engaging with others and sharing their passion.” This is great sign and an opportunity for artistic perfumery!


Turning to the professional end of the survey, the majority of those who replied were store owners or retail employees. Just over a third of this group hadn’t had an online presence but launched a website during the pandemic. For 62%, the shop remained closed during lockdown but they continued to sell online. An eye-opening 19% closed the shop and had no online presence at all. In regard to the sales split, nearly 3/4th of the respondents felt online sales didn’t offset the lack of offline sales, but 62% are confident online sales will continue to grow.

In an effort to reach their customers, retailers looked for ways to offer additional services such as home delivery and click and collect which are now considered to be essential. As Mr. Ricchetti said, “This definitely means home delivery is not an ancillary element anymore. Knowing you will get quick, efficient and secure delivery is a huge argument in favor of ordering online.”

There were also changes to the product portfolio as retailers added home fragrance and shaving references to the assortment. Best of all, 63% of the retailers said they decided to increase their niche fragrance assortment in store, a very positive sign for all artistic perfumery brands. Mr. Levi stated,It’s also interesting to see that retailers indicated they are increasing the number of artistic perfumery brands in the assortment – a good sign for our segment especially during pandemic because here you must invest in something new that is not well known that you have to promote but you feel the interest of your consumer – it’s very promising and something to look into for our next analysis.”


One of the most striking changes that occurred during the pandemic was the necessity of shifting to digital to communicate and keep in-touch with consumers. Brands still favor Facebook and Instagram as platforms of choice, but Zoom, LinkedIn and Meet are growing in popularity. Amongst retailers and brands, 65% turned to the internet to advertise and more than 50% made use of social media to post content and videos to engage with the public. For 92% of the journalists and influencers, posting video content was the preferred means of communication, though everyone recognized the importance of being present in the perfumery community.


In terms of communication priorities, all respondents put olfactory notes at the top of the list, followed by product and raw material descriptions. Other topics included brand history, new launches, and sustainability.

Retailers and brands indicated that customers’ choice of olfactory families did not change during the pandemic, and 31% said their customers are expressing interest in natural ingredients. PR coverage highlighted green and citrus olfactory families, perhaps setting a trend for the future.

Click below to watch the full webinar.

Photo credits:

Stay Safe and lots of love in pandemic times by Etienne Girardet

Girl with mask by Heather Morse