The economic crisis has done more than slow down the sales of fragrance and beauty products. It has forever changed business as we know it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
We have become complacent, taking the easy path and transformed what was a highly prestigious category and made it into a commodity. In doing so, the perception of fragrance is extremely different today than it was 20 years ago. The consumer, shaken to the core, has put on the brakes, and it will take a lot more than a gift-with-purchase or yet another flanker for her to open her wallet again.
So, it’s no longer business as usual, and the industry needs to regroup and make some significant changes to send the signal that it understands the needs and wants of the customer and then deliver. In order to do that, we need to listen very carefully to what she is asking for—smaller sizes in order to be sure she loves the product without a big investment, plenty of educated sales help to help her make the right decisions and samples. She wants to be engaged with the product, be enticed by its romance and aspirational appeal. She is interested in stories about the perfumer and the inspiration behind the juice. She loves collectables or something unique or whimsical—those must-have products. This responsibility is not only on the manufacturer, but requires the full partnership of the retailer. It’s not us and them, it’s a collaborative “we.”
The industry needs to go back to its roots, when it built brands and took risks and made fragrance a must-have in everyone’s daily life. We need to rethink distribution, the shopping experience and how it talks to the consumer. It isn’t that customers stopped loving fragrance. It’s that we took away their reason to use it.
Those that recognize and act on this crucial sea change will survive. Those who continue to do business as usual will not. I’m betting on the former. This is an industry that has more creative and marketing talent than any other. Now is the time to harness this talent and make magic again.