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Fine Fragrance’s New Reality

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: May 13, 2010

Courtesy of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine.

Karyn Khoury will speak as part of a panel at the World Perfumery Congress in Cannes, France, June 1–4, 2010. For more information, visit www.worldperfumerycongress.com. Read an exclusive interview with Khoury online at www.perfumerflavorist.com/events/coverage.

"This isn’t a quick fix situation,” says Karyn Khoury, senior vice president at Estée Lauder, discussing the fine fragrance industry’s declining sales. “It took us many years to get to the situation we’re in. It’s not going to be a matter of months before we fix it, but I believe that we can and will fix it.”

In 2009, the industry launched fewer scents than it did in 2008, breaking a long streak of exponential growth. To Khoury’s thinking, this is a positive result of the financial crisis of the last 18 months. “The consumer has been overwhelmed with the number of launches, the amount of choice, and in some cases the lack of differentiation,” she says. This excess of new scents has coincided with a decline in the number of consumers buying fragrance. Khoury hopes a smaller pool of launches will feature more discerning character and “help us reconnect with the consumer.” She adds that the consumer’s experience with fine fragrance must be thought through in every aspect, from the juice to the bottle to the instore environment: “It’s a feel-good factor that has to be there in every element of the way in which we approach a consumer.”

Fragrances for the Changing Consumer

“Whatever affects the consumer’s emotions, affects the outlook, the approach, and ultimately the business of fragrance,” says Khoury. As a result of recent economic uncertainty, she says, “we’ve seen an increased demand … for authenticity, craftsmanship (quality), the true story behind the fragrance.” Consumers, she continues, are seeking a more emotional connection—an “emotional payback”—from their fragrance purchases. This, she says, is a “guiding principal for 2010.” Khoury adds, “Launches, if they have any chance of connecting with the consumer, must be well thought out, cohesive in the message, package, communication and scent.” Making these connections, she says, is all about achieving an “‘I absolutely gotta have it’ response. It’s what makes you buy a handbag you don’t need—it’s this emotional ‘I want it.’”