Health & Beauty

Women lighten up on fragrance, but men spritz with a heavier hand

New research from The NPD Group shows a shift in Americans’ fragrance preferences, with women gravitating toward lighter fragrance concentrations such as colognes, while men increasingly purchase eau de parfums (EDP), richer concentrations not traditionally used by American men.

Prestige retail dollar sales of men’s EDP reached $51.0 million in the year ended February 2015, almost doubling in sales from two years ago, according to NPD. At the same time, sales of prestige fragrance aftershave products, which are on the light side of the scent spectrum, have been declining for the past three years, NPD reports. Prestige aftershave represents a $19.5 million market.Lightly concentrated cologne is the fastest-growing segment of women’s prestige fragrance and reached $69.6 million in sales during the most recent time period.

“By all appearances, it seems that men are establishing a new relationship with fragrance, and their level of experimentation and sophistication has risen. EDP is a niche and emerging category, likely embraced by early adopters who are generally more sophisticated users. In line with this emerging type, the growing presence of multicultural men as well as women—likely buyers for men’s fragrance— within the U.S. population provides a new audience for richer scents,” said Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst, The NPD Group.

“Women’s fragrance behavior ties together with their movement towards natural beauty. Like the growth of active wear in apparel and footwear, growth in the more subtle fragrance concentrations complements the lifestyle elements of casualness growing within the women’s market,” Grant said.

Licensed brands are generally sold in both the prestige (department stores) and mass market (mass merchants, drug stores) channels but are more heavily sold at mass.

The fragrance business has been a hotbed of licensing activity since Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, the first truly blockbuster celebrity fragrance, debuted in 1991. And while retail sales of licensed fragrance brands were actually off 4.5%, to $4.1 billion, in 2014, according to the TLL Annual Licensing Business Survey , it can be hard to tell given the crush of competition at retail.

Where can you find Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend, Lady Gaga’s Fame and Britney Spears’ Midnight Fantasy? Why, at the perfume counter, of course.

Change in Retail Sales of Fragrance, by Type, for Men and Women
Original Data: The NPD Group
Fragrance, by Gender % Chg., 2013 % Chg., 2014 % Chg., 2015
Eau de Toilette +3% -1% +4%
Eau de Parfum +27% +47% +30%
Cologne -6% +8% +5%
Perfume +63% +10% +4%
Eau de Parfum (EDP) +5% -2% +4%
Eau de Toilette 0% 0% +12%
Cologne +30% +11% +29%
Perfume +9% 0% +1%

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