Prestige fragrance and cosmetics market in France suffers worst slump in 10 years

In 2016 the prestige fragrance and cosmetics market in France suffered its worst slump in ten years, dragged down by the economic situation, still less than promising, and the decline in tourism.


In 2016 'La Vie est Belle' was once again France's best-selling fragrance. - Lancôme

Last year, according to market research firm NPD, sales of perfume, make-up and skincare products in perfumery chains and department stores fell by 3% in France, down to €2.8 billion.

The market has been weak in the last three years, and was especially affected by the decline in foreign tourism in Paris after the terrorist attacks. "The Paris region was responsible for two-thirds of the decrease, instead of driving the market as it usually does," said to Reuters Mathilde Lion, a beauty specialist at NPD. Skincare sales were especially affected by the decline in Asian tourists, who are aficionados of the category, and lost 7% last year, down to €490 million.

As for fragrances, which account for two-thirds of the market, sales fell by 2%, as they did also in 2015, down to €1.89 billion. Most of the major retailers were aggressive with promotions, notably market leader Sephora (of the LVMH group), Nocibé-Douglas and Marionnaud, and this kept a lid on prices: the average retail price for a perfume was €60.30 last year, up only 1.7%.

Instead, the price of high-end and niche scents, typically more concentrated, continued to rise. For some years now fragrances selling at more than €100 a bottle have thrived, and several boutique labels have been acquired by major groups. In June 2016 L'Oréal bought Atelier Cologne, after Estée Lauder acquired Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, Le Labo and By Kilian.

La Vie est Belle and Sauvage top the fragrance best-seller list

The top three best-selling feminine fragrances in France remained the same in 2016, with La Vie est Belle by Lancôme (L'Oréal) still leading, followed by Dior's J'Adore and La Petite Robe Noire by Guerlain, two brands belonging to the LVMH group.

Among men's fragrances, the number one was Sauvage by Dior, launched in September 2015 and top of the sales ranking both in France and Europe. "A textbook case, probably the biggest launch in the last ten years. It is very rare for a perfume to achieve this kind of market penetration so quickly," said Mathilde Lion. Behind Sauvage were Bleu de Chanel and Terre d'Hermès.

While make-up sales worldwide are skyrocketing, boosted by social media exposure and the trend for personal make-over, in France they fell by 2%, down to €414 million.

Strong growth in eyebrow products, lipsticks and face primers was not enough to compensate for the sales slump in eye-shadows and mascaras.

The figures provided by NPD do not take into account the retailers' own brands and internet sales, which account for roughly 5% of the market. The prestige retail sector, where prices are much higher than in drugstore chains or mass market distribution, accounts for approximately half of the fragrance and beauty sector revenue.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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