Also called “haute-parfumerie”, niche perfumery is part of a revival of traditional perfumery. The brand “Parfums de Marly”, created in 2009 by Julien Sprecher, an emblematic personality of this new wave, appears today as the last great house of Haute Parfumerie still independent in France. Julien Sausset, CEO of “Parfums de Marly”, tells us about the particularities and the rise of the niche perfumery.
What differentiates niche perfumery from prestige perfumery ?
About 15 years ago, a new generation of perfumers emerged, eager to bring something new to the industry. Julien Sprecher, with his disruptive approach, has succeeded in bringing a real breath of fresh air to the field : the use of better quality ingredients, closer to the raw materials and offering better performance, such as Bulgarian rose, Taïf rose, or oud for more oriental fragrances like French Oriental.
The packaging is also more elaborate, highlighting a storytelling and a more authentic identity than in industrial perfumery. Another major difference: our communication is done by word of mouth. No advertising, we prefer to invest in the quality of the product instead of investing in campaigns with a muse. Customers are looking for a more intimate, unique approach to perfumery in the niche, and this is what we offer them through this non-mediatization.
How do you see the next few years for niche perfumery ? What developments and prospects do you expect ?
Niche perfumery has been developing at a steady pace for the last ten years, with a real explosion in sales over the last two years. We have entered a new “era” of perfume. Prices are not going down because customers are ready to pay the price of the quality we offer. This segment is growing at 8 to 10% per year. It is a continuous growth because once the customer gets a foot in the niche sector, he does not get out again.
Nevertheless, breaking into the niche perfumery business remains a real obstacle course. The brands that have succeeded in this challenge have all, with the exception of “Parfums de Marly”, been bought by large beauty groups. We are proud to have succeeded in preserving an independence so precious to the artistic freedom of our founder. Niche perfumery represents about 10 to 12% of the global perfumery market – but it will develop rapidly, at a rate of 8 to 10% of CAGR within the next five years. The best is yet to come in terms of growth, so there is reason for optimism. As far as Parfums de Marly is concerned, we are going through an exciting phase and are going to launch a 3-year strategic plan, at the end of which we aim to be the leader in niche perfumery.
What are the strategic areas where niche perfumery works best ?
Each market has its own specificities. But it is undeniable that in terms of volume, the United States is the leading market for niche perfumery because of its size, its maturity, and the increased sensitivity of American customers to luxury codes. High-end perfumery is a great gateway to luxury, with perfumes that start at 250 USD (about 215 euros) and can appeal to wealthy American customers but also to the middle class. This aspect is very important in a territory where social success is an obsession.
Brazil and the Middle East are also two very lucrative territories because they are big consumers of perfume. They are expert customers and in these territories, perfume remains an ancestral art and the love of raw materials is in full swing. Asia is also emerging in the niche perfumery sector. Even if perfume habits exist in some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam or Indonesia, we can observe a real take-off for Asian territories these last years. China stands out due to its potential and the emergence of a Chinese youth very sensitive to luxury codes. According to studies, the niche market could increase fivefold over the next 5 years.
To date, less than 10% of Chinese people use perfume (compared to 42% of daily use in France). As a proof, on the Chinese territory, Marly will multiply its sales in 2021 by three, compared to 2020. Finally, Europe is quite heterogeneous in terms of high perfumery. The market is very buoyant in Great Britain, Germany and Russia : consumer habits are changing because they are ready to differentiate themselves. Nevertheless, France has difficulty in fitting into this mold of change towards the niche. The French take time to change their habits. This is a shame when you know that the greatest creators in the world of Haute Parfumerie are French.
How do you explain this 3-fold increase in sales even during a difficult period like the lockdown ?
We never stopped producing during the various confinements. Staying confident has allowed us to maintain our growth at over 40% in 2020. We are poised to close 2021 with 50% growth to approach $200 million in retail revenue. This outperformance can be observed in all the territories where we are present (more than 80 countries with 1,000 points of sale). This can be explained by the sustainability of our successes: four years ago, we launched a fragrance called Delina. The success was absolutely phenomenal and is still going strong.
Delina is now the best-selling niche fragrance for women in the world. Moreover, unlike most niche perfumeries that position themselves as unisex brands, Marly remains a gendered brand: there is a men’s collection, a women’s collection and only a few unisex. Working with two distinct collections allows us to go very far in the olfactory universe. In addition, we have a concept that is based on a deep traditional foundation. The splendor of the 18th century, the passion of Louis XV for perfumery, this historical dimension that we have never stopped modernizing. Passion is a key word for our teams at Marly, which also makes the reputation of our brand. Men and women who are passionate about their work, experts who are close-knit and loyal and who contribute every day to the success of Parfums de Marly.
Does niche perfumery set up a particular path to respect a circular economy ?
The circular economy is a subject that our founder Julien Sprecher is passionate about. We have created a dedicated team and this year we have launched a carbon footprint assessment to measure our carbon footprint and understand how we can reduce it. A complete review of our manufacturing processes and those of our partners is at the heart of this project which will allow us to look for solutions to reduce our impact on the environment. We also participate in a reforestation project : Parfums de Marly is very committed to the preservation of forests, and we have signed a partnership in 2021 with Reforest’Action, a French company dedicated to the preservation and restoration of forests around the world. We remain very sensitive to all these causes and it is important for us to contribute in our work to the preservation of natural resources.
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Featured Photo : © Les Parfums de Marly
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[FR] Diplômé journaliste plurimédias en 2019, Anthony Conan a multiplié les expériences, notamment en tant qu’assistant éditorial à TF1 ou journaliste radio à RCF Bordeaux. Il se spécialise dans le montage vidéo en plus de la rédaction, et développe un intérêt particulier pour l’économie.************** [EN] Graduated as a multimedia journalist in 2019, Anthony Conan has multiplied his experiences, notably as an editorial assistant at TF1 and as a radio journalist at RCF Bordeaux. He specializes in video editing in addition to writing, and has developed a particular interest in economics.