100 Billion Yen Market: Japan's Booming Fragrance Market Leaves Perfumes in the Dust

In around the year 2000, the market for perfumes and scented fabric softener was around the same size, but now, the latter is double the size and Kao predicts that the market will hit the 100 billion yen mark in 2013.

I have heard repeatedly from the CEOs and COOs of major European luxury cosmetics brands that unlike the western markets, only around 8% of total revenue comes from perfumes in Japan. Some surveys indicate that Japanese women are very fickle when it comes to perfumes and cologne; that they change their fragrance every season. Others show that Japanese women tend to avoid perfumes from the 1990s, or after the burst of the bubble economy, citing that we have been in a "no fragrance" era.

Sure enough, Kao's chief perfumer, Shigeru Sawamura is quoted in the 3 June 2013 issue of the Nikkei MJ as follows: "There was a long time when adding even the slightest fragrance to products meant across-the-board rejection from consumers," looking back at his 36 years on the job. But he says now, "we can't seem to put enough fragrances into products!"

Supermarket shelves are filled with scented fabric softeners
Kao's research shows that one out of every user of fabric softener has at least two different products on hand at all times, even in single-person households. This is because consumers are changing their fabric softeners depending on their mood or what they wash.

In some homes, each family member has his/her favorite fragrance. Yoriko Hashimoto (47) says, "My daughter insists on a fresh floral scent while my husband wants his clothes to smell like soap. I use a (rich) romantic fragrance or fresh citrus fragrance depending on my mood."

Yuko Hashimoto, 41, has eight different scented fabric softeners on her shelves. She lives with her three daughters and husband, and each have their own fragrance. Not only that, but whenever a new scented fabric softener comes out, they get one and the entire family evaluates it.

Among the eight items, Hashimoto has created her original blends as well, combining aroma therapy oils with citric acid, and other ingredients with unscented products. In fact, she is such a scent fanatic that she is now the "Aroma Guide" on the information site, All About, responding to numerous queries about fabric softeners.

P&G's Downy is said to have kicked off this scented fabric softener trend from around mid-2000, when mothers and home makers in their 40s who remember the Bubble Economy of the 1980s jumped on its sweet fragrance.

Double the Price, Triple Sales - Fafa
NS FaFa Japan Co., Ltd. (previously named Nissan Sekken), took it further by developing a range of "fragrances to be worn on clothing" concept. On top of that, the concept behind Fafa is "not one fragrance for the entire family, but individual fragrances for individual people."

The Fafa range has fragrances for everyone now - shown below are Fafa Baby, Fafa Dubai, Fafa Fine Homme, and Fafa Fine Beaute, among others. It was test launched online in autumn 2009, and has been steadily increasing fans since through word of mouth and online promotions.

Fafa's retail price starts at around 700 yen for a 600ml bottle which is almost double that of major brands. Yet, its sales have been tripling every year. 

The Next Step - Customize Your Own Fragrance
P&G is now taking scented fabric softeners to the next level - customization.

With Lenor, it has launched the Lenor Happiness Make Your Own Fragrance site:

Customers can adjust the amount of fragrance and blend fragrances through the site. 

Perfumers would probably seldom let amateurs take matters into their own hands to blend oils and fragrances, but with fabric softeners, that is the next stage in Japan. 


Reference: The Nikkei MJ 3 June 2013


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