Celebrities, Best-Selling Fragrances, Sales Figures & The Perfume Industry

A few days ago, I read an article on Stylecaster pertaining to the celebrity perfume industry, and the money that is involved. I always knew there was a lot of money involved, but that article inspired me to really explore further and to research in greater detail the issue of celebrity fragrances and the sector’s profitability.

Sarah Jessica Parker for "Covet." Source: Fragrantica

Sarah Jessica Parker for “Covet.” Source: Fragrantica

What I learnt… well, I can’t even begin to process some of the details. In fact, the numbers for Britney Spears alone left me with my jaw rather agape. It’s simply too much for my tiny, little mind. She’s not alone, however, in experiencing fragrance success. Beyoncé, Paris Hilton, the boy band, One Direction, the American baseball player, Derek Jeter, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the original celebrity perfume endorser, perhaps the mother of this whole trend, Elizabeth Taylor, they’ve all done well. Some of them (i.e., Britney) have made an absolute killing! As The Hollywood Reporter wrote in an article earlier this year, “[o]f the top-selling 100 fragrances, 31 are tied to celebrities, all of them hoping to become the next Elizabeth Taylor.

Perfume has become such a profitable business that, as you will see at the end of this article, even universities are trying to get in on the game, having their own perfumes to encapsulate their college ethos and campus feel. From the University of Florida to Penn State, and many more, everyone is trying to get a piece of the profits. Not even the fabulously wealthy, legendary baseball team, the New York Yankees, is immune to the lure.

Before getting to the Stylecaster article which triggered all this, I thought it would be helpful to first have some basic, background figures to put things into an overall context. The global fragrance industry is valued at over $25 billion a year, with the Wiki-Invest entry for Elizabeth Arden putting the number closer at $36.6B! Nonetheless, in the U.S., the perfume sales figures have recently slowed. (You can read all the financial numbers for 2013 perfume sales, as well as other statistics and reports on the global perfume industry in general in my prior piece, 2013 Fragrance Sales Figures, Revenue & Emerging Markets.)


Source: musicactivation.com

Source: musicactivation.com

One reason for the dip in U.S. fragrance sales is, in part, the absence of any major celebrity perfume blockbuster hits. According to a report from the Euromonitor International analysis group, Justin Bieber’s fragrance (“Someday”) alone, by itself, contributed enormously to U.S. market sales in the previous year! 

After growing by 9% in 2011, sales of fragrances grew by just 3% in 2012. It appears that an improving economy in 2011 combined with pent-up demand and extensive product innovation led to strong growth in 2011, but this was not able to be repeated in 2012. Fragrance sales in 2011 had benefited from higher-income shoppers who felt more comfortable spending on others and themselves as the economy improved. The 2011 blockbuster launch of Justin Bieber also contributed to strong growth in 2011 as teenagers and young girls pestered their parents to buy them the pop singer’s fragrance. In 2012, there was no must-have celebrity fragrance to entice consumers.

Justin Bieber may have had one of the most successful perfume launches in history. According to Women’s Wear Daily, his Someday fragrance “shattered” sales records, netted more than $3 million in retail sales at Macy’s in less than three weeks. The $35-$45 fragrance was priced right and, let’s face it, Justin Bieber’s fans are very… enthusiastic, to put it politely.

There may not have been any Bieber-like monster successes recently, but it’s not for the lack of trying by other celebrities. There are the Olsen Twins with their upcoming, new and very first fragrance, Nirvana Black, which Womens Wear Daily says will be a $55-$75 woody scent that is exclusive to Sephora upon its official January launch and which is accompanied by a second fragrance, a musky floral called Nirvana White. From the young fashionistas’ fragrance debut, to Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine, the celebrities are all trying desperately hard, putting out new fragrances to appeal to their fans. They don’t all succeed, but when they do, the profits are astonishing.


This is where we come to the Stylecaster report by Leah Bourne, entitled “Celebrity Fragrances: Why Stars Do Them, and How Much Do They Really Make.” For someone like myself who covers almost exclusively the high-end or luxury niche perfume market, the well-written piece was mesmerizing, fascinating, revolting, and depressing in equal measure. My stomach sank from the very opening paragraph:

Jay Z & his Gold. Source: Eonline.com

Jay Z & his Gold. Source: Eonline.com

Jay-Z’s latest big-budget project isn’t an album, a tour, or even a clothing line: It’s a fragrance he’s dubbed “Gold Jay Z.” The rapper reportedly picked the name after combing through hundreds of options, eventually striking inspiration when he said, “This is the shit; it’s gold.” If Gold—which hits stores on Black Friday and ranges from $39 to $70—mimics the success of other celebrity fragrances, that’ll be a pretty fair assessment.

beyonces_heat_fragranceI sighed, then sighed even more at reading about his wife, Beyoncé. Her perfume, Heat, was released in 2010. Some factoids according to Stylecaster:

  • 72,000 bottles were sold in the first hour of its release at Macy’s department store in NYC as she was signing autographs;
  • Macy’s sold $3 million worth in the first month;
  • Fast forward to August 2013, and the “Heat Collection” (which I’m assuming now involves flankers as well) was allegedly “named the current best-selling celebrity fragrance brand worldwide, with $400 million earned at retail globally so far.”


Other depressing facts from the Stylecaster article:

  • In 2012, there were 85 celebrity perfume launches, compared to only 10 a decade earlier.
  • Celebrity fragrance sales are now pulling in over $1.3 billion a year—a huge chunk of the total $5.2 billion fragrance industry in the US.
  • Paris Hilton’s perfume line is valued at $1.5 billion.
  • Britney Spears has sold over a billion bottles of perfume in the last five years, with global sales of over $1 billion. “You better believe that a huge chunk of Spears’ estimated $220 million net-worth stems from her various perfumes.”

These are cumulative sales figures, of course, but the numbers add up. Take, for example, the year 2011 which Forbes Magazine breaks down by best-selling perfumes in the U.S. market. A few tidbits from that report, with some supplemental research tossed in as well:

  • “Topping our list this year is White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor. Elizabeth Arden sold $54 million worth of the scent in the U.S. last year.”

Derek Jeter's ad for his fragrance, Driven, released by Avon.

Derek Jeter’s ad for his fragrance, Driven, released by Avon.

  • The American baseball star, Derek Jeter, had $27 million in sales in 2011 for his perfume, Driven. Forbes quotes the Euromonitor research group which states that “scents for men are bought by women for their boyfriends and husbands. So the appeal of Driven probably has more to do with Jeter’s persona than with his baseball skills.” In fact, the The Hollywood Reporter article from this spring quotes Euromonitor as saying that Driven “is the second-biggest celebrity fragrance, with more than $20 million in annual sales.”
  • Forbes’ “third place” listing for 2011 takes us back to Heat by Beyoncé. It says her perfume “did well right out of the gate with $21 million in sales. It doesn’t hurt that Beyoncé promoted the fragrance with a steamy commercial deemed too hot for daytime TV in the U.K.” The Hollywood Reporter, however, says the numbers are much higher, saying that her perfumes earned $38 million in sales in 2011.

The people who I actually thought would lead the list came in fourth! The celebrities I know best for selling fragrances are people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Simpson, P. Diddy/Puff Daddy, and Britney Spears. Sarah Jessica Parker’s fragrances are the rare, few celebu-scents that often get decent praise on their own merits from perfume experts, so I certainly didn’t expect her to be far below someone like Derek Jeter! The fourth place 2011 numbers (which Forbes erroneously states as yet another “third place”) are:

Four scents tie for third place, each with $18 million in sales: Unforgivable by P. Diddy’s Sean John brand, NYC by Sarah Jessica Parker, Fancy by Jessica Simpson and Harajuku Lovers by Gwen Stefani. [Emphasis to names added by me.] [¶] NYC is an impressive newcomer. Parker has several other scents, including Lovely, Dawn and Endless, but NYC, which launched in 2009, is her bestseller.


Source: paroutudo.com

Source: paroutudo.com

One of the most successful celebrities in the perfume world on a long-term, cumulative basis may be Britney Spears. Amusingly, while her music isn’t always a big hit, her perfumes seem to be. Even when she was having her very public meltdown and her music career was stalling, Stylecaster says that she was still raking in the money — and it was primarily from her fragrances. It is nothing but ironic that Britney’s latest music single is called, of all things, “Perfume,” and seems to have bombed, when she has jaw-dropping success with actual fragrance.

Britney Curious perfumeHere are some numbers from her Wikipedia entry (with footnote links kept in if you want to double-check, as we all know Wikipedia can sometimes be dodgy):

  • Spears endorsed her first Elizabeth Arden fragrance “Curious” in 2004, and earned $100 million in sales in just five weeks.[3] .
  • To date (2012), Curious has sold over 500 million bottles worldwide[.][5]
  • On May 21, 2009, it is posted on her official website that Spears has the number one selling celebrity fragrance line on the market. Her Elizabeth Arden scents make up 34% of all fragrance sales.[6]
  • “Britney competed against other celebrities such as Céline Dion and Jennifer Lopez to succeed in becoming the number one celebrity perfume endorser of all time with global perfume sales of over one billion.”
  • “To date, Spears has grossed an estimated $10 billion from perfume sales across the globe, with sales of more than a billion.”

Honestly, I am highly skeptical about that figure of a $10 billion gross, and suspect that it is some Britney fanboy is exaggerating. I also can’t find numbers for to support that claim, though I’ll be honest and say I didn’t do extensive, exhaustive digging.

One thing needs to be noted, Britney Spears herself is not getting either $1 billion or $10 billion, no matter how many bottles of perfumes she sells. She receives only a small percentage. (More on celebrity percentages later, down below.) What she has is an exclusive multi-year trademark and licensing deal with Elizabeth Arden which is set to expire next year in 2014. I hope Ms. Spears has a good lawyer who is is negotiating a hefty increase in her cut of the profits, because she’s certainly helped Elizabeth Arden’s sales.

Plus, Elizabeth Arden can afford it, thanks to their share of the perfume market. According to the Elizabeth Arden Wiki-Invest stock page:

The global fragrance industry has a market cap at $36.6 billion dollars. Currently Elizabeth Arden has a 15% market share from their owned and licensed brands North America compared to the 2% market share in Europe. Europe has largest fragrance market at $13 billion which is currently twice that of North America.

If Britney Spear’s perfumes make up 34% of that Elizabeth Arden’s sales, and if the company’s market share is 15% of an allegedly $36.6 billion dollar-per-year industry, well, then, she clearly makes a lot. However, we don’t know what her percentage agreements are with Elizabeth Arden, and how much she herself gets back from the gross profits. The bottom line is that Britney Spears probably has probably brought in well over a $1 billion in perfume sales for Elizabeth Arden by now, but I simply refuse to believe it’s anywhere close to $10 billion, and Britney herself is not making anywhere close to those figures.

The Hollywood Reporter seems to agree, with a considerably more conservative assessment of Britney’s success. Their March 2013 article on celebrity fragrance states:

Spears, after launching Curious, which has sold more than 500 million bottles since 2004, released 10 more fragrances. Collectively, Spears’ scents take in $30 million a year.

Whichever report you believe, one thing is clear: Britney’s fragrances are doing a lot better than Perfume, her song.



Elizabeth Taylor & White Diamonds.

What would be interesting to me is to know how Britney Spears compares with the great Elizabeth Taylor who, arguably, really set off this whole celebrity perfume mania to begin with. Stylecaster disagrees, saying that there were celebrity fragrances far before La Grand Liz, but conceding that she made it the thing that it is today:

The history of celebrity fragrances dates back almost 100 years, when Elsa Schiaparelli designed a curvy perfume bottle in the 1930s modeled after actress Mae West. In the 1950s, Givenchy sold a scent created for Audrey Hepburn. However, the business of celebrity fragrances really kicked into overdrive when Elizabeth Taylor launched White Diamonds in 1991, in collaboration with Elizabeth Arden. That perfume has since grossed more than $1 billion and counting—in fact, Taylor made more money from her fragrances than all of her film roles combined.

Elizabeth Taylor poses with a $100,000 special edition bottle of her “White Diamonds” fragrance in New York in 1991. Photo: AP via Chicago Sun Times.

Elizabeth Taylor poses with a $100,000 special edition bottle of her “White Diamonds” fragrance in New York in 1991. Photo: AP via Chicago Sun Times.

Think of that for a second: Elizabeth Taylor made more money from her perfumes than she did in ALL her films, combined. It’s an astonishing thought at first, but perhaps completely logical when you consider what star salaries were back then.

Yet, even after her death, her fragrances sell. And sell big. White Diamonds sold more than $54 million worth in 2010, according to Forbes magazine. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, sales of all of her perfumes totaled $76.9 million in just one year. However, Elizabeth Taylor had a small hit from the very start, with her first fragrance in 1987 called Passion. The official Dame Elizabeth Taylor website states: “By 1991, sales of Passion reached an estimated $100 million dollars giving it a coveted spot on the list of top ten selling fragrances of all time.”

In short, Britney may be selling more now, but La Liz had decades of a head-start, and I would be fascinated to compare their overall sales and gross profit figures. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find how much Elizabeth Taylor or her estate have made from the sales of her perfumes since she began in 1987, but it has to be quite a lot. All I know is that Elizabeth Arden — Britney’s company — is the one who licenses Taylor’s perfumes, a fact which further explains the company’s large market share. (As a side note, Elizabeth Arden’s celebrity and designer stable also includes Usher, Mariah Carey, Hilary DuffKate Spade, Juicy Couture, Liz Claiborne, and Badgley Mischka.)


As noted above, there is a big difference between the overall bottle sales, and the amount that the star receives his or her self. The Stylecaster article had an interesting tidbit on the issue of how much celebrities really make:

Celebrities tend to make between 5 and 10 percent of sales for licensing their name to a scent on top of an upfront payment of $3 million plus. With sales in the hundreds of millions for some of these fragrances—you do the math. Bottles of perfume and cologne typically sell for between $60 and $100, and the cost of making them is usually about 25 percent of retail—so the return is enormous.

It’s a siren’s lure for a variety of reasons, as Stylecaster explains:

‘Celebrities see it as a revenue stream without a lot of responsibility, and the manufacturers see it as a revenue stream to help their bottom line,’ said Rochelle Bloom, president of the Fragrance Foundation. […]

And with traditional streams of revenue for stars drying up (album sales, back-end movie deals) the lure of fragrance money is stronger than ever. It’s also a possible revenue stream, should the fragrance be a hit, for stars to continue making money after their heyday has passed.

Other sources add to the picture. While The Hollywood Reporter agrees that ancillary revenue streams as fragrances and clothing lines are becoming more important to a star’s overall financial well-being, it quotes slightly different figures:

A top celebrity — one who appeals to the young women powering the market — now can demand $3 million to $5 million as an upfront payment, plus a 6 percent or 7 percent royalty on sales, say insiders.

The article notes that celebrity endorsements are low-risk for the star, and well worth it for the perfume company as a way to distinguish the new brand. If the cost of making a fragrance is only a fraction of the retail cost (and I’ve actually read the number is far, far lower than the 25% stated in these pieces), then the extra payout to the celebrity can be a good investment.

The problem with this seemingly win-win situation is that it has completely over-saturated the perfume market. The Hollywood Reporter states that, nowadays:

big profits hardly are guaranteed. “The domination of the celebrities is diluting the magic of the fragrance business,” says Sue Phillips of tracking website Scenterprises.com, adding that a star like J.Lo will issue less expensive “flanker” scents such as Miami Glow, Love at First Glow, Glowing, etc., after an initial hit like Glow, thus crowding out upstarts. […]

Faced with increased competition, fragrance-makers must prove their products quickly lest they be yanked from Nordstrom or Sephora. A perfume used to have three years to turn a profit. Now? “It’s exactly like the movie business,” says Isaac Lekach at ID Perfumes, which helped launch fragrances for Perry, Selena Gomez and Paris Hilton and is working on a new scent for Adam Levine. “If you don’t have a strong opening weekend, good luck relying on word-of-mouth.”


Snooki perfume ad. Source: Fragrantica.

Snooki perfume ad. Source: Fragrantica.

If not everyone makes it, then what are the factors for success? It seems to depend often on both the celebrity’s popularity, fan access to test the fragrance, price points, actual smell, and, most importantly of all, the degree of the celebrity’s involvement in promotion. Perfumes from Nicole “Snooki” PolizziKate Walsh, and Denise Richards were quick failures. (In my opinion, it helps if the celebrity’s image isn’t an embarrassing one, à la Snooki.)

Stylecaster says that success depends on a “perfect storm of celebrity involvement, celebrity fan base, and lastly, whether the perfume actually has an appealing smell.”

Why has Knowles’ Heat been such a huge hit? The singer allowed her fans to sample Heat at all of her North American shows during her The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour earlier this year. “We always talk about bringing entertainment to retail,” said Marsha Brooks, Vice President of Global Marketing, Fragrances, for Coty Beauty. “With this scent, we brought retail to entertainment.” Simply put, selling perfume at a massive concert tour isn’t a retail channel open to the Chanels and Thierry Muglers of the world, but it is open to Beyoncé.

Paris Hilton perfume ad for her second fragrance, Fairy Dust. Source: http://frillr.com/?q=node/9796

Paris Hilton perfume ad for her second fragrance, Fairy Dust. Source: http://frillr.com/?q=node/9796

Paris Hilton’s line of fragrances has had unexpected longevity, despite Hilton’s increasingly low-profile, because Hilton has proved to be a tireless promoter of her line which is valued at $1.5 billion. She released her first fragrance in 2004 and is still tweeting about it to her over 12 million Twitter followers.

In contrast, the article implies that Jennifer Aniston barely bothered with her perfume, and the lack of promotion led to unimpressive sales.


What I’m surprised that the Stylecaster article doesn’t mention is what can only be called The Teen/Tween Factor. Justin Bieber’s sales are uniformly attributed to the shrieking hordes of his teen and pre-teen fans. Youth trumps, and Jennifer Aniston, Kate Walsh, and women of a certain age simply aren’t going to have quite the same allure to susceptible 13-year-old girls who will pester their parents for their idol’s scent. Jennifer Aniston could have promoted that fragrance as much as she’d wanted, but I doubt she’d have the One Direction effect.

Source: Daily Mail.

Source: Daily Mail.

The boy band just came out with their first fragrance in August called, quite simply, One Moment. When it launched at Harrods, 3,000 bottles sold in just two days. The entertainment site, Eonline, says that “the boys were set to earn $561,312 (or 360,000 pounds) in its first week on sale in the U.K.” According to the Daily Mail (I know, I know!!), that the figure was calculated from preorder sales plus the more than-3,000 bottles that have been sold in just two days at the Harrods in London. Each boy will “personally earn around £2 for every 30ml Eau de Parfum bottle sold, which means the group is due to bank £360,000 in 7 days.” Further numbers and figures:

Escentual.com CEO Rakesh Aggarwal said: ‘Our Moment is predicted to sell around 180,000 units in the first week alone, making it one of the fastest selling fragrances of all time.

‘It’s certainly looking like it’s going to be the most successful celebrity perfume launch of the year and sales in America are expected to be bigger still,’ says Aggarwal.

On the basis of 180,000 sales of the most popular 30ml Eau de Parfum, which retails at £19.99, the turnover for the first week will come in at nearly £3.6m.

Furthermore, the Christmas shopping period accounts for about 70% of annual perfume sales, a figure I’ve seen a lot lately. With the manufacturers adding special holiday gift sets and other products to go with the One Direction fragrance, the Escentual’s CEO estimates that those teenage boys may make £2m over the holidays from an estimated overall turnover of £10m for the range over Christmas.


The crazy profits in the perfume world have not gone unnoticed by other groups. There was Pizza Hut‘s limited-edition fragrance which The Huffington Post insists smells nothing like actual pizza and everything like cinnamon rolls or dough. (I’ll take their word for it.) But something with much less of a novelty, amusement factor caught my eye recently: university perfumes.

Source: Wall St. Journal

Source: Wall St. Journal

American educational institutions have apparently noticed everyone else was making a huge profit, and decided, “Why not us?” The goal seems to be to bottle the school’s aromatic feel or the symbolic olfactory representation of four years of the college experience, and making a profit. I’m feeling extremely sardonic and irritable at this point, so I’ll let a November 12th article by the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper speak instead:

What scent comes to mind when you think of your college? [¶] Is it aromatic, from the blossoming trees on the college quad? [¶] Or a stale beer smell from your favorite bar?

Each campus has its own fragrance identity, according to a New York company that is developing perfumes and colognes for colleges inspired by elements such as the school colors, campus style, flowers, traditions and location.

Masik Collegiate Fragrances has introduced what it calls “The Scent of School Spirit” at 17 large universities, most in the south and southeast.  […][¶]

[For Texas A&M university] Masik Fragrances developed something … aromatic. The men’s scent “captures the pride and meaning of being an Aggie,” its website says. “Refreshing top notes of Italian Lemon, Bergamot and Iced Pineapple opens in to a body of vivid florals, raw Nutmeg and Cinnamon. Robust base notes of rich Amber, silver Moss and aged woods are deeply rooted embodying the strength of the Century Tree.”

I have actually visited the Texas A&M campus, as it has one of the top veterinary centers in the entire country, and, yet, I find myself startled at the olfactory notes listed in the description. In all fairness, however, I simply cannot wrap my head around this entire concept to begin with! I know it shouldn’t be so odd, given that perfumes all have a back story; and, really, how is this really so different than trying to capture the scent of India or the Villa d’Este in a bottle? Regardless, when I read Masik’s list of notes for, to give just one example, Penn State University Men’s and Women’s fragrances, I just wanted to snort. I think it’s the obviously mercenary angle behind it all, behind an academic institution’s attempts to venture into the perfume field.

The assessment for the University of Georgia's scent. Source: Masik via the Wall St. Joural.

The assessment for the University of Georgia’s scent. Source: Masik via the Wall St. Journal.

In all fairness, however, the schools seem to be making mere peanuts, at least by the standards of we’ve talked about here. According to that Cleveland article:

To translate a school’s essence into a scent, Masik relies on Fragrance Resources, an international fragrance company with a lab in New York, the Wall Street Journal reported. […][¶] Several options are created and presented to a panel of students and administrators.

Colleges, which license a litany of products, get royalty payments from sales of the fragrances, which cost about $40 for a 1.7-ounce bottle. The fragrances are sold at campus bookstores, boutiques and some department stores.

At Louisiana State University, that revenue has amounted to just $5,500 over the past four years, said Brian Hommel, director of trademark licensing at LSU, in the article. But he says there is a benefit to having the school’s brand associated with a chic product.

The university’s tiny profit over four years is significantly smaller than I had expected, given their enormous alumni base and the role played by nostalgia. Louisiana State University made a little under $1,600 a year, a figure which stands in sharp contrast to the millions made by the next institution who decided to enter the perfume world.

Source: Yankees website.

Source: Yankees website.

According to the Wall St. Journal, the powerful, venerable baseball team, the New York Yankees, had a perfume made for them by a group called Cloudbreak that “the company says garnered nearly $10 million in retail sales in 2012.” Even if the Yankees got a mere 5% of those sales, it’s still a rather decent amount for something that required very little in actual sweat or effort on their part. That problably explains why, in looking at the Yankees’ website, they seem to have fallen headlong into perfumed products, with men and womens’ lines, bath items, and special limited-edition scents. Their marketing machine has even come up with a $5 “Fragranced Bracelet” in simple black rubber, though no actual scent notes are listed. If that thing is properly perfumed instead of being a Pinocchio-worthy case of false pretenses, I promise I’ll stop rolling my eyes.


It seems very, very easy to put out ridiculous or novelty perfumes, let alone celebrity fragrances, but none of these figures should make you forget the simple bottom line: you still need backers with very deep pockets to succeed. As the university example demonstrates, not even institutions with a big support base in the form of alumni can profit easily in this game. Those who do, have not only millions behind them, but also a wide network of distributors and the power of multi-national conglomerates. Justin Bieber and Derek Jeter have Avon, while Britney Spears and Liz Taylor have Elizabeth Arden. At the higher end of the scale, Tom Ford succeeds, in part, because of the sheer might of the Estée Lauder behemoth.

The most famous perfume houses now have to pay a pretty penny to stand out and make a splash in the highly saturated perfume market. Take Chanel, for example. According to Adage, the fashion house owned by the Wertheimer brothers (whose grandfather helped co-found Chanel Parfums) spent “$139 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2012, with magazines accounting for $78.3 million. In 2011, it spent $130 million on total U.S. measured media.” In 2004, Chanel reportedly paid Nicole Kidman $4 million to be the face of Chanel No. 5, and spent £18 million on a 2-minute ad by Baz Luhrmann that was later cut down to 30-seconds. Last year, it was $7 million to Brad Pitt, with a video that was widely mocked. The rising costs of marketing and publicity may explain why, this year, Chanel is going with a dead celebrity, Marilyn Monroe, for their latest Chanel No. 5 campaign.

Less wealthy perfume houses don’t have the same resources, so they are looking to technology and futuristic inventions for help instead. According to The Hollywood Reporter article, there are efforts to integrate scents with digital devices to bring fragrance into a more multi-dimensional, lifestyle experience:

Jean-Paul Gaultier and Azzaro quietly are working on next-generation celebrity-scent convergence. Soon digitally powered fragrances could be incorporated into computer ports and cable TV boxes so that when consumers play songs or watch shows, they will be hit with a multisensory experience. If that happens, fragrances could end up marketing celebrities instead of the other way around.

Celebrities, however, don’t have to bother with any of that, at least not for now. Their efforts can be much simpler, and yield much more immediate results. When Rihanna launched her perfume, she tweeted to her millions of followers about it. As the Stylecaster article noted, Beyoncé gave samples of her fragrance away at her concerts, and watched the profits subsequently pour in from full-bottle purchases. Chanel paid Brad Pitt $7 million for the much ridiculed Chanel ad last year; Justin Bieber simply has to show up and point at his gaudy, plastic flower-topped perfume bottle for his crazed fan to go completely insane. Britney Spears has an epic meltdown, and her perfumes still rake in the cash.

We live in a celebrity driven world, and the perfume industry is no exception. With the money that is involved, none of that is going to change any time soon. So, get use to Britney Spears laughing all the way to the bank, as she exceeds that reported $1 billion dollars in sales. To use the very famous, very vulgar quote, “It’s Britney, b****.”

Perfume News: 2013 Fragrance Sales Figures, Revenue & Fragrance Markets

I’m always interested in the financial side of the fragrance industry, even though I sometimes can’t make heads or tails of the specific fine point and details. I recently found some numbers for a few of the corporate giants like Givaudan whose ingredients are often the building blocks for the perfumes we wear and whose perfumers create some of the many fine fragrances released each year. The numbers demonstrate something we already knew: traditional Western fragrance markets are weakening, and the future for many perfume companies lies in emerging markets. [Update: 2/25/14 — Last week, I took a more in-depth look at a number of Western perfume markets, from Germany to the Netherlands, France, Italy and the UK, but also examined the Indian perfume industry and the Middle Eastern one. There is also a look at the full 2013 revenue figures for various industry leaders like LVMH, Givaudan, and IFF. You can read all that at: The Global Fragrance Industry.]

What’s interesting is that Latin America is one of those emerging markets, but the Asian one isn’t quite as strong as everyone may think. In fact, analytical reports from the Euromonitor indicate both the Chinese and Japanese perfume sectors are impacted by socio-cultural issues regarding fragrance use. Still, some of the numbers involved in terms of overall, global perfume sales and revenues are astronomical. Please note, however, that almost all of the articles below focus on the more established and significantly larger commercial fragrance market, not the niche one.


According to a report from the Cosmetics Design group, U.S. fragrance sales slowed in 2012:

The US fragrance market has taken a hit as sales dry up due to low demand, and figures just simply can’t meet those driven by the exceptional growth seen in the previous year.

Having charted a solid performance in 2011, growth dropped off in 2012, as the market could not meet the high levels of demand and extensive product innovation that led to a good performance the previous year.

Fragrance sales the previous year had benefited from higher-income shoppers who felt more comfortable spending on others and themselves as the economy improved, but with no celebrity must-have perfumes on the market in 2012, it suffered.

As you will note, the report implies that it is celebrity perfumes that drive sales, a fact that underscores why industry-supportive groups like the Fragrance Foundation have such a focus on fragrances like that of Justin Bieber. It’s a symbiotic relationship that is necessary to sustain both groups, much like whales and barnacles. Oddly enough, after writing this paragraph, I subsequently came across a report from the Euromonitor International analysis group that specifically mentioned Justin Bieber’s fragrance as contributing enormously to U.S. market sales in the previous year! In fact, it’s the Euromonitor’s financial breakdown that is the basis for the Cosmetic Group’s report:

After growing by 9% in 2011, sales of fragrances grew by just 3% in 2012. It appears that an improving economy in 2011 combined with pent-up demand and extensive product innovation led to strong growth in 2011, but this was not able to be repeated in 2012. Fragrance sales in 2011 had benefited from higher-income shoppers who felt more comfortable spending on others and themselves as the economy improved. The 2011 blockbuster launch of Justin Bieber also contributed to strong growth in 2011 as teenagers and young girls pestered their parents to buy them the pop singer’s fragrance. In 2012, there was no must-have celebrity fragrance to entice consumers.

[UPDATE -11/18/13 — For an in-depth analysis and report on the money, astonishing sales figures, and profit leaders in the celebrity perfume industry, you can read my new article Celebrities, Best-Selling Fragrances, Sales Figures & The Perfume Industry.]

The Cosmetic Group report and the Euromonitor also add a few other details that are interesting and which I’ve summarized as follows:

  • The Fragrance sector is expected to have the slowest growth out of the US Health & Beauty sectors in the upcoming years.
  • Female fragrance remains the largest sector of the market, but male fragrances are expected to post better growth and numbers this year.
  • Like last year, L’Oreal USA is the market leader. Its strength seems to lie in the mens market, thanks to the number one selling fragrance, Acqua di Gio, as well as Drakkar Noir and Ralph Lauren Polo For Men.
  • In Premium Women’s Fragrance, it has strong sales from Lancome’s Tresor and Miracle, Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb, and Ralph Lauren’s Romance.

On a positive note, the report states that niche perfumes are offering a glimmer of hope for a market heavily impacted by the recession. Unfortunately, it offers no numbers or details on the niche sector. The Euromonitor analysis report warns that fragrance companies need to do something to deal with over-saturation:

With the appeal of niche fragrances in the premium segment, affluent consumers appear to have regained their interest in fragrances. Premium niche fragrances that are sold in limited distribution channels allow affluent consumers to feel that they have made a discovery. At the same time, manufacturers of fragrances will need to address consumer apathy and confusion. There has been an explosion in the use of scents beyond fine fragrances, with everything from hand dishwashing soap to fabric softeners to women’s razor handles now infused with scents. As a result, fragrances have lost their mystique and become less “special” and commoditised. With more than 100 new launches of fragrances a year, the glut of fragrances in the marketplace has also created consumer confusion. The saturated environment in fragrances has arguably contributed to consumer confusion and apathy, making it very difficult to make a brand stand out.


According to the Cosmetics Design group, the fragrance and flavouring giant, IFF, is doing well with second-quarter sales up 5% to $757.6 million compared to $721.3m for the corresponding period in 2012.

IFF has reported strong growth for its second quarter, driven mainly by an exceptional performance in the fragrance division, together with gains in all geographical regions including Europe.

A Market Watch article has more specific quarterly numbers:

— Reported sales increased 7% to $383.6 million, compared with $359.9 million in the second quarter of 2012. Excluding the impact of foreign currency, local currency sales increased 8%.

— Fragrance Compounds achieved local currency sales growth of 10% in the second quarter, more than offsetting a 1% decline in Fragrance Ingredients this quarter.

— Within Fragrance Compounds, our Fine and Beauty Care category had local currency sales growth of 13%, driven by double-digit growth in Latin America, North America and EAME. Functional Fragrances had local currency sales growth of 7%, led by double-digit growth in Latin America and Greater Asia and solid growth in EAME. This marks the 20th consecutive quarter of growth in Functional Fragrances, due to a strong level of new wins as a result of our three-pillar strategy.

— The emerging markets represented 52% of Fragrances Compounds sales this quarter. Within Fragrance Compounds, the emerging markets grew double digits in the second quarter over the prior year quarter, reflecting broad-based geographic and category growth. The developed markets, which represented 48% of Fragrances Compounds sales, also had strong growth.

— Fragrances segment profit increased 13% to $71.9 million in the second quarter of 2013, up from $63.6 million in the second quarter of 2012. 

The interesting bottom-line conclusion from all that is that emerging markets were the real source of revenue. While all markets reported a double-digit growth, the Cosmetics Design group emphasizes that “52% of the fragrance compound sales came from emerging markets.” Furthermore, fragrance compounds grew by 10%, while the sale of actual perfume ingredients dropped by 1%. A perfume guide I found on eBay explains “a fragrance compound” as follows:

All perfumes are composed of both a base and a fragrance compound. The perfume compound will account for 20 to 50 percent of the fragrance and is made from essential oils and synthetic fragrances. Perfume bases, which account for 50 to 80 percent of a fragrance, are generally made from liquids such as alcohol and water. They also include a variety of stabilizers, which are used to fix a perfume’s scent and ensure that ingredients do not separate. 

In short, it seems that IFF’s main source of revenue was a pre-existing compound base for a fragrance, as opposed to a more specific ingredient such as, say, lavender oil or jasmine oil.


According to a report by the Cosmetics Design group, Givaudan controls 25% of the global fragrance and flavouring market. And, in 2013, a good portion of its revenues came from the Latin American sector. The report states:

  • International fragrance, consumer products and flavor giant Givaudan reported a 5.7 percent growth in sales for the first half of 2013, with a solid performance bolstered by high growth in Latin America and other emerging markets.
  • In particular, the company’s fine fragrance unit, which had declined 5.5% in the first quarter, recorded growth of 2.5% in 2013 due to new wins and volume growth in Latin America.
  • The company pointed to Brazil as a particularly strong area for fragrance sales growth, with overall fine fragrance sales in the region described as “double digit.”
  • Givaudan’s overall fragrance sales increased by 5.5%, to CHF [Swiss Franc] 1,047 million.  [My note: a Google currency conversion shows that “1047 Swiss Franc equals 1135.70 US Dollar.]


A long time ago, I posted an article on Cultural Differences in Perfume Tastes between the U.S. and European markets. One of the issues that article addressed was the question of the hottest or biggest perfumes in each market for a specific year. In a discussion that ensued in the comment section, I referenced some U.S. market statistics that I had found for the fragrance sector from the Statistic Brain. I think it would be useful to repeat it again here. Relying on numbers from “NPD”, the 2012 numbers for the fragrance industry break down to:

Perfume Industry Statistics Data
Annual global perfume industry sales revenue $27.5 billion
Annual US perfume industry sales revenue $5.2 billion
Percent of American women who don’t use perfume 17 %
Number of perfume brands carried by US department stores in 2002 756
Number of perfume brands carried by US department stores in 2010 1,160
Percent of fragrance market held by Coty Inc 13 %
Percent of designer perfume brands priced at over $75 46 %
Percent of celebrity perfume brands priced at over $75 1 %

The Cosmetic Group has some global numbers for the fragrance market, though they’re from 2009:

Table 1: Fragrance market sizes by region, 2009 (US$m)
2009 ±%
World 36629.5 3.8
Asia Pacific 2468.9 3.8
Australasia 486.3 1.9
Eastern Europe 3536.8 3.3
Latin America 8531.2 15.8
Middle East & Africa 2652.3 13.8
North America 5866.4 -5.9
Western Europe 13087.5 -0.1
Source: Euromonitor International
Table 2: Fragrance market sizes by country, 2009 (US$m)
2009 ±%
Russia 1790.9 4.9
Brazil 4812.5 16.7
China 511.3 9.2
India 117.5 16.5
US 5294.7 -6.5
France 2504.7 -1.4
Germany 2531.7 0.8
Italy 1406.9 -1.2
Spain 1780.8 -3.5
UK 1492.6 3.2
Source: Euromonitor International
Table 3: Premium global fragrance market vs mass global fragrance market
% breakdown
Premium 55.4
Mass 44.6
Source: Euromonitor International
Table 4: Leading fragrance brands, 2009
Brand Company
Avon Avon Products Inc
Natura Natura Cosméticos SA
Chanel Chanel SA
Calvin Klein Coty Inc
Christian Dior LVMH
Giorgio Armani L’Oréal Groupe
Estée Lauder Estée Lauder Cos
Hugo Boss Procter & Gamble Cos
O Boticário Botica Comercial Farmacêutica Ltda
Yves Saint Laurent L’Oréal Groupe
Source: Euromonitor International


Finally, I found a Cosmetic Design article from 2010 discussing the Asian fragrance market:

According to Euromonitor International, the fragrance market in Asia Pacific grew 5% in 2010, reaching US$2.7bn and the outlook shows a similar level of confidence for the next few years. Despite its economic woes Japan remained the largest consumer market ($585.9m, -2.6%) but the devastating tsunami that hit the country in March this year will undoubtedly have caused additional problems spanning raw material supply, logistics and retail.

China’s burgeoning consumerism looks set to help the country take the number one spot very soon however; it posted a 7.8% sales increase to reach $553.3m in 2010. Strong growth was also recorded in Vietnam (+21.2%, $21.5m), India (+20.2%, $139.8m) and Indonesia (+15.6%, $146.1m).

In a separate report from May 2013, the Euromonitor has some interesting assessments about the Japanese fragrance market. Given how some niche perfume houses like By Kilian and Tom Ford seem to be targeting the Asian luxury market with releases like Flower of Immortality and the Atelier d’Orient collection, the numbers for Japan don’t seem to bode well:

  • Current value sales of fragrances declined by 7% in 2012. Although Japan has the second biggest market for beauty and personal care, and carries one of the most developed and mature cosmetics markets around the world, Japan’s fragrances is still in its infancy, totalling mere a ¥42 billion in 2012. Japan ranks 45th for per capita consumption of perfume and this demonstrates low penetration of fragrance use among local consumers.
  • Competitive Landscape:
    • Fragrances is fragmented in Japan. ‘Various distributors’ parallel import foreign fragrances with 83% value share being sold through store-based retailing in 2012. ‘Various distributors’ accounted for 24% value share in 2012, with the leading distributor, Bluebell Japan, leading the field. Bluebell Japan has been operating in Japanese fragrances since 1954 and the company distributes 25 international fragrance brands, including Bvlgari and Gucci.
  • Fragrances is anticipated to decline by a constant value CAGR of 5% over the forecast period. Lack of experience in using or even seeing fragrances during childhood is one of the biggest reasons for a continuous contraction of fragrances in Japan. Although consumers are demonstrating growing awareness towards smell in general, much attention has been paid to deodorants and other scented products such as laundry detergent among consumers. As Japanese consumers have a core value to prioritise group needs and pursue harmony, troubling others should be avoided by any means. Such traditional values shared among the Japanese might have discouraged the regular use of fragrances because the majority of consumers prefer a light scent and one could offend another by wearing a different or stronger fragrance. In addition to unfamiliarity to fragrances, Japan’s traditional culture may continue to hamper sales of fragrances over the forecast period.

The perfume market isn’t huge in China, either. In April 2013, Euromonitor‘s breakdown for the Chinese fragrance market was as follows:

  • Given the value sales of RMB4.6 billion in 2012, fragrances in China remained a relatively small category; around one 18th of skin care in value terms. The year-on-year current value growth was 9% in 2012, compared with 12% in 2011, mainly due to the negative impact of the economic downturn. Apart from economic reasons, the lack of new launches in 2012 also explains the relatively lacklustre performance of the category. As a whole, product penetration is quite low in even top-tier markets, and fragrances are just seen as unnecessary products by most consumers. No remarkable changes have been seen in consumers’ acceptance of fragrances – the Chinese account for 20% of the world’s population, but only contribute 1% to value sales of fragrances. The average Chinese person is not used to wearing perfume, unless they are extremely particular about their image, usually those who work for international companies or as high-ranking executives.
  • Despite the large number of brands present in the market, fragrances in China continued to be dominated by international companies in 2012 in value terms. Chanel accounted for a 12% share of value sales in fragrances, followed by Parfums Christian Dior with 8%. Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Hugo Boss and L’Oréal China were in third, fourth and fifth place respectively. These world-famous companies have established high brand awareness amongst Chinese consumers, as they have in international markets, mainly thanks to continued investment in advertisements on television and in fashion magazines. A report on Chanel N°5 about its allergy-inducing ingredient triggered a possible sales ban from the European-based Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety in late 2012. Therefore, more fragrance enthusiasts may become cautious about choosing products, yet the impact on Chanel’s sales in China would be minor in 2012, given the fact that the incident occurred in November in the year of 2012.
  • Fragrances is expected to witness stable growth in China over the forecast period, with a CAGR of 8% in constant value terms. Considering the currently low penetration, as consumption is still at the preliminary stages, fragrances is expected to have huge potential in the forecast period. Increasing incomes and the rising attention paid to personal image will lead to higher acceptance of the use of fragrances in China. However, most consumers consider that fragrances are not a daily necessity. Therefore, direct selling companies may have more advantages in engaging beauty advisors to influence customers, by convincing customers how important it is to wear fragrances to boost one’s image.


I don’t like to inundate people with numbers, but I think the breakdowns listed above are interesting for a few reasons.

First, it seems that the fragrance giants who create the ingredients and building blocks for perfumery are doing very well, but the market as a whole has softened. Over-saturation is an obvious problem; Forbes magazine listed over 600 new fragrances just for women alone in 2012. If one assumes that the men’s division gets even half of that number, that would be over 900 fragrances released in a single market year. And who did the best in 2011? It might be Justin Bieber, horrifying and repugnant as that thought may be, and the company which produces his creations (Elizabeth Arden).

Second, the Asian luxury market may not prove to be the financial savior that some perfume houses expect. If the European or Western markets are suffering due to recessionary (or other) concerns, the Asian ones have other problems. General stereotypes about different cultural perspectives in the East may be backed by the financial numbers of perfume use or sales in such markets as China and Japan. The niche and commercial fragrance houses who hope to shore up soft Western sales will have to deal with such socio-cultural issues as consumers unused to fragrance from childhood (“Lack of experience in using or even seeing fragrances during childhood,” as the Euromonitor put it), or the thought that fragrance isn’t a daily necessity. In some ways, therefore, you might see the current generation as the foundation for future sales growth. Results down the road will yield a benefit, but how much will they increase revenues in the immediate future?

Lastly, when you take all the various issues and compile them together, the main question for me personally is this: how can the market sustain the increased prices that we’re seeing every year? Chanel just raised its prices for Les Exclusifs: a 2.5 oz bottle of Coromandel that was just $130 a few months ago is now $160. Dior’s Privée Line went up from $155 for the smallest size (4.25 oz) to $170. Tom Ford’s smallest size of 1.7 oz increased from $205 to $210. Niche perfumery may be a “glimmer of hope” for some fragrance groups, but, given the prices in question, how can the overall consumer market handle things in the long-run?

On a parallel tangent, when the more established, big houses like Chanel increase prices to such an extent, what does it mean for truly niche perfumery? One doesn’t see parallel sort of price jumps in houses like, say, Neela Vermeire Créations, Andy Tauer, Parfums d’Empire, or Vero Profumo. Yet, those brands hardly have the same financial backing as a LVMH brand like Dior, or the deep-pockets of Kilian Hennessey. The smaller, truly niche houses don’t have the same sort of retail exposure or high-profile, even though they are increasingly better value for the money and quality in question.

And how does the whole IFRA/EU situation impact their chances to compete? This summer, in June, Andy Tauer’s personal blog talked about how it was becoming increasingly hard for artisanal perfumers to function within the EU. He linked to a 2009 EU regulation, No. 1223/2009, on cosmetics which detailed everything from packaging to the ingredients therein. It’s enormous and, even as a lawyer myself, it was a chore to glance through it. As Mr. Tauer noted, “Please have a look at the pdf file and imagine what it must feel like, for a young entrepreneur, somewhere in one of the EU countries, who wants to start a perfume = cosmetics business. […] Basically, you cannot do artisanal perfumery in the EU.”

When I was younger and learning Latin, I learnt “Fortune favours the brave” (or the bold). The famous phrase “Fortuna audaces iuvat” (variously attributed to Virgil, the playwright Terence, or Pliny the Elder) always seemed a little glib to me. There is more than boldness, bravery, or good luck that is required to succeed in life, though they certainly help. Actual money drives things, too. As globalisation continues full-force and conglomerates expand their reach, consuming many smaller companies within their path, truly niche perfumers will have a harder time of things by virtue of comparatively reduced resources and opportunities. Yet, obviously, it’s these niche artists who are the true engines of innovation, change, progress, and quality, not the Estée Lauder or Elizabeth Arden creations that are the primary focus of groups like the Fragrance Foundation with its FiFis.

Clearly, I’ve strayed from my main point about the state of the mass, commercial, perfume market in 2012 and 2013. And the state of the union is extremely strong, thanks to perfume addicts like you and me. Together, we have contributed to global sales figures in excess of $27 billion — BILLION — in 2012. One can only imagine how those numbers will increase in the years to come.