The Best S(m)elling Fragrances in France

The French may take pride in their famously pungent cheeses but there’s another aromatic product that brings in more money: designer fragrances.

In 2017, France exported US$4.8 billion worth of fragrance products to the global market, compared to $3.7 billion of cheese. 

After all, France has been the breeding ground for many iconic names in the industry: Chanel, Christian Dior and Frederic Malle amongst many others. In terms of domestic sales, high tourist arrivals have also helped to boost spending in this segment. In fact, Chinese tourists spend more on cosmetics and fragrances in France than they do on clothing, food or handbags. 

While France didn’t invent perfumes, it did help to popularize them and make them a lingering success. It started with perfumed gloves, favored by royalty and the rich, during the Renaissance period. Perfume came into its own and took off in the 18th century. When Napoleon was in power, it was said that he had a standing order with his perfumer to deliver 50 bottles a month!

Fast forward to the present day, when the global perfume market has grown into a powerhouse valued at over US$30 billion annually. As France is the biggest market in Europe for cosmetics and fragrances, and the fourth largest globally, what is selling well here can be a good indicator of global trends.

So we took a look at our cosmetics and fragrances dataset to sniff out 2019’s hardest-working scents in Europe’s perfume capital, along with other interesting facts:

Top-selling fragrances

  1. Lancôme La Vie est Belle 
  2. Dior Sauvage 
  3. Givenchy L’Interdit 
  4. Dior Eau Sauvage
  5. Dior J’Adore
  6. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male
  7. Bleu de Chanel 
  8. Paco Rabanne 1 Million 
  9. Dior Joy 
  10. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle 

From the list above, we can see that 4 out of the top 10 fragrances sold are produced by Dior. This success was reflected in the Christian Dior Group’s last financial report, which credited a double-digit jump in revenue to the strong performance of businesses like Perfumes & Cosmetics. 

What else is interesting to note here? (Apart from the fact that the most successful fragrances have French names!) Old is gold, and classics still reign. Even though it seems like we are assailed by a new fragrance launch or campaign every other day, the best-selling list is actually dominated by scents that have been around for a while. For instance, Dior unveiled Eau Sauvage in 1966! Joy, a relative newcomer on the list that was introduced in 2018, was Dior’s first major perfume launch in 20 years. Likewise for Sauvage, which marked Dior’s first new cologne in a decade.

This shows that while successful fragrance launches can be few and far between – once a scent is beloved, it can be a moneymaker for years and decades to come.

Men’s fragrance segment nothing to sniff at

A study in 2017 showed that women purchase a new fragrance as often as once a month while men buy it only once or twice a year, typically for the purpose of replenishment. However, our data reveals that nearly half of the top 10 fragrances sold are men’s colognes, suggesting that buying patterns may be shifting.

As you can expect, sales typically spike right before special occasions like Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day – but growth remains steady even outside key gift-giving times. It could be that men are increasingly viewing fragrance as a grooming essential rather than a luxury, leading to greater usage.

While we previously wrote about waning interest in Dior Sauvage, it still held on to the top spot for the year’s most popular masculine fragrance. Its closest rival in terms of sales is the similar-sounding Eau Sauvage.

Scents and dollars

The same scent can come at several price points based on whether it is an eau de toilette (EDT) or an eau de parfum (EDP). The key difference is in the concentration of scented oils. 

An EDT has a 5-15% concentration, which means it can last for a few hours after you spritz it on. Meanwhile, an EDP has a concentration of 20-30%, making it much more intense, long-lasting – and  expensive. The scent that lingers on in the elevator long after its wearer has left? That’s probably an EDP. 

As EDTs are cheaper, they have been the most popular fragrance type in many markets for a long time. The average price for an EDP is 74 euros, about 15% more expensive than the average EDT. But that trend is shifting as shoppers splash out for – and splash on – more concentrated scents. Based on our data, nearly two-thirds of the top 30 fragrances sold last year were EDPs. 

About our data:

Suburbia partners with companies in the payments and retail industries to create data sets that track anonymized consumer purchases across Europe, delivering a daily view into some of the world’s biggest consumer brands. For insights on luxury cosmetics and fragrances trends, Suburbia’s data set covers sales in over 130 retail outlets in France.

2 thoughts on “The Best S(m)elling Fragrances in France”

  1. Interesting analysis! Since only one brand in the top 10 is not French – it could be super useful to see another category list for the top 10 fragrances for women and men, to see if other brands emerge. Merci. 🙂

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