Do French people love their lovers or mothers more?

France is renowned as a nation of romantics. So with Valentine’s Day around the corner, we wanted to see if this reputation is justified. 

We looked into our luxury cosmetics and fragrances dataset* to compare sales in the periods leading up to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Outside of Christmas, these are all historically the most popular times of year for fragrance purchases.

When surveyed before Valentine’s Day back in 2016, 69% of French people said they weren’t even planning to celebrate it. But it appears attitudes have shifted since then… 

Our data reveals that French people spend more on their significant others than they do on their mothers or fathers. The difference isn’t marginal either – Valentine’s Day sales are a whopping 39% higher than Mother’s Day sales! 

And while news reports show Father’s Day spending continues to trail far behind Mother’s Day, our data shows just the opposite with 34% higher sales for the former. 

What’s interesting is that Valentine’s Day sales have steadily increased year on year, while sales for the other two occasions have experienced dips in previous years. 

Of course, there could be other reasons to explain these gaps. People may be splashing out on flowers or a nice evening out instead. Buying habits are also shifting as millennials increasingly seek experiential gifts for Mom like spa treatments, according to retail consulting firm Unity Marketing

As for Valentine’s Day, we expect the boom in fragrance sales around Valentine’s Day to continue. A perfume may not be as enduring as the memory of an experience – but at least it lasts longer than flowers and candy!

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.

Why Returns Could Be Good For Retailers

‘Tis the season for…returns? 

Much of the focus over the holidays is on how much shoppers spend at retail and ecommerce but there’s another annual ritual – no less significant – that fails to draw as much attention: returns. 

Average return rates vary widely by industry, sales channel and product category. For instance, CNBC reported that online orders of clothing and shoes tend to have the highest return rates of up to 40%.

Since fragrances are popular for gifting, we looked into our luxury cosmetics data set to analyze the rate of returns in France during and after the holiday period. Returns of unwanted items tend to be stable throughout the year, averaging out at around 3% of sales every month.

But once you look at returns on a daily basis, there’s a particular date on which the numbers skyrocket. In the US, January 2 has been dubbed as “National Returns Day” but in France, shoppers clearly waste little time as December 26 is the biggest day of the year for returns. In fact, returns on this day tend to be more than four times higher than on January 2. 

Returns offer an untapped opportunity

The surge of returns doesn’t necessarily mean calamity for retailers. Instead, they can see the increased traffic as another opportunity to engage customers and encourage additional purchases while they’re in store.

You’d think it would be hard for shoppers to pass up on all the deals offered during the post-holidays markdowns. But interestingly, our data shows that sales on December 26 are among the lowest in December, even dipping below sales from December 27 to 29.

It means there’s still room for sales growth on this busy day. A study by marketing technology company Valassis found that 94% of consumers said they are more likely to buy from retailers offering a smooth returns experience, and 36% said that means quick in-store returns. 

Naturally, people would be less inclined to browse around the store if they’ve just had to endure waiting in line for half an hour to return an item. It sounds obvious but many retailers often fail to create dedicated in-store points for returns to make the process as quick and easy for customers as possible.

It’s clear that the post-holiday return season presents yet another opportunity for retailers to interact and engage with customers – because today’s experiences can drive tomorrow’s purchases.

About our data:

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

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.