The situation is rather worrisome. According to the NPD Group, after a good year in 2011 (+3% in value), the French market for fragrances and cosmetics sold in the selective channel (high-end specialised beauty stores) recorded a slight decline in 2012 (-0.9% in value).

However, selective retail in France is also suffering of a loss of buyers. According to Kantar Worldpanel, 3 million buyers have left it since 2010. Especially, for the first time in 2012 older and affluent consumers - the core target of selective retail - have begun to turn to other horizons.

Actors of the French selective market must therefore find new growth drivers for 2013. And fragrances are certainly a key factor for that. Actually, on the one hand, this circuit seems highly (too?) dependent on sales of fragrances and, on the other hand, retailers have difficulties to differentiate themselves in this segment.

In parallel to the traditional selective channel, which is dominated in France by Sephora, Marionnaud and Nocibé, small retailers are exploring ne avenues and are trying to bring about a new conception of luxury perfumery.

Several perfumeries in French provincial cities - Parfumerie de l’Opéra in Bordeaux, Parfumerie Santa Rosa in Toulouse, or Parfumerie du Soleil d’Or in Lille - already proposed to their customers a real alternative offer, but they had no equivalent in Paris, where the offer was fragmented between brand owned stores, department stores and fashion concept stores such as Colette or L’Éclaireur. But during the latest years, several new outlets have been filling this gap and seem to have found their customers: Jovoy, in the Rue de Castiglione, in the upscale and touristic Place Vendôme area, Sens Unique and Marie Antoinette, in the Marais, and Nose in the Montorgueil district. "Buyers of niche brands were already there, but nobody - or hardly anybody - was addressing their demand,” Nicolas Cloutier, co-founder and President of Nose, recently told Premium Beauty News.

Nevertheless, marketing alternative perfumery products in France remains a hard job. There are about 20 to 30 outlets in France - traditional stores or concept-stores - that propose an alternative to the standard offer. In Germany or in Italy there are 250 to 300 of them, and they have developed a specific knowledge about rare perfumery.

One question remains: what is the weight of these products on the market? About 4% of the global perfumery market, deemed David Frossard, co founder of Différentes Latitudes, last year during a conference in Paris.

Actually, there are hardly any figures available. NPD deems that, in the US, these brands strongly outpace the growth of rest of the market. “The fragrance brands that are being sold in more selective distribution are experiencing explosive growth. We’ve seen this trend with high-end designer brands like Tom Ford and Jimmy Choo and this is also evident today with jewelry and niche fragrance brands,” said Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Even though niche and jewelry brands make up only nine percent of the total prestige fragrance market they are creating a new dynamic in the larger fragrance arena. They are growing faster than any other type of fragrance in the prestige space and their combined sales are actually more than double the size of prestige celebrity fragrances.

Is the situation is similar in France? This is, among other things, what will be discussed by the various speakers at the conference "Parfums d’exception, parfums d’avenir?" organized by Beauteam and Premium Beauty News in Paris on April 9, 2013.

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