Premium Beauty News - How has the crisis impacted your business?
Laurent Mercier - In 2018, the whole industry had to deal with an unprecedented raw material crisis. It was a tough economic year, but it all got better in 2019 and we kept growing, geographically speaking. The year 2020 had started very well: the first quarter was the best we had had since the company was founded. And then the pandemic created the biggest problem for any company: mobility. Whether in B2B or B2C, our whole industry is based on us offering an experience. With our customers, we need to reinvent contact with a new parameter then: that of reduced mobility. It is an emotion transfer chain we must pass from one person to another, and now this bond is all gone. Perfume sales are struggling, and the duty free market is seriously impacted. It is going to take several months until everyone flies again. Things will not come back to normal before two years. And yet, do we feel like travelling like we did before? We are only getting out of the health crisis and entering an economic crisis with an underlying societal crisis. People will question things.
Premium Beauty News - What are the most affected sectors?
Laurent Mercier - Our activity is mainly related to Fine Fragrance, and then Body and Home Care. As regards perfumes, I think there will always be a place for beautiful and expensive things. Anything that is somewhat exclusive and related to a niche has a chance to be more visible. Well-established brands can now seduce consumers who used to buy products that were a little less expensive, but are now more available or just feel like spending money for pleasure. But price is quite significant for everything that does not really stand out. Niche winners will also be those that invest in private networks, like Puig, with Penhaligon’s, or L’Artisan Parfumeur. The category that will undergo more changes should be Body Care, because solid cosmetics are making a comeback. Plus, we bank on Home Fragrance: people have rediscovered their homes, so they will feel like enhancing them with beautiful perfuming products.
Premium Beauty News - What about the natural perfume trend?
Laurent Mercier - Last year, with Marketing and Communication Director Stéphanie Marze, we organized the #GreenIsEasy event to help our customers find their way in this field. About sixty manufacturers took part in it and they had many questions to ask. The idea was also to explain that nature for the sake of Nature can be more of a curse than a blessing. Many conventional fragrances are much more valuable than natural fragrances in terms of carbon footprint, if you make a comparison throughout the value chain. For now it is difficult for the industry to make all-natural products that are actually environmentally friendly. It takes time to achieve a transition. We provided explanations about the situations on the market and the packaging segment, but the main issue was regulations and certification. We need to support customers appropriately, because they are really eager to learn about naturalness, especially after the pandemic. Eurofragance keeps working on this with a palette of perfumers which is evolving and needs to be further enhanced. Our industry has understood that we need to explain what “real” naturalness is, because this word conceals a lot of issues and imperfections. Plus, unfortunately, it is often used to the detriment of “synthetic”, whereas biodiversity-wise, these concepts are complementary. This duty of transparency is dear to us, both for our customers and consumers. It is one of our main missions for the years to come.