Olivier de Lisle - From a quantitative standpoint, according to the latest feedback from our customers and the various statistics published on selective perfumery, it seems the market is stable. Several important areas are experiencing economic difficulties, in particular Europe and Russia. And there is a slowdown in Brazil. Dynamics in the Gulf States and Asia partly make up for it, but not enough to be able to provide a positive impetus.
However, this situation is not overwhelming for us: one can achieve a strong growth even on a stable market!
Premium Beauty News - Apart from these current difficulties, we also have the impression consumption and purchase habits are evolving in perfumery.
Olivier de Lisle - There are many ways to consume perfume right now. And there are many alternatives available apart from traditional channels such as selective distribution. Direct-selling plays a significant role in some countries. And specialty retail is also quickly developing, as can be seen with Victoria Secret in the United States, Yves Rocher in France, or Boticário in Brazil. This channel is doing well, in particular with the young generation, because it creates a universe, a form of closeness, a different shopping experience.
As far as the high-end sector is concerned, there is the same phenomenon with prestige perfumery. Brands which possess wholly-owned stores like Dyptique or Jo Malone attract customers seeking a privileged purchasing experience. As an example, the recent acquisitions of alternative brands by major groups such as Estée Lauder or Puig will enable them to reach targets they do not or no longer have.
Premium Beauty News – Talking about these new alternative brands, do you work for them a lot?
Olivier de Lisle - At Firmenich, we aim to create perfumes for our customers to succeed. We are called to develop classics, but it is also our job to bet on entrepreneurs, just like we did with “Le Labo”. So yes, even if it only represents a small part of our activities, alternative perfumery is important to Firmenich. It makes it possible to create without any restraint, which constitutes another form of stimulation for our perfumers-creators. It is important to be aware that we only have twelve perfumers-creators in Paris, although that is where our largest creation centre is located.
Perfumery is a world that is still extremely close to craftsmanship! That is why we can offer our customers a customized service.
Premium Beauty News - Regulatory and supply-related issues now seem to play a major role in the world of perfume creation.
Olivier de Lisle - Absolutely. The way regulations are evolving encourages us to renew our palette of creativity by taking into account the constraints. Innovation is more than ever crucial, with the search for new ingredients, and the likely evolution towards more naturalness.
The supply issue is essential too. In addition to being a perfume creator, Firmenich is the main world supplier of perfumery ingredients. We must guarantee our customers total supply security from a qualitative, quantitative, and economic point of view. Today there are about a hundred critical raw materials in perfumery, for which a minimum of stability in terms of price and quality must be ensured. Many of these materials come from countries plagued by rural depopulation, where plantations are being abandoned for good as people flow towards large cities. In India, Laos, Uganda, Haiti… we have been investing in programmes to support rural populations and help them grow their cultures, while ensuring them stable incomes and prospects in the long term. We make sure these people get a stable income so they can plant, invest, and innovate. This is designed to be a long-lasting organization.
Premium Beauty News - What are your challenges for the future?
Olivier de Lisle - The challenge is to always adapt to market changes! We know there is arbitration in terms of luxury purchases today, and that perfumery is a highly competitive market, in particular with new technologies. But perfumes will always make people dream, as they provide intense emotions. Consumption habits have already changed a lot, and they will keep changing. Even if the presentation and means to diffuse perfumes are evolving, they will always constitute a significant preoccupation in our societies. So it is up to us to explore new territories.