Why Brits buy perfume at Christmas

fragrance present

Crafting a Christmas list takes some thought and attention. But for some, there are a few presents that sneak their way into people’s stockings year in year out. And we know perfume is never too far from the top. So, to find out why Brits buy it every year, we surveyed the nation on their perfume-buying habits.

It’s no secret Christmas brings out our inner consumer, but nothing whiffs of a festive spending spree quite like the purchase of perfume. In the UK, fragrances sell at a steady pace throughout the year, but a staggering 49%i of all sales - for the entire year - take place in November and December.

In fact, during February last year, industry intelligence and advisory firm, NPD Group, revealed 28%ii of all perfume sales for the previous year were made in December, with peak annual sales occurring in the final week of the yeariii. So, you know it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas when the perfume-pound suddenly skyrockets.

But why do Brits indulge in this fragrance phenomenon? After surveying more than 2,000 British adults, we crunched the numbers to reveal why we can’t resist perfume purchasing in the festive season.

A scent-imental purchase

When nearly three quarters of Brits (72%) in our survey say they like receiving fragrance as a gift from their partner, you know you’re on to a good thing. In fact, nearly two thirds (65%iv) of Brits who have been in a relationship have purchased a fragrance for their partner as a gift. With promising odds on perfume being well received, it could be that Brits consider it a ‘safe purchase’ when it comes to crossing off their Christmas lists.

We also part with our money for the personal touch. Apparently 56% of perfume-buying Brits, who are currently in a relationship, know the name of at least one of the fragrances their partner wears.

More sentimental reasons exist too, that could drive us to spend on scent. Perfume evokes a range of emotions associated with our chosen scents, such as memories (33%), beauty (24%) and love (21%). Be warned however, the chances of women (22%) choosing a scent for their partner based on their own tastes are more than double compared to men (9%).

Description of perfume

Old habits die hard

It might seem like a romantic gesture when we buy our partner’s favourite perfume but our spending on scents doesn’t always come up smelling of roses. Despite perfume being a traditional area for spending at Christmas, each year we’re still ill-prepared to make a purchase. While we make sure other Christmas spending essentials are covered early on, our buying habits on perfume are potentially like no other.

Despite prior knowledge, nearly 40%v of Brits revert to panic-buying when spending on scent. Men out-panic women by 22 percentage points when buying perfume for their partner. 49% leave it until one week or less before a special occasion to buy – and that includes purchases made on the day! This compares to just 27% of women who buy in the same way.

We might be a nation of online shoppers but when it comes to perfume, 68% of us conduct no online research at all before buying for our partners. Online shopping might not seem so important since you can’t actually smell perfume online, but our survey also revealed only 13% of Brits actually choose a perfume based on in-store testing.

In fact, over a third of Brits appear to do no browsing whatsoever. When asked what inspired them to buy a particular fragrance, 35% admitted it was because their partner told them which one to buy.

Given the number of Brits who opt for the last-minute rush, who don’t try before they buy or research online, perfume may actually be more of a “grab and go” gift - not the thoughtful romantic gesture we believe it to be.

How brits buy perfume

Are we overpaying for perfume?

According to Nick Gilbert, founder of fragrance consultancy business, Olfiction, the average amount people spend on a bottle of perfume is £45-50, but it can be a lot more for those planning on purchasing a niche or high-end fragrance. So, what are we actually paying for when we buy the scented stuff? We consulted the fragrance figures to find out where our money goes.

Their research showed that retailer overheads, production costs, producer and retailer profits and marketing make up the lion’s share of the price we pay. But as for the actual scent you receive, the real cost of producing it is a fraction of the price. It’s been claimed as little as 3% of the final price tag goes towards the pure perfume you buy.

In fact, the scent behind mass produced fragrances would be considered ‘expensive’ if it ran to £44.51 per kilogram. Producers of Niche fragrances spend more on the scent - typically around £223-£268 per kilogram. However, this scent is then diluted in alcohol and distilled water until around only 5-- 20% of the final fragrance is made up of pure scent compound.

This means, if you buy a 100ml bottle of a niche fragrance and spend roughly £150vi, the cost of the actual perfume within it could fall somewhere between £1.12 and £5.36.

Cost breakdown of a bottle of perfume

Making scents of our spending

So, given the costly mark-up on a bottle of fragrance, why are Brits still bound to pick up perfume this Christmas?

When it comes to handing over our gifts this Christmas, even the number nerds aren’t sure price really matters to the consumer. While men (13%) are twice as likely as women (6%) to associate perfume with being a waste of money, the global fragrance market is far from suffering as result.

Despite the cost of perfume increasing - retail figures published by the NPD Group last year showed the average price of fragrance grew 5.8%viiviii - our passion for perfume hasn’t evaporated.

Worth approximately £32.8 billionix, the global fragrance market is predicted to grow to £35.1 billionx by 2020. Clearly Brits will continue to pay for fragrance for their partners, regardless of price. Now that’s something to feel warm and fuzzy about this Christmas.

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ii https://www.npdgroup.co.uk/wps/portal/npd/uk/news/press-releases/prestige-beauty-sales-continue-to-grow-in-the-uk/
iii https://www.npdgroup.co.uk/wps/portal/npd/uk/news/press-releases/prestige-beauty-sales-continue-to-grow-in-the-uk/
iv According to a survey of Britain’s spending habits on perfume, conducted through YouGov.
v rounded up from 38%, MBNA survey.
vi Based on Liberty prices for niche perfumes http://www.libertylondon.com/uk/brands/v/vilhelm-parfumerie/
vii https://www.npdgroup.co.uk/wps/portal/npd/uk/news/press-releases/prestige-beauty-sales-continue-to-grow-in-the-uk/
viii Compared to the previous Christmas
ix https://www.statista.com/statistics/259221/global-fragrance-market-size/ converted to pounds using xe.com as of 21/10/16
x https://www.statista.com/statistics/259221/global-fragrance-market-size/ converted to pounds using xe.com as of 21/10/16