Perfumery is considered by many an art-form and none seem to better at it than the French, since many of the greatest names in the global perfume industry, such as Chanel, Christian Dior or Estée Lauder are French. France also holds a very dominant place in terms of international perfume sales, with French perfumes and cosmetics in general being among the industry’s most important brands.
Although the first perfumes in the world were not invented in France, since in fact the origins of perfumery can be traced t back to the western civilisation in Mesopotamia and being widely used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, at the time of the Renaissance perfumes became widely popular in Europe, and in France in particular, when they were principally used to hide the odours of unwashed bodies.
Today, most of the big names of the perfume industry are based in Paris, and perfumes originating from the French capital are particularly appreciated. However, a little known fact is that, the real heart of the French perfume industry is actually the small town of Grasse, located northwest of Nice, which enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate that is particularly suited to horticulture. This favours the production of jasmine, one of the most important natural aromas used by the perfume industry, as well as many other natural fragrances, such as lavender, myrtle, roses and mimosa.
The great art of perfumery, as it is still employed by the more than 60 perfume companies based in Grasse, entails extracting the fragrances of flowers and concentrating them in forms from which they can be transformed into the perfumes that are eventually sold in little bottles at very high prices. In modern perfume production, for reasons of cost reduction, the natural fragrances extracted from flowers and other plants have been largely replaced by chemically produced scents. However, everyone still admits that when it comes to the production of top-of-the-range high quality perfumes, made from natural extracts of plants, nothing can replace the acquired skills of France's master perfume producers and this ensures that France’s reputation as the origin of the finest perfumes in the world remains unchallenged.
More specifically, the French fragrance market is the second most important sector in the country’s health and beauty industry and it thrives against the backdrop of an extremely competitive environment, in which the biggest contender brands in terms of market share are Chanel, Dior, and Guerlain. Besides the top three, more than 40 other different players also operate in the French perfumes market. However, a great number of the most well-recognised premium fragrances for women and men, which are best positioned in the market, belong to the three leading brands, which have managed to maintain their leading market position thanks to important investment in advertising and promotion, as well as their product and packaging innovation.
Similar to the trends on a more global scale, there was an increase recorded in the sales of fragrances in France as well during the time of financial crisis and economic hardship, as consumers had sought for ways to reduce their spending and to save money. However, the overall perfumes sector did not decline, but has been growing at a slower pace in recent years than in the past. Also mirroring the global trends, in France the women’s perfumes sector still dominates the market, but the men’s perfumes sector is showing a healthy increase as more and more men place emphasis on their own grooming, while the unisex fragrances sector also shows promising prospects for the future.