Can Penhaligon’s new fragrance seduce Chinese consumers?
What happened: Penhaligon’s, the British perfume house founded in 1870 by William Penhaligon, adds a new member to its “Portraits” perfume collection — The world according to Arthur — which will be released on March 1 in all boutiques, department stores and online in China and around the world.
The “Portraits” fragrance collection is Penhaligon’s best-selling line in China. The collection, made up of more than 60 fragrances, caused a stir in the local market — thanks to its unique approach to the creation of perfumes. Each fragrance refers to a historical figure, represented by a magnificent animal-shaped bottle stopper. For example, in “The World According to Arthur”, the eponymous king and warrior is represented in the form of a dragon. Additionally, the fragrances are packaged in hand-drawn packaging by illustrator Kristjana Williams, where she describes the adventures of each character. Thus, consumers are not only immersed in the olfactory universe of Penhaligon’s, but also in a visual and narrative universe.
The Jing plug: The appeal of niche fragrances for Chinese Millennials and Gen Zs is no longer an industry secret. When you search for “niche perfume” on the lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, more than 100,000 UGC instances appear in the results. Due to demand, smaller size labels — Serge Lutens, Le Labo, Diptyque and Penhaligon’s — saw their sales skyrocket in China. At Tmall’s Double 11 in 2020, Penhaligon sales reached $1.24 million (7.82 million yuan), ranking it ninth in the Top 10.
However, local consumers’ appetite for niche fragrance brands rather than established names should not be viewed as a demand for entry-level fragrances. On the contrary, domestic buyers are showing a willingness to pay the price for unique luxury fragrances that help them express their personality. During L’Oréal’s 2021 annual results conference, Cyril Chapuy, Chairman of L’Oréal Luxury Divisionpointed out that the company’s luxury fragrance has achieved remarkable success in the past year thanks to China.
Clearly, Penhaligon’s high-end positioning ($280) and unique storytelling fits this demand well. However, given the fierce competition in the sector from established and new players and the rise of local perfume brands (Scent Library, To Summer and The Beast), the British perfume house is under serious threat. . To combat this, Penhaligon must redouble its efforts to consolidate its position. So far, no China-exclusive fragrances have been released, and no celebrities have been used in their commercial campaigns. It would be wise for the brand to start evaluating such options not only to foster deeper connections with Chinese consumers, but also to help the brand carve out a bigger share of this emerging and lucrative market.
The Jing Plug reports on high-profile news and features our editorial team’s analysis of key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product declines and mergers to heated debates popping up on Chinese social media.