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‘Boring’ Home Fragrance Market In Need Of Innovation

For months, home fragrance products were near impossible for retailers to keep in stock as consumers sought ways to keep their homes fresh amid COVID-19 lockdowns. Home fragrance sales, which include candles, diffusers and other scented items, jumped 13 percent in 2020 even as other fragrance categories, such as perfumes, dropped.

Nicole Eckels, founder and CEO of Glasshouse Fragrances, told PYMNTS that as people exit their homes and begin to socialize again, though, home and personal fragrance companies, like other sectors, are learning on the fly how customer preferences are changing.

“It’s been really exciting for us because one of the main things that we try to do is really innovate and come up with new, exciting fragrances and products that really have an impact on the way a person feels,” she said.

Eckels, originally from the U.S., founded Glasshouse Fragrances in 2005 in Australia and spent 16 years building the brand first in home fragrances and candles before moving into personal fragrance. Earlier this summer, Glasshouse expanded into the U.S. market, selling products through a direct-to-consumer (D2C) website as well as on Amazon and at online retailers SkinStore and LookFantastic. Eckels said partnering with marketplaces allows Glasshouse to reach as many consumers as possible “and leverage off of brands with an established traffic and a client base.”

“I’ve had to learn a lot,” Eckels told PYMNTS. “We’re experienced, and being American, I understand this market, I was trained here, so that gives us a lot of advantages to someone who’s coming into the market today.”

A New Market

To be sure, the Australian and U.S. fragrance markets are markedly different, with Eckels noting that the Australian market is much less fragmented than its American counterpart, which has lots of smaller brands competing for market share. Eckels said, though, that the fact that Glasshouse makes all its products in-house gives it a leg up because it’s able to better control product quality, innovate more quickly, and overall be more flexible than competitors who outsource production to a third-party manufacturer.

“That’s not something that happens overnight,” Eckels said. “That takes a while, and we have all of that, so we’re not launching as a startup. We’re launching as an established brand with all the benefit of that time and expertise to give us a good footing.”

Still, with production of products mainly taking place in Australia, Eckels said importing candles, perfumes and other scent products “takes loads of planning and forecasting,” since the freight time can be up to three months.

Related: Retailers Face ‘18-Month Struggle’ As Global Supply Chains Remain Tangled

Raj Patel, senior director of 3PL industry strategy at supply chain management company Blue Yonder, told PYMNTS earlier this month that supply chain issues caused by COVID-19 and the accelerated adoption of eCommerce are expected to continue for the next 12 to 18 months.

“I know these words are overused, but they definitely need to be more agile and resilient, because we don’t know what the next 18 months are going to hold,” Patel said. “Is the trend going to continue? Is it going to change? What’s going to be the next thing? It’s hard to predict.”

‘Room For Newness’

After over a decade of living in Australia and growing the Glasshouse brand Down Under, Eckels said she came to the U.S. “expecting to see some really cool new things.” Except for a handful of brands, though, she found “mostly it’s all so boring.”

“If I have to smell one more apple cinnamon, one more vanilla, one more green grass — it’s all the same,” Eckels said, adding that this lack of differentiation provides a potential opening for Glasshouse Fragrances, especially given the brand’s years of experience in Australia.

“I’m just going to keep doing what I do, and that is trying to create fragrances and products that I love and that I want to use,” Eckels said. “I’m really picky and difficult to please, and I think that’s been a key to our success.”

Eckels said she’s seen particularly strong growth in home fragrances over the past several years, with the sector growing at about 30 percent. The NPD Group research found that during lockdown, 85 percent of consumers used home scents, with candles the most-used product. “And the industry is still projecting growth despite the fact that people are now going back to work — not at the same rate, of course, but we’re still expecting to see a bit of growth,” Eckels said. “So I think there’s room for newness.”

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