Bottled up demand

By: |
July 26, 2021 6:41 AM

Sales of deodorants and perfumes have declined as stores and offices remained shut for most of 2020

The deodorant market, which was worth Rs 3,900 crore in 2019, shrunk by about Rs 102 crore in 2020The deodorant market, which was worth Rs 3,900 crore in 2019, shrunk by about Rs 102 crore in 2020

Personal grooming products like deodorants and perfumes have been losing their essence during the pandemic, as working professionals, youngsters and women, who form the core target audience for these products, find fewer occasions to use them. According to Euromonitor International, the deodorants and fragrances categories had been growing at 10% and 12%, respectively, until 2019.

However, their market sizes shrunk considerably as consumers stopped spending on discretionary beauty and personal care products. The deodorant market, which was worth Rs 3,900 crore in 2019, shrunk by about Rs 102 crore in 2020; whereas the fragrance market contracted by Rs 798 crore to reach Rs 2,289 crore in 2020. Deodorant sprays and mass fragrances are the biggest drivers of these categories.

Scent appeal

Earlier in the year, when workplaces were opening up in a phased manner and consumers were warming up to the idea of stepping out of their homes, brands in these categories sensed an opportunity to recover losses. New brands entered the segment, and existing ones introduced new fragrances. In January, Peter England, the menswear brand from Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, forayed into the deodorant market with a range of sprays starting at Rs 199. Footwear brand Woodland, too, launched a range of deodorants in April 2021, priced at Rs 200.

But, Harkirat Singh, MD, Woodland, says, “the timing of the launch was not perfect”. In April, the second wave of the pandemic was beginning to peak and stringent lockdowns were imposed once again, which meant stores were shut.

Most perfumes and deodorants are sold offline — modern trade outlets and department store chains like Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Central, etc, are where a chunk of the sales happen. Manish Gupta, COO, fragrance and accessories division, Titan, says that department stores contribute almost 30% to the overall sales of Titan Skinn, the company’s fragrance brand. “Because these stores and malls have been shut, our performance in large cities has been affected. While we are seeing a recovery among non-metros, the impact of that on our business is low,” he says.

Titan Skinn, which operates in the masstige segment, recently introduced four new fragrances priced at Rs 1,595. Gupta says business has been picking up. “In Q1 FY22, we were at 40% of Q1 FY20. In the second week of July, we exceeded week two of July FY20 levels,” he says. Titan’s fragrances and accessories division recorded a 51% decline in revenue in FY21.

Creating demand

Unlike other products like shampoos and conditioners, the use of deodorants is not yet an integral part of the everyday personal care routine for consumers in India. Industry sources peg the penetration of deodorants at 13-15%. “In a low-penetration category like fragrances, where consumption depends on the occasions for use, marketers can do very little to stimulate demand,” says Manoj Menon, head of research and consumer analyst, ICICI Securities.

In such a situation, brands often fall back on discounting. For instance, on Amazon India, most deodorants are being sold at a discount of 20-30%. Menon points out that companies that have reduced their advertising spends can divert that money towards discounting.

Vanesa Care, the company that makes deodorants under Denver, Envy and Vanesa, has introduced smaller pocket-size packs, in the Rs 50-75 range, to encourage trials in the non-metros. Others like ITC’s Engage, Axe and Wild Stone have had these even before the pandemic. “We did this to find new users and have managed to improve our penetration in markets beyond tier II,” says Saurabh Gupta, director, Vanesa Care.

Alagu Balaraman, managing director, CGN Global India, says brands have failed to create a value proposition that could make the product a fundamental part of a person’s grooming routine. Over the years, deodorants and fragrances have been positioned as products that make people appealing to the opposite gender or hasten their climb up the corporate ladder. “The lack of imagination on the part of brands on generating demand has limited the use cases for the product. Imagine if the use of deodorants was linked to sports. It is going to be difficult for brands to sell a new value proposition when their advertising budgets have been slashed,” Balaraman points out.

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