In BW Confidential’s COVID-19 Industry Talks series, Symrise senior vice president global fine fragrance Ricardo Omori talks about the impact of the crisis on the fragrance market and his expectations for the rest of the year
How has the pandemic impacted Symrise’s fine fragrance business?
Fine fragrance was one of the growth drivers for Symrise last year and in the first quarter of 2020, so that was good news for us. Starting April of course, the coronavirus situation began to hit us. Unfortunately, fine fragrance is by far the most complex scenario that we saw due to the coronavirus. Everything that is related to specialty retail or travel retail, everything that’s premium has been strongly [impacted] by the crisis. Masstige, door-to-door and China, were affected, but much less so. You can see already in May that the [recovery in] those three segments is much better, much quicker and much faster than premium and specialty retail.
How will the situation play out in the premium segment for rest of year?
It’s very tough to predict a timeline for that, but what we learned from the last weeks is that when a country starts to ease the lockdown, we immediately see business come back. Of course, travel retail is where we will have bigger problems in terms of timing – that will be the most complex [recovery] for us. But for the rest, I believe the easing of lockdowns generates a quick impact in the numbers and that is what we expect.
How do you think the end-of-year holiday period will play out in Europe and North America?
I always try to be positive. […] Of course, our customers had a very complex first half and Christmas will be when all of us will hope to catch up. It is very difficult to make projections, but that is the hope.
What have you seen in China that could help business in the West?
What we saw was that fragrance consumption does not change pre- and post-COVID, so that is a very good indication. Another element that we saw was that the premium and luxury business is completely on fire. And people are changing [how they shop] – in China e-commerce was already huge and it has become more important. So, I would highlight those three points and I believe they will be replicated in the rest of the world.
What needs to happen for fine fragrance to take full advantage of the surge in e-commerce sales resulting from the crisis?
Repurchase of fragrance through e-commerce is completely feasible and that puts more focus to the traditional historical pillars for brands – that is a no-brainer strategy for the brands. We have seen brands working a lot with sampling now and finding ways to encourage consumers to interact more with the fragrance. Storytelling is more and more important and communication via the web regarding the fragrance construction and details to seduce the consumer [is important].
What is the long-term impact and the opportunities that you see from this crisis?
The big question is the consumption levels, which are not clear now, the size of the market and if consumption by the end consumer will be the same. I believe that a change in behavior will happen and that everything regarding sustainability, wellbeing and naturality will become more relevant and important in our industry. The industry has been talking and preparing itself for [these issues] in the past few years — now it is time to go really quickly on that. For Symrise it is clear that this is a major opportunity. How we adapt to the new distribution channels and digital will also be much more relevant in our industry, and that’s another big opportunity.
BW Confidential’s Industry Talks series asks top executives for their views on key issues impacting the market.For more Industry Talks with executives in fragrance and cosmetics,