Men’s fragrance?


Ok, thanks to the genius of Typepad, I am posting while cut open, in surgery, under sedation, and, yes, to be really melodramatic about it, clinging to life by a thread and prayer. Ok, just a thread. (The things you have to do to ditch your prison tattoos.)

Anyhow, here from a feature in the Wall Street Journal called the ‘Stat snapshot,” are the numbers for fragrance sales through 10/31/04, broken out by gender.

Total Women’s U.S. Fragrance Sales $475.0 –
Total Men’s U.S. Fragrance Sales       $372.4 –
(Sales Through 10/31/04, in millions)

Wait. Let’s look at those again.

Total Women’s U.S. Fragrance Sales $475.0 –
Total Men’s U.S. Fragrance Sales       $372.4 –
(Sales Through 10/31/04, in millions)

That’s what I thought, too. I don’t wear a fragrance. I know you don’t wear fragrance. I don’t know anyone who does wear a fragrance. WTF?

I happen to know that Brian Williams wears fragrance. (We tried on the same jacket at a New Canaan clothing store.) But that’s it.

So what gives? WSJ reporter, Rebecca Cascade, notes that fragrance sales are down 17% since 2001 despite the wild success of fragrances by Elizabeth Taylor (White Diamonds) and J. Lo (Glow). In fact, even Michael Jordan’s cologne is on the skids.

I am soliciting explanations here. I have one idea. Unilever must be selling Axe by the tanker trailer full. 

16 thoughts on “Men’s fragrance?

  1. Abe

    Little curious as to what’s so surprising there. I’m guessing its the closeness of men’s to women’s numbers? The raw number for men isn’t that odd at all. I spend about $100 a year, bet you Brian Williams spends at least 4x that… Most bottles of good scent cost around $50 or $60 dollars, so the $100 a year isn’t a bad estimate for the “average scent buying man”. Which would mean less then 4 million men buying every year. In a country of almost 300 million people (plus tourists) that’s a pretty small percentage of the population. Small enough that you could explain away the sales as being exclusive to one subcultural group, gay men or indian immigrants or whatever. Doubt that any one subculture is dominating the sales, but is sure could weigh heavily on it.

    As for the male female difference, few things to consider. Men who buy fragrance are probably more likely to be serious consumers, if they buy they probably use it. Women are more exposed to scent sales, are more culturally encouraged to buy, but many might not use it much. A bottle can last years if you use it for special occasions. Also women are far more likely to buy and use a male scent then the reverse. And one subcultural group where males are more likely to use scent then women could really skew the numbers. And then there are the tourists..

  2. Irene

    Fragrance is something women buy men as gifts because a) we’d like men to wear it and b) we can’t think of any good gift ideas. Could it be that women — year in, year out — are buying most men’s fragrances and giving them to men who never, ever open the bottle?

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  3. Tom Guarriello

    Well, true confessions time, I guess. I wear a fragrance. Have for about 25 years. For the last 5 of those, I’ve worn a fragrance by Creed, a fragrance house that manufactured scents for Napoleon. A year or so ago I was doing some fragrance research and discovered that the scent I wear is the same one Freud word. Who knew?

    Secondly, I do work for a major fragrance manufacturer and the men’s numbers are consistently better than the women’s.

    That surprised me, too.

  4. Brian Hawkins

    Do those figures include scented bath products (i.e., Old Spice or Axe “shower gels” and similar products?) I use that stuff, but wouldn’t be caught dead wearing cologne…nor do I know any male within 5 years of my age (27) who would.

  5. John Galvin

    Irene’s explanation was lent some credence last night by my bartender, to whom I usually turn when perplexed by things masculine. He wasn’t at all surprised by the numbers. His situation (which he routinely assumes explains any more general phenomena): “I wear CK One…six times a year, maybe. I’ve got about 6 full bottles of it at home, though. People keep giving it to me, because, y’know, they know I wear CK One.”

    During our nightly viewing of NBC Nightly News, nobody at the bar was surprised when I told them that Brian Williams wears cologne.

  6. Jessica

    I had expected that women’s numbers wouldn’t be quite so high. But then I thought about my personal supply of fragrances. Whereas men tend to receive cologne as gifts a lot, they generally pick one, maybe 2 fragrances and make them their “signature scent.” While some women certainly do the same, lots of ladies I know have different scents for each season, for different moods (sprightly vs seductive, say) and this definitely jacks up the average number of bottles in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Plus, for a while I was looking for the “one” scent. I wanted a signature scent. Granted I barely ever wear it, but when I do, I’m happy I found it…although sometimes the mood calls for something with a bit more or a bit less oomph.

  7. Jim Dingwall

    Grant — I’m glad to see you’ve got your old spice back despite the recent surgery.

    A few days ago I was in the Hudson’s Bay store, passing through the men’s fragrance section, when on my way out I nearly knocked over a pedestal on which sat a squat, promotional bottle of a new male perfume. At least, I assume it was new. And male. Imprinted on its side in upper case, sans serif — masculine-to-beat-the-band– typeface was the beguiling brand label: “HUMMER”. Mercifully, there was no husky, buff guy standing at the ready, in a tight olive T-shirt and camouflage pants, threatening to squirt my underdeveloped and limp wrists with a sample. Still ….

    I share your bewilderment about who is buying this stuff. For that reason, I think the sales figures you quote reflect a highly inflated definition of what constitutes male fragrances. That $372 million figure must surely include the sales of such men’s evening scents as Budweiser Wasser, Eau d’Stohs, and Corona del Mer as well as the familiar masculine late-hour fragrances of Jacque Daniels and Sauvage Dindon.

    This might require further anthropological research. In the meantime, best wishes, from all of us, on your health and recovery.

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  9. Olivia

    Never underestimate the power of gay men under the age of 25 who don’t know proper application techniques.

  10. Earl Overworm

    I’m a man and I don’t wear a scent, out of a bottle that is. I’m sure I carry a scent, the strength of which depends on whether I’ve been physically active.

    When I was younger, 17-25 I wore scents. I even had a “signature” scent, even though I wore probably a half-dozen. After that point, I stopped wearing scents. I think I just tired of it, as I tired of having multiple watches for various outings . . . as I tired of having multiple pairs of brown shoes (or black shoes) for various outings . . . as I tired of many other similar fashion choices. As I matured, I saw the idiocy of fashioning my life after pop culture fashion trends.

    I still have a few bottles of scent in my closet, which I’ve held onto through two moves since I regularly wore them. I wear them maybe two or three times a year, usually for weddings or funerals, but not at every wedding or funeral.

    Besides, at $50-$100 a pop, I’d rather buy a few books, CDs, or gas for the car. Or, if I’m fashionably inclined, I’ll buy a new shirt, or pair of pants, or underwear.

  11. Grant

    To all the others kind enough to post. I am sorry that I haven’t responded. Surgery and its sedation. In fact, the bottle reads: do not operate heavy machinery or TypePad software under the influence of this drug. Sorry, I will try to catch up. In the meantime, I wanted to reply to the most recent post:

    Earl, thanks for the great ethnographic glimpse. I’m interested in multiplicity (lots of watches, fragrances, shoes, etc.) as a reflection of a multiplicity of personhood. It’s not about acknowledging different occasions, so much as it is acknowledging the variety within. Moving away from multiplicity suggests that some selection has been made, that the self is now more focused. Thoughts only. Great comment, thanks. Grant

  12. M. Janse

    Well, listen to this. Recent studies (including a comprehensive experiment in which I participated)indicates that there is NO difference between male and female scents, but rather a “one size fits all” unisex scent. Perfume manufacturers seemed to have stumbled onto this idea, and your “FIRE &ICE for men” is actually no different to your partners “…For women, AND cologne? please, if it was on a women, you wouldd not be able to tell the difference.
    There some food for thought

  13. Anonymous

    commuting for about six hours a day..I dread those six hours spent on TTC..because people smell so gross..sometimes im shocked to see that they’re young (20’s) & or professional looking…its disgusting..and now reading some of these posts I am can see why (GAG).

  14. Men's Fragrances

    Wearing Men’s Fragrances
    is just one more of many ways
    for people to hide from their own self
    like sun glasses and many more fashion products.

    I have herd that there is a new make up for man brand.

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