2021 Intermission

We’ve reached the hallway point of 2021 as far as the world of perfume goes it is a quite different first six months of this year compared to last year. The pandemic completely took the wind out of sales for everything including fragrance. The brands and consumers figured it out so that the last six months of 2020 were kind of normal even though we were in quarantine. Those lessons have been held over into the first half of 2021.

One of the major bright points in the retail sector was the sales of fragrance. Over the first quarter of this year it continues to be a leader in the beauty sector. Perfume became that bit of luxury you could wear. It also seemed as if perfume buyers used it to escape their four walls through scent.

This also benefited the stores which had online sales presences. People bought more samples which lead to more buying of full bottles. When I’ve talked to most of those who are independent perfume store owners, they survived the lockdown because they were able to transform to selling online.

For me I missed the perfume expositions where I was able to sample many new releases. In its place a lot of brands had online video meetings in place of them. I would get a package followed by a link to a video chat. I would then spend an hour hearing from everyone involved. I want to return to the fun of the big expos. Although I will admit sitting at home getting a chance to interact with the brands was nice.

I am not sure what to chalk up the quality of the perfumes released over the first part of this year. I have tried about as many new perfumes as I did in the first six months of 2019. That means the pace of releases is back to pre-pandemic levels. I have a slight suspicion that many brands held back some things from last year which they have subsequently put out now.

This has been such a good first six months I could probably do a top 25 for the year and be happy with it. What has made me happiest is the creativity which I have experienced across all sectors. At retail, the perfumes of Zara or Hollister show there is something interesting to be found if you look for it. The independent brands like Amouage, Masque Milano, and Zoologist have hit new high points. Shawn Maher, Charna Ethier, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz have continued their general display of excellence.

For all that has been good there has been a sadness too. In February Carlos J. Powell aka Brooklyn Fragrance Lover passed away. Whenever I am online, I see his avatar reminding me of missing our informal chats in the middle of the night.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the year. If it is as good, 2021 it is going to be a heckuva year for perfume.

Mark Behnke