Smell of success

Updated: 2011-09-26 07:54

By Gan Tian (China Daily)

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Smell of success

The Chanel perfume counter at a Shanghai department store draws the attention of two customers. [Jiang Zhenxiong / Asia News Photo]

Fragrances for both women and men is an emerging market in China, but mainly focused on major cities. Gan Tian reports.

Fu Huiling, a 29-year-old copywriter at a Beijing-based advertising company, doesn't feel properly dressed unless she applies a dab of her favorite perfume before going out.

"I just feel more confident when I wear perfume," she says.

She first became acquainted with the idea of perfume, aged 15, when she read about it in the play Teahouse, by Lao She (1899-1966). She was taken by a quote from the character Xiao Liu Mazi: "Bring some perfume and spray it. It's so smelly here!"

Fu says perfume did become popular in the 1950s when Teahouse was published, but it was predominantly used to hide bad smells.

"Most people's understanding of perfume was very simple and it was just to drive away smelly odors," she says.

When Fu's 24-year-old sister visited in her hometown of Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, she could not understand why Fu would spend 500 yuan ($78.20) on a bottle of fragrance - particularly since it cost nearly half of what she earned in a month as a clerk.

Zhang Jun, at the China Luxury Industry Association, says most people who buy perfume are office workers at foreign companies in first- and second-tier cities.

These consumers are often well educated and exposed to Western culture. Most of them do jobs that value interpersonal skills, such as public relations, advertising or business.

Shanghai, often described as China's "most fashionable city" has the best sales for fragrance. Beijing and Shenzhen rank next, followed by the provincial capitals of Changsha and Shenyang.

In third-tier cities it is hard to find perfume counters in shopping malls or department stores.

"Most Chinese people are not ready to accept the culture of fragrance. Also, it is comparatively expensive for people in small cities. At the same time, it is not a necessity like clothes and food," Zhang explains.

As most perfume wearers are office workers, they tend to choose mild scents. Chanel has launched Chance for women, which is popular and has delicate hints of jasmine and citrus.

The most popular fragrance in China, however, is Chanel No 5, followed by Lancome and Dior, according to financial magazine Wealth & Wisdom.

Men are also starting to use colognes, which are marketed for sporty types, like Dior Homme Sports, Burberry's The Beat, Hugo Element, Lanvin L'Homme Sport, and Calvin Klein's various fragrances.

Most Chinese men who wear cologne can be described as metrosexual and are older than 25. They tend to spend a lot of time and money on their appearance.

Popular fragrances typically have a "masculine twist" for the bottle design. For example, Dior Homme Sport's bottle has simple straight lines and black-and-white packaging; while tennis player Rafael Nadal created Lanvin L'Homme and it has a metal bottle.

Fragrances for senior citizens and kids are rare, whereas in Western countries scents for kids that have a sweet note and floral notes for the elderly are popular.


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