Diptyque’s Secret on Growing a “Scented” Business in China

In 1968, Diptyque created one of the world’s first genderless fragrances, simply named L’Eau. Now, after celebrating the 50th anniversary of the icon scent, the French fragrance house, famous for its chic candles, perfumes, and accessories is having another breakout moment — this time in China.

“In 2018, the overall growth rate of the fragrance market in China, according to the third-party data, was about 25 percent, but Diptyque’s growth rate was more than 35 percent,” said Yvonne Chan, Managing Director of Diptyque China. The brand’s positive momentum is likely to continue in 2019 in spite of a slowing Chinese economy. Fabienne Mauny, Global Managing Director of Diptyque, who served at key roles at Yves Saint Laurent Perfumes and Couture before heading up the brand since 2007, told Jing Daily that she anticipated that it would have a very successful upcoming second quarter.

The French niche fragrance brand Diptyque, famous for its chic candles, perfumes, and accessories is having a breakout moment in China. Courtesy photo

The French niche fragrance brand Diptyque, famous for its chic candles, perfumes, and accessories is having a breakout moment in China. Courtesy photo

In recent years, interior fragrances, including candles, perfumes, diffusers, and essential oils, have quickly become must-have items for trendy Chinese luxury shoppers. And major players have all doubled down on the Chinese fragrance market, which offers the potential for massive growth, as the industry had only a one percent sector in 2017.

The optimism from niche fragrance brands like Diptyque is not unfounded. Market research company Euromonitor revealed sales growth of the top three players — Chanel, Parfums Christian Dior, and Coty Inc — was stagnant in 2017 in the face of rising competition from brands better known for catering to the consumers’ desire for a unique scent and an individualistic personal style. In addition, Diptyque’s subtle scents align with Chinese fragrance shoppers, who prefer a fresh, lighter, and fruitier fragrance, as opposed to a much heavier, more potent scent that’s popular in the West.

China's niche fragrance market is booming. Courtesy photo

China’s niche fragrance market is booming. Courtesy photo

Diptyque first entered the Chinese market in 2014, through a joint venture business mode, and opened stores in Shanghai and Beijing, with a very exclusive distribution at its own boutique stores and a few beauty counters in SKP Beijing and Lane Crawford. “This has allowed us to learn about the market and about the Chinese customers, who offered us a warm welcome since our start,” said Mauny.

In late 2018, the brand strengthened its presence by opening additional stores in Nanjing, Chengdu, and Chongqing. This summer, Diptyque will break into the mega-city of Hangzhou, the capital city and the GDP power engine of Zhejiang province. “We don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to our store openings in China,” said Chan. “Every store is different because we use the [local] resources from different cities. It is customized. [For example, the] Hangzhou store takes inspiration from West Lake. That’s why when people look at us, the experience is always very different.”

Besides an innovative retail approach, Diptyque has also devoted sizable resources in building an all-embracing digital strategy to grow business in China and to reach out to a wider range of customers. “Our strategy is to welcome the Chinese customers in the best possible way by knowing about their tastes and specific requests, and by following them on WeChat to know how to give them the best possible experience,” said Mauny.

Diptyque opened a pop-up boutique at Cha House, Shanghai. Courtesy photo

Diptyque opened a pop-up boutique at Cha House, Shanghai. Courtesy photo

Last month, Diptyque opened a pop-up boutique at Cha House, the remodeled, century-old building turned cultural event space in Shanghai, from April 18 to 28, in celebration of the brand’s 50th anniversary. The exhibition was dedicated exclusively to showing Diptyque’s personal fragrance heritage. Shanghai was the third international destination on Diptyque’s fragrance pop-up shop global tour, following the successful launch in New York and London earlier this year. Chinese consumers could make an appointment on Diptyque’s official WeChat account, and once there, enjoy the immersive new media art space, explore the raw materials, and gain a better understanding of Diptyque’s fragrance-making process.

Diptyque is surely facing competition from other niche scent makers, including Jo Malone London and Atelier Cologne, which have all aggressively expanded into the Chinese market over the past two years. The brand, however, is betting on its unique DNA and is dedicated to sustaining its growth “We are not just a fragrance house, producing a fragrance,” said Myriam Badault, Director of Product Design and Marketing of Diptyque, who has been heading the fragrance creation of the brand for over a decade.”We look at scent as part of everything.”

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