Retail in Asia


The Fragrance Edit: Chapter IV – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with L’Atelier des Parfums

In the fourth installment of our series dedicated to Asian niche fragrance brands, we invite you to discover L’Atelier des Parfums, an omnichannel concept store dedicated to high-end fragrances that was launched in Japan in 2005 by the Bluebell Group. With solid roots in the fragrance business since 1948, the Group more recently opened L’Atelier des Parfums in South Korea in 2021.  

Retail in Asia caught up with Kumiko Ishino, General Manager, Fragrance & Cosmetics Division at Bluebell Japan as well as June Kim, Vice President, Fragrance & Domestic at Bluebell Korea who are both spearheading L’Atelier des Parfums in their respective markets. Together we discussed L’Atelier des Parfums inception and mission, the intricacies of these two markets both in terms of consumers and brand preferences as well as the expansion of L’Atelier des Parfums.

SEE ALSO : The Fragrance Edit: Chapter III – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Maison 21G

RiA: Can you tell us about the concept behind L’Atelier des Parfums and its development over the years?

Kumiko: In Japan, the fragrance category represents 1.5 percent of the total cosmetics market (skincare + make-up + haircare). It reaches 5 percent in department stores where most luxury & prestige brands concentrate their presence. This means that if you are not a 3-axis brand such as Chanel, Christian Dior, it is very difficult to get visibility in department stores.

L’Atelier des Parfums was launched to address this issue. It is a concept dedicated to Japanese high-end consumers, bringing them a variety of prestigious imported fragrance brands and services. The multi-brand store curates each brand and its products distinctly, and offers professional consultations by beauty advisors. The most significant achievement of L’Atelier des Parfums is the quality of our beauty advisors, who undergo continuous training programs. They are similar to wine sommeliers. Based on the extended knowledge of each brand and product, they are able to recommend the ‘most suitable’ product for each customer: not only in terms of the scent itself but also with regards to the lifestyle or the brand preference. We actually have a program of ‘Parfum Sommelier’ to train, then award skilled and experienced beauty advisors. Today, we have approximately 50 Parfum Sommeliers throughout Japan.

L’Atelier des Parfums is continuously evolving to meet our customer expectations. Initially we introduced well-known global fashion brand fragrances, and in the last decade, L’Atelier des Parfums has also brought in ‘Niche fragrance brands’, which at the time were new to the Japanese fragrance market. For these brands, L’Atelier des Parfums represented the only channel to penetrate into the competitive department store environment.

In addition to our locations in department stores and station malls, we cover fashion select shops and shopping malls in suburbs as well as locations specialized in men’s fragrance, through wholesale in order to maximize touch points of each brand. We launched the L’Atelier des Parfums e-commerce store in 2018 and sales have been growing tremendously over the years. This site is designed not only as an e-commerce platform with the highest level of quality and service but also as a media to deliver information about each brand and the latest news for both online and offline customers. We believe this omnichannel presence enhances the visibility of each brand leading to successful business.

Source : L’Atelier des Parfums Nihombashi Takashimaya, Japan

June: In Asia, the perfume market is relatively small compared to the European and US markets, where people wear perfumes in their daily life.
In Japan, L’Atelier des Parfums was successfully implemented over the past decades with global fashion brand fragrances and expanding into niche perfumes, responding to market demand. Thus L’Atelier des Parfums Korea recently entered the market, with an enriched portfolio of niche fragrances combined with an exciting customer journey.

In Korea, most of the high-end global perfume and cosmetics brands have introduced their products to consumers in department stores. However, niche fragrance brands, which are not yet well-known to Asian consumers, need a channel to build brand awareness to compete in the market.
In response to this, L’Atelier des Parfums provides a solution for incubating the brand in a prestige retail environment with the support of optimized marketing communications. Moreover, the rapid growth of online shopping during the pandemic has accelerated the need for distinguished digital marketing activities. Adapting to this new normal, L’Atelier des Parfums has established online marketing communication tools that create the synergy between the “brand seeding” and “retail driving.” These two-track activities enabled our niche brands to successfully land in the market, and provide a seamless shopping experience to our customers, both online and offline.

RiA: Many have said that interest in fragrance is growing rapidly in Asia especially since the pandemic, do you find this to be true and why do you think this is happening?

Kumiko: The interest in fragrance has been growing in the last few years. The sales growth of the fragrance category can be attributed in large part to the ‘scented body care and home products’ rather than solely to personal fragrances. On the other hand, the historical emotional reticence towards fragrance in Japan is gradually diminishing thanks to this favorable trend towards fragrance in general.

June: Indeed, both the demand and interest in niche perfume increased during the pandemic in Korea. L’Atelier des Parfums in Korea was launched in 2021 amid the pandemic, when testing in stores was strictly prohibited. But as many young consumers wanted to distinguish their personality through fragrance instead of makeup, the purchase of niche perfume grew rapidly.

Source : L’Atelier des Parfums, Galleria West, Korea

RiA: Niche fragrance brands appeal to the young generations – Millennials & Gen Z – as they use perfume as a way to express their personality. Can you tell us more about your consumer base and the attraction to niche brands or not?

Kumiko: In Japan, there are two types of Niche fragrance brand customers: fragrance connoisseurs and those who aim to stand out and use fragrance as a way to differentiate themselves. The connoisseurs make choices mainly on the quality of the scent, and the latter customers tend to be more influenced by the whole brand experience, atmosphere and uniqueness. We see both types of customers come to our counters, and while the majority of our customers today are connoisseurs, we can see more and more customers wanting to differentiate through scent.

June: Millennials and Gen Z have clearly differentiated themselves from the elder generations in terms of shopping and consumption, with their unique criteria.
Previous generations tended to focus on recognition from the others, showing a strong fandom for designer fragrances, while Millennials and Gen Z lead the growth of niche perfumes, which is boosted by online expansion, thanks to the acceleration of digital and social media.
Currently, most of our clients are in their 20s and 30s, and are digital savvy, thus strong in purchasing online. Today L’Atelier des Parfums business consists of 50% online and 50% offline.

RiA: Bluebell has also launched Jardin des Parfums in Japan. How is this store concept different from L’Atelier des Parfums? Why was it important to launch this concept in Japan?

Kumiko: L’Atelier des Parfums mainly focuses on personal fragrances due to the space constraints. However, as mentioned, the demand for ‘scented products’ such as body care or home products is growing. In 2020, we launched the Jardin des Parfums concept, which carries 4-5 ‘Lifestyle fragrance brands’ with wider product category offers. The shops are located in shopping malls adjacent to major train/subway stations where the main traffic comes from customers in their 20’s and 30’s who are looking for a more relaxed shopping destination than that in department stores. Whilst the sales staff are trained just as those in our L’Atelier des Parfums concept stores, the consumer here likes to self-experiment and try the products freely, and still enjoy the professional advice. Today we have five locations for Jardin des Parfums and plan to add a few shops later this year. L’Atelier des Parfums and Jardin des Parfums are complementary for Bluebell’s Fragrance business development.

RiA: L’Atelier des Parfums launched into Korea late last year. How have Korean consumers welcomed this new concept store? How is it performing so far?

June: Through its distinct positioning as a high-end multi-brand fragrance concept, l’Atelier des Parfums has charmed both retailers and consumers in Korea.
With the heightened competitiveness in the cosmetics industry, retailers expect higher space productivity, and L’Atelier des Parfums provides a good alternative as a multi-brand shop in a limited space.
Consumers are invited to experience a variety of products along with the opportunity to test the products. In addition, L’Atelier des Parfums allows customers to optimize their choices through professional consultation by Bluebell beauty advisors as well as the digitized fragrance recommendation mobile application “Find my fragrance.”

Source : L’Atelier des Parfums JP

RiA: What’s next for L’Atelier des Parfums in both markets?

Kumiko: We always strive to improve the shop design, display, product assortment, brand experience and differentiation, and pioneering new market trends. We will keep a strong focus on the customer experience through the training of our beauty advisors.

June: In addition to our current brand portfolio, we will be launching four new brands in 2022, and evolving our store concepts in Q2~Q3 to enhance the overall shopping experience.

Source : Bluebell Group

SEE ALSO : The Fragrance Edit: Chapter II – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Maison de L’Asie

L’Atelier des Parfums in Korea is currently being distributed in various channels, such as on/offline stores of high-end department stores, as well as L’Atelier des Parfums’ own e-commerce website. On top of the current distribution channels, L’Atelier des Parfums will also launch live commerce events.

*Retail in Asia is part of the Bluebell Group