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Looking back - fragrance sales during COVID-19 restrictions

Posted by Alice on

We are based in the UK but ship all over the world - and have been doing so for over a decade. As England today steps down on restrictions, we thought we'd share some interesting anecdotes about what we've seen since SARS-CoV-2 - and societies' reactions to it - started to kick in.

1. The world went alcohol crazy

Many of our products contain acohols. Alcohol is a broad group of chemicals that have an -OH group attached to a hydrocarbon chain. There are many different alcohols, but in general they are good solvents, flammable and toxic to viruses and mammalian livers.

In early 2020, the was a global run on aclohol-based materials. Many manufacturers and wholesalers stopped supplying for non-contracted orders and started making their own hand gels and sanitizer sprays, alas at considerable markup. At one point we were close to running out of a raw material for which we  never considered continuity of supply to be a business threat.

A recent UK government report also shows some interesting trends in increased alcohol purchases by consumers. The alcoholic products in question here however found themselves not applied to door handles, Amazon packages and work surfaces, but into the stomachs of the population. The report also highlights the increases in alcohol-related diseases and deaths; cherry-picking for example:

"December 2020 rates of alcoholic liver disease deaths were 58.1% higher than the corresponding baseline month (11.7 per 100,000 population compared to 7.4)"

If lockdowns, restrictions, fear or isolation has caused you to increase your drinking, please check yourself and seek help if you need it.

2. People craved the smells of outdoors

Being sent home, people wanted to smell the outdoors. As soon as countries in Europe and North America started introducing restrictions, we saw a large increase in demand for the following products:

The above increases were accompanied by a reduction in the popularity of food-based scents for the first UK lockdown. This could well be due to people's homes being filled with the smell of furlough-cakes and home-baked bread (remember the supermarkets running out of flour and yeast?).

Sales of our New Car Smell and Leather Scent Spray have been consistently high. This is also surprising, as these two products tend to find themselves used in vehicles - and we understand people were using their cars less.

3. Fewer orders, higher order value

We have indeed been financially impacted by restrictions in general. We are not however, going cap-in-hand and filling out all sorts of forms for loans and claims. That's not how the directors of Sensory Decisions roll.

What is noteworthy, is that we have seen an increase in average order value, with the distribution of order values broadening to include some very considerable orders delivered to both residential and commercial addresses around the world.

As businesses prepare to reopen their premises, they appear to be reassessing how they face their customers (who may or may not be masked). We have seen an increased interest in the form of larger orders from restaurants, fitness centres and estate agents. Our automatic programmable scent machine has been very popular for business wishing to engage in olfactory marketing and perhaps even to mask the not-so-pleasant smells of disinfectant and sanitizers.

4. Couriers, deliveries - anything goes

There have been strange changes in the operations of courier and express companies since early 2020. These of course have been compounded by adjustment to customs issues due to Brexit. We have been able to dispatch orders with no delays, but some orders (by no means all) have taken a little too long (at times) to get into the hands of customers.

To an extent we suspect that there is an element of 'Excusvid-19' in the economy in general: if something goes wrong, you can always 'blame it on the COVID'. That said, there have been some interesting innovations from some of the delivery companies, who have faced a massive increase in demand. 

The lack of passenger air travel has generally resulted in record-speed transit across continental borders, although customs delays can blow those out of the water. We buy aluminium bottles from China and these normally take two weeks to arrive at our gates. In the middle of the first lockdown we saw them arriving in three days. No: the bottles did not come from Wuhan.

5. Amazon robots - or robotic policies

Some have argued that Amazon was slow to crack-down on price gouging practices on various items from toilet paper, emulsion paint and - yes - alcohol gels and sprays. When they did crack down, it was hard and with some collateral damage. We have had erroneus warnings on our pricing (we make our own products, own our brand and did not change any prices during lockdowns!) and we have also seen some of our most popular products removed by Amazon on the basis that they are pesticides, which they are not and we make no claim that they are. We have not managed to get our popular products reinstated on Amazon, however a lot of repeat customers are coming to our website instead, for which we are grateful for the customer loyalty.

Looking forward

We have had made some small changes to the ways we stock and dispatch products and have redistributed business to different courier companies, but our business has not fundamentally changed. We will continue to meet the increased demand from business customers and have a few new products in development.