The Bvlgari ‘paradox’: Luxury brand prudent about Asia expansion despite appetite for high-end fragrances

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Bvlgari is eyeing huge opportunities in fast-growing luxury markets like India and Vietnam but will not rush an expansion despite the immense interest in high-end fragrances. [BVLGARI]
Bvlgari is eyeing huge opportunities in fast-growing luxury markets like India and Vietnam but will not rush an expansion despite the immense interest in high-end fragrances. [BVLGARI]

Related tags Fragrance Lvmh Bvlgari Luxury

Italian luxury brand Bvlgari is eyeing huge opportunities in fast-growing luxury markets like India and Vietnam but will not rush an expansion despite the immense interest in high-end fragrances.

As part of its strategy to enhance brand desirability, BVLGARI has significantly limited its distribution network, reducing its global points of sale to around 6,000 – less than a quarter of what it used to have five years ago – with about one-third of global distribution in Asia.

“Five years ago, it was 25,000. We cut 75% of distribution just to focus on where it really matters and pay tribute to the full universe of the brand,”​ said Jonathan Brinbaum, BVLGARI’s global managing director of the fragrances business unit.

This saw BVLGARI completely withdraw its operations in some markets such as South Korea, where it recently re-entered last year.

“In South Korea, we were completely out for four years – four years without a presence. We had to somehow recreate retail from scratch. We were in about 100 points of sales and now we’re in seven, but in the right places,” ​Brinbaum told CosmeticsDesign-Asia.

In 2021, the brand launched BVLGARI Allegra, a collection of five perfumes and five magnifying essences to allow people to personalise their scents.

The high-end collection was crafted by master perfumer Jacques Cavallier, the nose behind Aqva Pour Homme.

Most recently, the brand introduced new additions to the Allegra family, Chill and Sole eau de parfum and Magnifying Neroli.

Innovations like BVLGARI Allegra have been key to helping the brand grow despite its footprint reduction.

“We’ve cut a lot of distribution and now we want to stabilise it. The work that we’ve been doing is more reducing than expanding. But at the same time growing the business – that’s the paradox. We grew the business by cutting distribution which shows how successful our brand is,”​ said Brinbaum.

“BVLGARI perfumery today is a very successful division. It plays a very important role to the entry of the BVLGARI universe and the world of our jewellery, watches, accessories… As a result of that, we elevated [our perfumes] to be as selective and as premium as our jewellery.”

All in good time

Meanwhile, fragrance has been growing exponentially​ in Asia. Boosted by the interest post-pandemic consumers are now willing to fork out top dollar for premium perfumes.

“Fragrance has had higher interest because its more self-indulgent. I think we’re back to luxury being more for yourself than others. And perfume is all about yourself. It’s an indulgent moment where you’re freeing yourself. I think that resonates with people notably in Asia,” ​said Brinbaum.

With the interest in perfumery at an all-time high, Brinbaum said the firm was keeping an eye on several markets in Asia.

“What makes it all wonderful is that there’s interest everywhere in perfumery today.”

After all the efforts taken to reduce its distribution, the company’s strategy remains to “focus where it really matters.”

He told us that brand will expand into new markets when “there’s attraction from the clients”, ​such as Korea.

Since we relaunched in South Korea, we have been wonderfully successful because the client still remembers who we are over there with our iconic fragrances like BVLGARI BLV. Tomorrow Japan could be a good market because historically our scents have been successful in Japan. We’ll just come back when we believe that we have something to say in the market,” ​said Brinbaum.

He added: “I rather be out of a market than not be there right.”

Bvlgari is paying close attention to high-potential markets with increasing interest in luxury products.

“We look at markets where there’s still opportunity in high-end retail. Thailand is one example, so is India. In these countries people are getting more interested and knowledgeable about luxury and luxury perfume. We’re also very much attentive to countries like Vietnam and Malaysia where retail is developing, and the interest is high for perfumery. I see a lot of potential in the next years in Asia.”

Brinbaum highlighted India, where the growing appetite for luxury presents a promising opportunity despite current retail limitations.

“I think India is a wonderful territory of potential for luxury. There’s a lot of rising interest in luxury, generally speaking. However, I think retail now is a bit limited to have a full expression of brands there. But I’m very confident it’s going to be a huge source of growth and potential for luxury goods.”

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