Introduction: Bvlgari Parfums Global General Manager Jonathan Brinbaum talks to Hannah Tan-Gillies about his strategic pivot as the Roman luxury house streamlines its distribution network and transitions its portfolio to more super-premium, high-end lines.
With the good times steadily returning in travel retail, Bvlgari Parfums’ presence at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes was a typically vibrant statement of commitment to travel retail. But Global General Manager Jonathan Brinbaum actually points to the 2021 event, a much more modest affair heavily influenced by the pandemic, as an even stronger pointer of the brand house’s belief in the channel.
“Bvlgari and travel retail share a common success story as we have been present in the channel with fragrances, jewellery and watches since the beginning,” Brinbaum comments.
“Last year, there was no debate regarding our showing at the TFWA World Exhibition. We were one of the first brands to show our support for the channel, because we were convinced that travel retail would bounce back. One year later and we can see this recovery taking shape.”
Brinbaum recently stepped into the role of Global General Manager for Bvlgari Parfums after spending the last three years as Managing Director Global Travel for jewellery and watches. His return to the world of fragrances could not come at a better time as Bvlgari undergoes what it dubs an important ‘elevation’ transformation. In recent years, Bvlgari has been significantly streamlining its distribution network in order to ‘win big’ where it is present.
Brinbaum says, “The ‘win big’ journey that Bvlgari started three years ago is a long-term one and it’s all about elevation. We are streamlining our distribution from 30,000 doors to 10,000 by the end of 2022. Next year, we are taking this further and trimming our network to 7,000 doors. Elevation is all about expanding our high-end offer and delivering more premium experiences, with fragrance as a core element of that approach.”
Another core element of Bvlgari’s elevation journey is expanding its high-end, super-premium lines to increase basket size, despite the reduction of its network.
“We’re increasing basket size because we are always launching more high-end collections. For example, Allegra and Le Gemme are driving more high-end personalised fragrance experiences,” he says.
The win big approach is already showing results. “Despite cutting 25% of our distribution in 2022, we’re already above our sales in 2021,” Brinbaum explains.
“This shows that despite the reduction of our footprint, we are growing. It highlights the traction of Bvlgari and the success driven by the Allegra, Le Gemme and Omnia lines. It shows that our strategy is working. I’m very excited to be leading this transformation and recreating growth and value with a much more elevated presence than before.”
According to Brinbaum, the same philosophy extends to Bvlgari’s fashion, watches and jewellery businesses. He says, “We are one brand. That same elevation journey is at the core of what jewellery, watches and accessories are doing. Bvlgari has never been more successful in high-end jewellery than it is today. It’s not a coincidence that we have never been more successful in high-end fragrances too.
Travel retail, according to Brinbaum, is also undergoing an important transformation. “The market is more polarised than before,” he says. “On the one hand, we’re seeing a lot of cost-conscious value seeker travellers looking for the best way to move from point A to point B.
“On the other hand, we are seeing luxury experience travellers who are looking for the same level of elevated luxury retail experience in travel retail as domestic. That’s the client we are targeting. Today, travel retail has the highest percentage of high-end products. In 2022, 40% of our travel retail portfolio is already high-end compared to 20% in the domestic market.
“Next year, 20% of our global fragrance portfolio in both travel retail and domestic markets will be above €200 and our strategy is to grow this to 50% in the next five years. In my view, this demand for super high-end luxury products will be an important growth driver for the recovery of the channel.”
Bvlagri Parfums, according to Brinbaum, plays a special recruitment role for the brand. “We are the entry level purchase to recruit new customers into the world of Bvlgari. As we elevate our total brand image, we must also elevate the perfume experience and attract younger generations in a new and exciting way.”
Bvlgari’s new Scentsorial experience, which incorporates the Metaverse and NFTs into a multi-sensorial journey, is a prime example of how the brand aims to attract younger generations through technology. Scentsorial first debuted at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes and Bvlgari hopes to roll out the experience in key airport locations worldwide.
Guests enter the Scentsorial space one at a time and get connected to a wearable device that measures their brainwaves, micro-movements and heartbeat. The Scentsorial journey begins with a synesthetic experience that uses visceral images, a dramatic score, and diffuser technology to evoke the spirit of the scent.
“Being innovative is part of our DNA, Brinbaum explains. “We are the first one to bring the Magnifying concept to the market. We are pioneering in the digital space by bringing Metaverse technology through our Scentsorial experience, which offers a new and exciting way to encapsulate fragrances in the Metaverse.
“It also gives customers a unique collectible which captures their emotions to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art.”
While still a fledgling frontier for many luxury brands, Brinbaum says the Metaverse can complement physical retail and enhance the overall fragrance shopping experience. “To me, the in-store and one-on-one clienteling experience will always be an integral part of the fragrance experience. Digital, ecommerce and the Metaverse will never replace traditional ways of experiencing fragrance but instead add new ways for people to experience it.”
Looking ahead, Brinbaum highlights several key priorities as Bvlgari Parfums continues its elevation journey. “Globally, travel retail globally is a major priority,” he explains. “Asia, and notably China and South Korea, is another core focus. The US is also a priority market for us, we’re just more advanced in our elevation strategy in the US.
“In Europe, Italy is our home market and therefore very important. We’re also experiencing plenty of success with our Le Gemme line in the Middle East.
Brinbaum believes that Bvlgari is well on its way to becoming a more elevated luxury house. “As Bvlgari Parfums, we consider ourselves the jeweller of olfactive emotions, which means that we play a special role in driving the Bvlgari elevation strategy. The vision for Bvlgari Parfums is to bring the most exquisite creations and ingredients to express our customers’ emotions through fragrance.”