In an exclusive interview, Amouage CEO Marco Parsiegla explains how the perfume house is finding opportunities amid the crisis.
How has the luxury segment changed in recent times?
The role of luxury has shifted. Acquiring exclusive goods was yesterday – today it is about receiving a unique experience. Luxury houses are not the unquestionable luxury authorities they once were. They need to be more human, to create empathic bonds with clients and communities, not just by selling thoughtful products, but by contributing towards the greater good.
What have been the most significant changes, and are these changes that you have incorporated into your future strategy (e.g.) more flexibility on working from home?
Our priority for our employees has been their health and job security. For our clients, it has been about enabling them to access the products they love, safely, which is why we adapted our stores to accommodate social distancing and also continued to bring their favourite perfumes to their doorstep.
Our creators are very accessible and we provide insights into our processes and practices through conversations and interactions on a variety of platforms from face-to-face, interviews to social media. Beyond that, we have reached out to the community by producing hand sanitisers for use in hospitals and healthcare facilities.
What is your view on the luxury industry in this region specifically?
The GCC is a pillar of the global luxury market. While the slowdown impacted short- and mid-term sales, local demand remains strong. At the core is an overall young population with millennials having one of the highest spending power in the world.
Within this younger client group, the acceleration of social media is increasing the visibility, appeal and consumption of luxury goods dramatically, making this region one of the biggest and most dynamic in the luxury goods category. In terms of fragrance, the GCC is an epicentre. For centuries, scent has been embedded in the culture, making consumers in this region one of the most sophisticated as well as the biggest per capita consumers and purchasers of ultra-luxury fragrances.
As a leader, what was your experience of leading through this crisis?
The toughest part of the pandemic for me was not being able to have in-person interaction with my team. We are a creative business and personal interaction is a springboard for new ideas. Our creation, production, logistics and management is all located in one place. A positive was the agility at which we were able to adapt.
We not only continued with our original innovation programme, but are now also offering luxury hand sanitisers, smaller size product forms and are reaching more clients than ever, delivering to more than 80 countries globally. With this cultural shift we were able to bounce back in the third quarter.
They say that opportunities can be found amid the crisis. Do you agree?
The world has been turned upside down in the last 10 months, probably more than it has in the last ten years. Some have not been able to survive the impact of the pandemic, but for those that have, it has been a catalyst for transformation. Established processes were questioned and many aspects have become digital, shrinking geographical distance and making business more global. Social media has largely replaced window shopping, accelerating the change of the consumer decision funnel.
As such, content is more important than ever. COVID-19 has been like a stress test for organisations. Businesses have had to find ways to mitigate work disruptions while navigating cost challenges.
Sustainability is a high-profile issue. Is it something you aspire to at Amouage?
Sustainability should be a key focus area for any CEO and any organisation and its definitely high on our list of priorities. We produce electricity and hot water using solar panels and convectors on the roof at our factory in Muscat. We also re-use chemicals like ethanol after its initial industrial use to disinfect surfaces at our site as a way of eliminating waste.
During COVID-19 the disruption of many logistic chains has not only shown us the vulnerability of a global supply chain but also reminded us of the significant CO2 footprint caused by transporting around the globe. Becoming more sustainable requires us to touch all elements of our activity system.
For example, frankincense is a signature ingredient harvested from the frankincense tree in Oman; a plant that gives oxygen to the environment, gifting human kind with an incredibly fragrant ingredient and providing jobs to many families.
The frankincense tree is our inspiration and a reminder to make the world a little bit more sustainable. But we also acknowledge that we need to do much more to become sustainable. This is a journey that will never end and we are only at the beginning.
What is the brand identity of Amouage in 2020?
Amouage fragrances have been known for their potent, long lasting and high-quality creations, a natural classicism and feel that is unique and personal. Amouage has always been synonymous with generous richness, regal products and luxurious boutiques. For a while it was referred to as “The Most Valuable Perfume in the World”, and has, since its inception, been dubbed “The Gift of Kings”. These values are deeply anchored in the House’s DNA though they have evolved over time.
How do you see Amouage’s bold steps in launching fragrances during a time when other luxury and fashion brands are holding back?
We decided to leverage the crisis to accelerate a business transformation that we already embarked upon in late 2019. Creating deeper connections with our clients making use of digital capabilities, elevating the sensorial and emotional delight our perfumes can provide and at the same time making our products available directly to our clients had been strategic choices and we simply accelerated the activation. Fragrances are pivotal in this context; they stir emotions and have the power to uplift the mood.
We needed to be close to our clients, we needed to delight them in these times. But we had to find new ways to make it happen. For us, it has been ‘Business as UNusual’. In May we introduced Interlude Black Iris, which was the first manifestation of our creative transformation.
SOURCE: Arabian Bussiness