Fragrances of Ireland
Fragrances of Ireland is a family run business based in the lovely county of Wicklow. It was co-founded by Brian Cox and his brother-in-law Donald Pratt and today is run by David Cox, son of Brian Cox.
The company was founded in the eighties and sold mainly in Ireland to tourists.
When the recession hit the company was turned on its head and began exporting around 70 per cent of its output primarily to the United States. Fragrances of Ireland wanted to keep their policy of choosing the smaller outlets instead of big retailers and in doing so it proved to be the right move.
Although the company had to cut costs in line with falling sales during the recession, they managed to keep all their staff who wanted to stay, and people pulled together to keep the company going.
After 30 years in the business the decision to push hard into the United States was a good one as their sales trebled, they were able to take on extra members of staff and their turnover was beginning to recover.
Expansion into the United States
The journey to be able to expand into the United States was not an easy one.
They needed to make the investment upfront and even though they were a family run business and had a good reputation together with the added security of a mortgage-free property the banks refused to help them, so the family had to fund the US expansion by themselves.
Fragrances of Ireland’s first product was a perfume called Innisfree and while the perfume itself was important the founder’s took extreme care with the branding.
They wanted to communicate the idea of it being an original product from Ireland that had a story. They even approached the family of WB Yeats for permission to use lines from his famous poem of the same name on the packaging.
A second line, Naturally Irish, was launched in 1990 and a number of other products have followed including Connemara, Patrick and Sonas.
However, its most significant creation to date and the product leading its in the United States is a fragrance called Inis.
Energy of the sea
The creation of Inis was a major step forward as it moved the focus away from tourism and established Fragrances of Ireland as a fragrance house in its own right. Inis is Irish and carries the title ‘the energy of the sea’ which has gone down very well in coastal areas in the United States.
Inis is a unisex fragrance that aims to ‘capture the feeling of a perfect sunny day by the sea’. Inis started off as a perfume and remains the best seller, but it is now an extensive range that includes body butters, hand creams, shower gels, room sprays and other products.
A Campaign to Help Save Dolphins and Whales
The Inis brand is often sold in gift shops and surf shops rather than cosmetic stores and very often would be the only perfume in the store.
Fragrances of Ireland exports to other countries, including Germany and Japan but the United States holds the biggest market potential.
The company’s strategy in the United States has been to supply small retailers which typically do not sell any other perfume. The reason behind this strategy is that if you supply to the big stores, you are one among hundreds competing against international brands who have a budget of millions of dollars to promote one product, so you never get to tell your own story.
The company’s products are now in around 600 small outlets in the United States and growing. It has proven that once they have established an outlet that want to stock their products, they become loyal customers.
The company turned down an offer to be listed by one of the major drugstore chains in the United States and in doing so meant they waved goodbye to an order of over $200,000. The company’s policy was to retain control over their product and pricing.
The company’s one exception to avoiding the mass market is its long-standing relationship with the shopping channel QVC. It has been selling through QVC on a regular basis for a number of years and the company has proven to be very exacting to work with it is also very fair and pays its bills on time.
Exclusive QVC Fragrance
QVC is the one big customer that Fragrances of Ireland has.
They have worked with them since the late 1990’s and have been given airtime in approximately 120 million homes in the States.
At the request of QVC, they developed an exclusive QVC fragrance called Caru which worked out to be very successful.
Fragrances of Ireland now have their own development manager in the United States and is broadening their customer base through listings with agencies that focus on specific geographical areas.
Today the company is still a family run business but in the words of the present managing director, David Cox, he said he was ‘grateful’ that the company which originally focused on tourists visiting Ireland had a buoyant export market in light of the pandemic.
While Covid-19 ‘cooled our jets a bit’ in the second quarter of 2020 United States sales have returned to normal by last summer when the shutters finally went up.