“Design in China” e34 – Barrio – The Innovative Perfumery Offering Refillable, Small Volume Fragrances

The fragrance industry is highly saturated with hundreds of established names, mainly from Europe and the US. With a strong barrier to entry, brands from other markets need innovative ideas to sell themselves. Barrio, a Chinese perfume maker, is doing things a little differently. The idea behind the brand is that fragrances should complement moods and become a part of a person’s beauty regimen. 

So, say you’re feeling confident, you may want to wear a strong scent. In contrast, if you’re not feeling motivated, you may wear a fruity scent to uplift yourself. Barrio believes a person should have multiple fragrances to suit different moods and occasions, and to make that multiple perfume purchase a reality, it offers its fragrances in small refillable bottles at accessible prices. This idea is not the most novice as fragrances, especially luxury fragrances, have been sold in small sample quantities for ages. However, Barrio distinguishes itself with its original fragrances. It’s not luxury; it’s not imitation; it’s simply original, accessible Barrio fragrance.

Barrio is a relatively new name in the Chinese fragrance market, garnering attention online. Although luxurious fragrances dominate the market for high spenders, local brands are popping up to offer more traditional fragrances and seize the much bigger middle-class consumer segment. Investment from abroad and at home is fueling growth for these brands, and the market is expected to grow to $4.3 billion. So local brands are quickly expanding their footprint both online and offline. Barrio is following a direct-to-consumer strategy. It has a storefront on the popular ecommerce platform T-Mall and has its mini-program on WeChat. Its website targets consumers not just in China but also abroad. The brand currently has four brick-and-mortar locations, two in Suzhou and one in Shanghai and Nanxiang. The stores have contemporary decor, much like any fragrance sections in department stores.

The business model of Barrio is further bolstered by its product line. Its main product is the Eau de Parfum (EDP), packaged in beautiful slender containers that are noticeably different from traditional perfume bottles. While most perfume bottles are made of glass with visible contents, Barrio has designed petit perfume containers to look more like lipsticks, covered with vegan leather for an aesthetically pleasing look. But it’s not all looks, as the sleek size of the container makes it portable. Multiple sticks can be carried in a small handbag or toiletries bag. The other product line is solid perfume with packaging fashioned in the same way as EDP. Solid and cream perfumes are making a resurgence, and Barrio has cleverly adopted them to cater to those more conscientious consumers preferring solid scents over liquids. The ingredients are mostly natural, like flowers, herbs, and fruits. These fragrances have been created by international perfumers IFF, Fermenich, and Robertet. However, all of the brand’s products are manufactured in China. The brand is on a strong trajectory, winning multiple awards recently. So far, they’ve focused only on the local market, but with success in a market like China, it would have an even stronger impetus to compete globally. Laurent Cibot 罗朗

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