What you need to know

Value sales of air care products are expected to increase by 1.5% in 2020, rising to £504 million. This represents a turnaround after two years of sales declines. The key part of this recovery has been the increase in usage of premium formats, such as scented candles and reed diffusers, compared to 2019.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the air care market. While consumers did not necessarily seek to stockpile in the same way as other household care categories, the importance of feeling comfortable at home has increased as people have spent more time there. At the same time, increased levels of stress have driven people to seek products to aid their mental wellbeing. Just by being at home more often, usage occasions of functional products like aerosols and sprays have increased, encouraging higher sales.

Consumers have largely maintained a sense of confidence about their finances so far, which means we have yet to see people falling out of the category. However, with the end of the UK government’s furlough scheme coming in October, more job losses are expected and some consumers will be even more cautious about non-essential spending. Own-label is set to benefit, particularly as retailers have invested more in NPD to close the quality gap between them and recognised brands. The challenge for brands is to make their products feel more essential and offer more value.

Brands have the opportunity to align with renewed pride in the home environment and broaden functionality to cater for new tasks in the home, including providing scent to aid concentration for home workers or boosting physical performance for those exercising at home. In previous recessions, certain segments of the market have succeeded by positioning themselves as a slice of affordable luxury. Brands can seek to premiumise their offerings through the increased use of natural ingredients, or by boosting their environmental credentials in line with growing consumer demands.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the air care market

  • Launch activity and innovation opportunities for 2020 and beyond

  • Usage and purchasing frequency of air care products

  • Where air care products are used around the home

  • Important purchase factors for air care products

  • Interest in environmental behaviours around air care products

  • Attitudes towards air care products in relation to health

  • Perceptions of air care brand tiers

COVID-19: Market context

This update on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the market was prepared on 14 September 2020.

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January, with a small number of cases in February. The government focused on the ‘contain’ stage of its strategy, with the country continuing to operate much as normal. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20th March.

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23rd March. Initially, a three-week timeframe was put on the measures, which was extended in mid-April for another three weeks.

On 10th May 2020, the Prime Minister announced revised guidance, recommending that people who could not work from home should return to the workplace, and giving people more scope to spend time out of the home. Further relaxations to lockdown rules were announced in the week of 23rd May, including gradual reopening of non-essential retailers, and increased opportunities for social interaction across households.

On 23rd June, the Prime Minister announced that where two metres was not possible in an enclosed space, social distancing should allow people to keep ‘one metre plus’, enabling smaller businesses that were unable to implement the two-metre rule the possibility to open again. Hospitality businesses and other public places were allowed to reopen from 4 July. Indoor gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres reopened on 25th July 2020.

From 24th July, it became mandatory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets. Rules on travel remained fluid.

From 1st August, the government changed its guidance about asking people to work from home where they can, giving employers in England more freedom to decide whether staff should return to their place of work. Schools reopened as normal in September, but with social distancing measures in place.

Although there is now no national lockdown, local restrictions have been introduced in areas where cases have risen sharply, most notably in Leicester, parts of the north west of England and Aberdeen. In September, England and Scotland reduced the number of people allowed to meet socially to six. Wales also cut the number to six, but only for people meeting indoors.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its July 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP could fall by 12.4% in 2020, recovering by 8.7% in 2021, and that unemployment will reach 11.9% by the end of 2020, falling to 8.8% by the end of 2021.

The current uncertainty means there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, however, and this is reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q1 2021. Its more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

Products covered in this Report

The Report examines the retail market for the following air care products:

  • Aerosol and pump sprays

  • Continuous electrical air fresheners, including plug-ins and battery-operated/automatic sprays, including timed release

  • Continuous non-electrical air fresheners, including blocks/gels, non-battery-powered click sprays and scented oils/reed diffusers

  • Scented candles and oil burners

  • Kitchen appliance fresheners

  • Carpet/vacuum fresheners

  • Car fresheners.

Excluded from market size data in this Report are fabric fresheners (for upholstery and clothing), incense and household fragrances primarily used for repelling insects (eg citronella), although usage of incense is examined in the consumer research.

Market size data covers products sold through supermarkets, convenience stores, discounters and chemists/drugstores. Sales of products through retailers of housewares such as department stores, home furnishing stores, card and gift shops, beauty stores, garden centres and internet specialists are excluded. For car fresheners, estimates of sales through DIY/car shops are included.

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