NPD announced this week that fragrance sales within prestige department stores during the first quarter of 2012 reached $501.2 million, a gain of 11% versus the prior year. Unit sales also posted growth, up 7% with close to 8 million units sold.

Within these stats, women’s fragrances experienced 11% growth in dollars. And, almost every brand among the top 10 women’s fragrance brands posted growth, with four experiencing gains stronger than the category performance of 11%.

“After years of lackluster sales and declining product usage, we are seeing a shift in consumer sentiment,” said Karen Grant, vice president and global industry analyst, The NPD Group. “If fragrance continues to ride the current momentum, 2012 promises to be the best year on record.” 

According to NPD, the top three selling scents for the quarter were Coco Mademoiselle, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue and Chanel No. 5.

The “fragrance bar” continues to have a significant impact on the overall performance of women’s scents as it accounted for 83% of 1Q 2012 sales. Fragrance bar brands include designer, celebrity and other brands that may not have the same sales representation as brands also sold at cosmetic counters on a regular basis.

Gift sets in the first quarter represented 22% of women’s fragrances and saw an increase of 16% in dollar sales and 19% in unit sales.