My Wish List for the Perfume Industry

 

The holiday season is upon us, we start at least thinking about all the lists – to sum up the past or plan the future. So I decided to get to it early and prepared my personal Wish List for the perfume industry.

I’m not going to come up with anything new: we all are saying all these things now and again while discussing brands, perfumes and new releases. But with my tendency to collect things I did it for a while for that topic. I do not think that brands/companies have to follow these requests (some of them might not be the best economic strategies from companies’ stand point) but I wish they would.

Samples and Sample-to-buy programs: many brands aren’t easily accessible for testing in B&M stores. So, first of all, there should be samples available for purchase and preferably with the same delivery mechanism as the actual perfume (spraying or dabbing). Also since most brands spend money on marketing anyway they could arrange programs where customers pay for samples (that will ensure that people aren’t just hoarding samples for selling on eBay or using instead of buying perfumes) but if customers decide to buy a bottle they’d get a discount for the amount paid for the sample set.

Sizes for bottles: 5-10-15-30 ml. For big lines – mix/match sets of smaller “travel” bottles. Regular customers do not need more than a couple of perfumes at a time and “collectors” do not need most of the perfumes even in 30 ml size. For many brands I would have paid more for the official small bottle than for the same size decant.

"Shalimar" Bottles and Rusty

Warnings about any reformulation: it’s unfair for consumers to buy a perfume they thought they knew and liked without realizing the formula has changed. I don’t think even Rusty is capable of smelling anything from a sealed bottle (and a domestic cat’s sense of smell is known to be about fourteen times as strong as a human’s). There should be at least some change in packaging to indicate that it’s not the same perfume.

Production Date (Year): since perfumes are perishable and they cannot be tested before the purchase, I think it is only fair to require brands to put at least a year of production on the packaging. It would be fun to discuss perfumes’ vintages: “Oh, I remember, 1985 was a good year for Miss Dior” or “Miss Dior Cherie 2006 was still drinkable wearable.”

Warnings about the upcoming changes/discontinuation: companies might be able to sell more perfumes for the original price before they are moved to various discount stores if those who love perfumes being put on the chopping block know they need to buy a back-up bottle (or a box of bottles?).

Discontinued perfumes re-issuing: companies could do even something like a Perfume Club (similar to wine clubs) or pre-orders where first they gather requests (even with a deposit) and then produce a perfume once the necessary minimum number of orders is received. Maybe even in more generic packaging – for those who know the perfume and want it for the perfume itself.

Limited new launches: three-four perfumes simultaneously is a good number for a new brand launch but well established brands shouldn’t bombard customers with all those endless multiple new releases.

Packaging: do not waste beautiful bottles on mediocre perfumes and do not undermine a beautiful perfume by an ugly vessel for it.

Perfume notes: please no more oud (agarwood) perfumes! There are so many wonderful ingredients; customers won’t think less of the brand if it doesn’t jump on every note du jour wagon.

Naming: most people are really bad with numbers. Just saying…

 

Have I missed anything?

 

Image: my own

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52 thoughts on “My Wish List for the Perfume Industry

  1. Has anyone told you that you’re brilliant today? No. Well then let me be the first. From your blog to the perfume industry’s ears. I love your wish list.

  2. U – I agree with everything that you say, especially about the bottle size. If there were more 30ml sized bottles, my collection would be much bigger…and I don’t mind paying the extra for the smaller size. btw… how do you get Rusty to cooperate for the pictures? My cats won’t follow any direction, let alone pose for pictures with props!

    • Steve, I don’t need to do almost anything – just be ready with a camera when I bring any bottles, vials or flowers where Rusty can get to them. He immediately inserts himself in any scene, it’s hard to keep him out. And every time we bring wine from our trips to a wine country he comes to check out bottles and boxes.

  3. I agree too! I wish there was more variety in sizes too. Especially when you have a larger collection, the idea of adding another 100ml of anything is daunting. It certainly has made me pay more for a decant than have to feel bad about a fragrance that I love, but don’t wear every day.

    I would also add better training for SA’s. Some are wonderful, others . . . well, I think we can all think of an experience that was lacking . . .

    • Agree about SAs. But I’m not sure how much power a company has over who sells their perfumes – unless it’s a brand’s boutique.

      For some perfumes I do not mind buying decants, especially if I can buy them from a friendly perfumista at cost. But I’d love to be able to get a real bottle – just of the small size. Even if it means to pay more.

  4. Love Rusty! I agreed with this list! Especially when it comes to bottle dating and sizes. I don’t need 100mL of anything, let alone 250mL. Dior Collection Privee I’m looking at you!

    • Dior has 125 ml bottles (not that it’s too helpful still). I’d love to buy four 30 ml bottles from the collection – even if they were more expensive than one 125 ml bottle. But since I don’t have that option, I own jst one FB – and the rest of those that I like are decants.

  5. I really love your suggestion of putting the production year on the bottle or packaging. The non-perfumista would not notice or care, but it would certainly make things more interesting for collectors and bloggers!

    • I am curious what disadvantages brands see in putting production date and why nobody insists on them doing that? One would think that it’s kind of important to know when a serum we’re putting on our faces has been produced.

  6. no you have not missed a thing! I love your ideas. Why don’t we all get together and start our own perfume company? Okay first order of business…what will we call it?
    Your post is fab darling!

  7. Yes, yes, yes. I agree with all of this. Especially samples with the same delivery mechanism, changes in packaging along with changes in reformulation (even changing the box but not the bottle would be fine with me – if there was a YEAR on the bottom of the bottle). All of these are brilliant suggestions.

  8. Undina, some great ideas here and I agree with them all too. One thing I would add personally is please avoid flankers and flankers of flankers, and perhaps revert to trying to be innovative, rather than simply rehashing old ideas just for the same of making another buck.

    • Michael, I totally agree! I didn’t think of writing about it because I almost never even consider flankers (Thierry Mugler’s flunkers are probably the only exception I make).

  9. I had the same idea about re-issuing! :) And I still believe the companies wouldn’t lose money on such a project (they just wouldn’t earn as much as usual). But they would make perfumistas very happy and have great PR image.

    • I think that every big company should just go to eBay, type in “[their brand] vintage perfume”, look for completed listings and figure out which perfumes are the most popular. Or approach big blogs asking to run polls. Possibilities are endless! :)

  10. Love and agree with them all. Never thought of a year stamp on perfume bottles, that would be so helpful. And I just love the idea of a perfume club for discontinued perfumes – genius.

  11. Although I’m not the mass-market “industry”, I read this and agree with most of what you say. I think most indie perfumers do provide smaller sizes, and some provide a range of sizes, as I do. As a consumer, I would never buy a bottle larger than 30 ml, and prefer to just buy samples or “official” mini sizes of a few ml, provided they’re in bottles that don’t leak, a common problem with mass-market mini bottles.

    I suspect that most people don’t realize how expensive and labor-intensive it is to produce samples by hand. I don’t know about mass-producing them by machine, but it probably isn’t that much cheaper than mass-producing bottles. I personally don’t mind paying for samples, and don’t expect the cost to be deducted from any bottle purchases I may make.

    Your suggestions about putting a production date on the bottle, warning of reformulations, and having periodic re-issues of discontinued perfumes are all spot-on. I’ve thought about all of these, and will implement them sometime in the near future. So far I’ve not had to reformulate anything, but I will observe that perfumes are often discontinued because a material is no longer available or is restricted, so it may not always be possible to re-issue them in their original form.

    The issue of multiple new releases is one that bothers me a little. So many new mass-market releases are just flankers or more of the same old stuff, for no reason other than to keep the brand in the public eye. We’re all caught up in the same new-release-inflation game. For an indie perfumer like me, creating new (and better) perfumes is part of the fun, but I realize that too many new releases can get overwhelming for those who try to follow the perfume industry large and/or small.

    Regarding packaging, beautiful/ugly is in the eye of the beholder. For my own packaging, I prefer simplicity. Whether or not you like oud is also a matter of personal taste. I actually sometimes wear it (the real thing) straight and enjoy it very much. It’s hard to get good oud that’s the genuine article, but some of the synthetics are also very nice (in my opinion, of course!).

    This has gotten as long as a blog post, so I’ll probably put something like this on my blog, with a link to your post, which I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people.

    • Hi Ellen! Thank you for commenting, it’s really interesting to read thoughts of somebody who’s much closer to the industry.

      I should have probably stated it clearly, but most of the points I made weren’t aimed at indie brands.

      Manual production and limited distribution makes those perfumes and samples really expensive. So I wouldn’t expect a small, sometimes one-man-brand, to have free samples or to deduct the cost. But. I do expect to be able to buy a single sample (if I choose to) at cost or close to that. But for real companies that produce samples automatedly (and you’re right, the production might be not much less expensive than full bottles production – but just because it costs almost nothing to produce bottles) and then distribute them free in stores I would expect discounting my full bottle purchase since I’ve already paid for a sample that is produces as an advertising and calculated to be given away, not sold.

      Couple of other points you took too serious, they were more of an internal-perfumista-jokes type. I’m not a huge agarwood fan but I like it in some perfumes. Regardless of that, in the last couple of years we had an avalanche of oud perfumes. NST even has a please no more oud tag so it was an allusion to that. As to the bottles we all are still recovering from the Coco Noir disappointment ;)

  12. This is an excellent list – I agree with everything but hadn’t actually thought of half the things you came up with. I was speaking to a local British perfumer the other day about size options, and mentioned the smaller purse spray and bottle sizes of Sonoma Scent Studio as a great example of what we perfumistas would like to see. The oud comment made me smile, as I am fed up with oud-y scents too. Even if you happen to like the note, there still seem to be a disproportionate number of such launches.

    • Vanessa, as I mentioned, I collected those points for a while :)

      I agree that 5-10-15 ml purse/travel sprays are great! Most brands would have made more money from me if I had an option of buying several small bottles.

  13. YES! Especially putting some kind of code on bottles to mark “vintage”! This would also help with the reformulation issue since you could check for the good “vintages” of famous perfumes. Lord knows I’ve been caught up looking for Guerlains from particular eras, that were simply dropped or changed without warning or ceremony. Samples for purchase is smart.( Ineke Ruhland does that.) Smaller sizes are smart too, but your best idea is the insider club. Everyone knows that some brands will revive a perfume for a famous or well heeled customer-why not do it as a super bottle split for collectors or fume heads? You could pre-sell. I love that idea.

    • I wonder if a grassroots movement might work in this case? Should we collect signatures for reviving one of the untimely deceased favorites and approach the brand? Or start the movement to send individual requests to said brand?

  14. Great list! I concur especially with the warning of reformations and the limited product launches. I also think they should have samples available for everyone for like $3 or so- Bond No. 9 does that part right.

    • It might be hard/impossible for small(er) brands but bigger ones, especially those that mass-produce samples, which don’t pass GO stores and head directly to eBay, should definitely try to make them easier available for [potential] customers.

  15. Yes! Yes! I’m seriously considering buying that big Malle coffret, while I doubt that I’d ever buy a full-sized single Malle. I want variety, and ideally I want a manufacturer’s bottle that I hope will keep the scent in good shape for a while. I don’t want volume.

    And I can’t count the number of times that I’ve almost bought a classic fragrance, then stopped because I just can’t know if it still smells like the reviews or the samples that sold me on the idea. Wine is sold by the year; why have so few perfumers ever followed suit?

    Cynicism Alert: Unfortunately, most of your suggestions require that the perfume houses accept that the customers actually care about the _perfume_. And I get the feeling that some of the bigger conglomerates don’t want to know that.

    A logo, a name, a bottle design, is something that they can reproduce, downgrade, corrupt, and still make money. Stopper bottle to screwcap or spray, glass to plastic, etched label to painted to pasted-on paper…. it all reflects the idea that the customer will obediently hand over money for the product name and logo.

    To accept that the actual smell of the juice matters is to accept that they can’t downgrade and corrupt the product and still have a product. To cater to the customer that cares about the juice is to cater to a customer who’s going to notice and walk away when the juice changes. I think that they don’t want to invest in winning that customer.

    I’ve read that Chanel invests a great deal of heartache into making Chanel No. 5 always smell like Chanel No. 5. I’m sure that some people in the company love that fact, but I’m sure that there are others who really wish that the customers who know what the stuff smells like would develop collective amnesia, so that they could do what they please with it.

    • I agree with you and, francly speaking, I do not expect mass market to ever adopt any of my “wishes.” Why should they? They’re making enough money as is. But I hope that, maybe, smaller brands (like Malle, By Killian, etc.) will start doing something like that.

  16. Great post, Undinaba. I really like your point about multiple releases from other the major houses – it’s really annoying when they bombard us with tons of new releases, which on top of that smell almost the same.

    What personally annoys me is when companies start rehashing successful and even not-so-successful releases. Take Eau Sauvage for example – I love the original and honestly I don’t think they need all the other variations. D&G’s Light Blue pour Homme is similar – they came up with another rehash of the original – Live Strongboli (I think?). Different than the original but not really to exist on the market.

  17. When I was at the height of my perfume craze ( late 1970s-1980s) no one ever paid for samples as they were practically given away by SAs. Also, new releases were extremely limited and I don’t remember too many flankers nor many re-formulations. There did exist plenty of 30ml and 50 ml and a few 100ml bottles (mostly EDT pour which made the bottle last alot longer!). If I really wanted to spray I would go to Woolworths and buy a simple 1/2 oz spray decanter and fill with my favorite scent. Undina, I love all of your points (hopefully they won’t fall upon deaf ears) and would love to see them come to fruition!

    • I knew it! :) Everything gets worse.

      I don’t understand that fascination with oversizing everything: more isn’t always better (be that a perfume or a coffee drink).

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