Recently Elena (Perfume Shrine) has published an interview with Andy Tauer, the owner of and the nose behind Tauer Perfumes brand. I like Andy Tauer and I enjoy reading what he says – in that interview, on his blog and in other media. But there were a couple of points in that interview that made me thinking.
Now to your question “Do perfumistas form the bulk of niche perfume buyers in your experience?” No, they don’t. By far not. An educated guess might be: 1/4 of niche perfume buyers in my experience are perfumistas. For sure not more.
My first reaction was: “It can’t be true!” 25%? It’s an extremely high estimate. There are not that many of us… Or are there? I started looking around. Probably there are not as many perfume-related blogs as there are blogs about fashion, books or cooking. By rough count we’re talking about a hundred blogs – give or take a few. The largest Facebook group I’m a member of has just 3,775 members. But then I went to two most popular perfume sites/forums. I do not know what Fragrantica calls “Perfume lovers” but 385K+ of those mentioned there. And Basenotes says they have 100K+ members. Of course, those numbers accumulated over time, many of the registered users aren’t active any longer but still it’s a huge number. So unless most of brand’s sales are done exclusively through high-end B&M boutiques, how is one to know what percentage of the sales should be attributed to perfumistas?
The second point felt outright wrong:
[…] bottle splits and doing decants is pretty much not good and you hurt the creator. It is actually worse than not buying a bottle.
[…] It hurts because I do not only create a scent that I launch one fine day. As creator, I am constantly building on a universe, a brand universe. I put my scents in a context of values, and esthetics, and experiences. And these I try to communicate through everything that is around the scent. The flacon, the packaging, the hand written note, the way how and where you can get the scent.|
[…]Getting a decant in a simple spray bottle is nothing of all that. It is like a stripped down to the bones scent experience. The scent is still the same, but everything else that I wish perfume lovers to experience is gone. I feel it would be better, from time to time, to just get one fragrance, instead of 5 splits.
First of all, let’s do away with small decants (5 ml) – the size I see a lot in both private decants exchanges and Facebook splits. Nobody sells perfumes without samples and/or testers calculated in the price of the product. And I feel that in case of 5 ml decants we, perfume enthusiasts, are paying our own money for niche brands’ marketing. So that cannot be bad for a brand. A small brand cannot expect too many blind buys (unless you’re an heir of the rich dynasty or a spin-off of a behemoth conglomerate strategically positioned in places where people habitually pay for the novelty itself), so allowing more people to try niche perfumes we increase the probability of the future full bottle purchases.
Now to bigger sizes of decants.
As a consumer, I do not really care if, acting within the law, I find a way to save money at the expense of an entity that tries to make money off me. But I won’t use that as an argument since as a perfumista I do care about brands and perfumers who produce perfumes that I love, especially when we’re talking about small brands and perfumers who are as nice as, for example, Andy Tauer, Laurie Erickson or Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. But I do not think that selling/ buying decants hurts them.
In order for somebody to buy five decants somebody else still has to buy those five bottles. So for each split there is still a person out there who has the “complete experience” – the original bottle, box and a hand-written note (or whatever else the brand chooses to use for creating their universe).
I will argue that for people who really cannot afford much, having five decants of perfumes they like is better than having just one, even a super special, bottle of perfume. And these people, once their circumstances change, will buy a full bottle of the perfume decant of which they used up and wished they had more. If more companies followed the suit and released their perfumes in smaller bottles like Sonoma Scent Studio‘s travel sprays or Tauer Perfumes’ Explorer Set (by the way, I was surprised that nobody has mentioned it in the discussion on Perfume Shrine), I would buy only official bottles.
For those of us who chooses which full bottles to buy and when to go with a decant, it’s usually not a question of buying a full bottle of the one out of five perfumes, decants of which we entertain using for a while, but rather of not buying any of the five at all. For example, currently there are no perfumes I really want to add to my collection but do not do that for financial reasons. But there are several perfumes that I know I want to get to know better and see if they grow on me. If I can’t buy or swap small decants of those I won’t buy them at all.
My conclusion on this part is: if anything, while buying decants we are helping perfumers, not hurting them. We increase the number of full bottles sold and people exposed to the experience brands had in mind while creating their perfumes. And then we talk about those perfumes we got to try. Five reviews should be nothing on the marketing scale of Guerlain or Hermès but I can’t imagine them not being important in our Internet age for tiny brands with no budget for a two-page spread in Allure or a live ballet presentation at Saks.
A separate note on experiencing a brand universe.
While I like a nice perfume bottle and on a several occasions even went for a bottle of a perfume that I merely liked, not loved, because of the “everything that is around the scent” (see my post Does the size… (strike that) bottle matter? Yep!) and I was one of the first to object to Chandler Burr‘s experiment of stripping perfumes off their packaging and substituting brands’ marketing with his own (see my post (Open)Sky is the limit?), my experience shows that when it comes to actually wearing perfumes I equally enjoy those perfumes that I spray from the original bottle and from the decant (earlier this year I had a statistics post about it).
In the last week’s poll Lucas asked his readers which shape of a perfume bottles they preferred. Most people voted for a “fancy” type, which was a catch-all type for everything that didn’t go into other categories. So the next point I’d like to make is: it’s harder to have any special experience with standard bottles in line. I have to really like the perfume to add a second identical bottle to my collection. With Chanel Exclusiffs, Dior La Collection Privee or Serge Lutens perfumes I feel like after buying one real bottle it’s enough to have just decants for other perfumes from those collections. Had they been unique – like Shalimar, Angel or Flower, – I would have felt a much stronger urge to have them in my collection. So since it’s economically more feasible for small brands to create their universes around standardized bottles they shouldn’t hold a grudge against us for not being too impulsive about buying every next perfume released and finding a more economically sound solutions for experiencing those perfumes. I promise: we’re trying to put them into the best available atomizers and create nice labels.
Images: my own