There’s a very odd thing going on out there in the world of perfume: niche fragrance prices are rising. This year the cost of a 50ml. bottle is well over a hundred dollars US. In fact, and in the interest of consumers, it’s worth pointing out that this hike comes at a time when many commodity prices are falling, natural gas, metals, pork, corn, etc, and when inflation in the US is running at or below 1.7% (the Federal Reserve’s target is 2%). So, why are perfume prices up so much? Is it demand, is it production costs, is it the dollar/euro exchange rate*, is it something that someone outside of the business can’t calculate, or are we…just being suckered for the sake of fashion?
If we are, then the suckering is pretty intense. If you take an informal sampling of prices from various online retailers: Luckyscent, Beautyhabit, Parfum 1, and Aedes, what you find is that on average a 1.7 oz. bottle of perfume (by which I mean either an edt or edp concentration usually) costs just short of $US 140.00. Some companies will sell you larger bottles at similar prices, but actually, the margin on an already high margin product is huge here.
Take the case of Neela Vermeire**, a current favorite on many perfume sites and blogs and no doubt a charming person. Many people adore her creations composed by the ubiquitous Bertrand Duchaufour. The price is $US 250.00 for a measly 55ml edp of say, Bombay Bling. I have not smelled any of her scents, but at that price, more than the cost of some Guerlain LE’s, I’m not going to either. However, she’s far from the only perfume house to charge serious prices. Amouages are consistently priced very high often well over $US 300.00 for 100mls., so are the Puredistance perfumes, many Italian lines, including that of the talented Hilde Soliani, sell for about $US 185.00, Profumums are higher still, usually about $US 240.00 for 100mls.
Several new lines are particularly expensive. Jul et Mad leave Ms. Vermeire in the dust, charging $US 280.00 for 50 mls, and Agonist, though not among the most expensive, still expects $US 195.00 for most bottles of 50mls. Old hand Clive Christian has never been shy about high prices, currently 405.00 for 50 mls. of V for Men. Finally, all of these people look like amateurs placed next to Shalini which will sell you 2.2oz of Shalini in a presentation bottle for $US 2,500.00.
If I wanted, say, to smell mangoes, reputedly a big component of the Bombay Bling (to return to my first example) I could always buy Jean Claude Ellena’s Un Jardin sur le Nil, for $US 66.00 at Beautyencounter, or Annick Goutal’s Folavril for more mango and tomato leaf at $US 78.00 at FragranceX. I could opt for The Great Inca Priestesses for my mango fix, dropping $ 98.00 for one of the last Pierre Bourdon composed fragrances. I could even go for Demeter’s Between the Sheets for full on mango fruitiness at $US 23.00 even if it only lasts a half hour.
Not every company is so quick to over charge. Child, that blockbuster from the left coast, sells for $US 98.00 for the roll on oil, and that’s almost certainly part of its success. Parfums de Nicolai has consistently been reasonably priced for very good value. A 100 ml. bottle of her colognes still goes for between $US 40.00 and $US 50.00, and you can buy her Vanille Tonka, which is classified as a perfume because of its concentration of oils, at $US130.00 for 100 mls. Caron, a personal favorite of mine, will sell you their extracts in the little 7.5 ml bottles for $US100.00, and I can attest to the fact that those bottles usually take me a year or two to empty (though ymmv) and have long lasting power on skin.
Among niche newcomers, there is Mary Greenwell whose Plum and Lemon are composed by Francois Robert who did nearly the entire line of Rosine perfumes. They are not only unpretentiously named, but at $100.00 a bottle with purse sprays available, pretty reasonably priced as well. You can also find fair deals for good perfume at Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, or CB I HATE PERFUME. Reasonable prices have been a continuing mark of good sense at Parfums d’Empire. Marc Antoine Corticchiato’s work is handsome and tasteful. Eau Suave is one of the best rose perfumes out there, and at $75.00 for 50mls. quite affordable. There are bargains still to be found from the Miller Harris line, which suffered from losing US distribution some years ago, and which sells the stellar Geranium Bourbon, L’Air de Rien, and La Pluie.
Nobody has to pay these outrageous prices for good perfume, and that doesn’t even address the issue of perfumes which are fine, but simply out of style: true chypres, most green floral perfumes, and floral aldehydes. You can find them online at Etsy or Ebay for little money.
But $US 250.00 a bottle? I never thought I’d see the day when Solange Azagury-Partridge’s Stoned in their great kitschy chic bottle (avec diamond dust) looked fairly priced at $US 285.00 for 100 mls., but next to the Shalini? I’d go with it.
What do you think are fair prices for niche scents?
*Many currency traders scratch their heads over this exchange rate. A lot of them think the euro and dollar should be at par.
**I’m not trying to pick on one perfumer here, Ms. Vermeire was simply the first I saw charging over $200.00 for 55mls.