Even people with extra money in their wallets aren't buying luxury items these days. Cornell University economics professor Robert Frank, who writes the Wall Street Journal blog called "The Wealth Report" talks to Madeline Brand about the trend.
— Listen to Rich Are Spending Less On Luxury Goods at NPR (less than 4 minutes). They don't talk specifically about perfume, but the implications seem obvious.
While the optimist in me wants to think that maybe this will thin the herd and get rid of a bunch of inferior perfumes, the pessimist in me thinks that it means we'll be subjected to more “sure things” – which means more poorly-done celeb and teen fragrances.
I just hope this doesn't result in further hidden reformulations and the cheapening of great fragrances.
My husband is employed and I don't work (no children). This isn't the norm anymore. I love perfume; however, I have not bought any in some time. My viewpoint is that we could all give up perfume and give to something better–such as the people and animals affected by the fires in Australia.
I hope this means that perfume companies will try to find ways to make their products more affordable. Like offering more bottles in 30 mL and smaller sizes.
The interview seems to be talking more about conspicuous materialism — pricey handbags, cars, etc. I think of perfume as more of an experience. That said, I do think the growing scale of our economic crisis is going to cull out the ridiculous end of the market — limited editions costing thousands of dollars, etc., and may result in consumers turning more to scents with good lasting power — more bang for the buck. Not that I'm calling for a return to the knock-you-out style of the 80s, but I hate it when an expensive perfume disappears after only an hour or so. Those are the scents I've never been able to justify the cost of, even before our current crisis.
I was just reading about the massive lay-offs at Estee Lauder for 2009.
Since many companies (Tom Ford, Donna Karan, Clinique, etc) are part of EL it will be interesting/scary to see what this will result to and if this becomes a trend/norm for other companies.
I'm with you on this: if a deep recession and increasing unemployment causes all or many of us to re-think the ways we spend any discretionary income to include, especially, those in need – Hoo-ray! If I spend $100 a month currently on fragrance, surely I can spend $70 instead, and redistribute that $30 to someone who is hard-hit by famine, homelessness, or unemployment. YES?
This might also mean discount stores making more money than niche and luxury lines. I was at my local Loehmanns the other day and Arpege was selling for $24.00 and Tommy Girl at $15.00. I still did not buy but was surprised at how cheap they were.
Pessimist here too… It would be lovely if this awful mess separated the wheat from the chaff, but these kinds of consumer buying decisions aren't rational (as we all know!), and corporations are quite content to exploit that fact. While I'd be happy to see the powers-that-be at Guerlain paraded naked through the streets for the revolting vulgarity of their $9,000 perfume, it would be such a shame to see fabulous niche lines like Andy Tauer and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz go under.
I think we will know that the recession has hit disastrous proportions if we find the Chanel Exclusifs on discount at Marshalls
I read an interesting article not too long ago about how the rich are not PUBLICLY spending money, but hiring boutique designers to come and have private sales at people homes. They don't feel right about going out to shop, so they do it in secret. If they spent their money at the store, it would help the economy, but they see it as flaunting their wealth.
Have not checked out the article just yet, but there are several things for certain. One, the wealthy may spend a bit less than what they usually do, but they will continue to spend. Two, people will look for and buy whatever they are used to buying; that is determined by one's culture. Obviously the people who are going to buy their scents at places like WalMart (one culture)are not going to be holding boutique shows in their homes, nor will they be found shopping at Sak's, Neiman-Marcus, or Nordstroms(a rather different culture!); said people have probably never even heard of those places. Thirdly, the odors sold at places like MallWart, ah, pardon me, WalMart, are going to be smelling distinctly different from scents sold at Saks, Neiman's or Nordstrom's. Fourthly, I think that each of us has a bit of a duty to assist in supporting our favorite niche perfumers, such as DSH, Tauer, and whomever it is we like by telling our fellow perfume lovers about these marvelous perfume makers, who delight us so much with their wonderful creations. Each of us could do things like write letters to the editors of upscale fashion house magazines, get on blogs, buy and give gifts of these perfumes, so that those people who can buy the more expensive items will find out about them, and so we will not have to face a perfume house we like going under. Fifthly, yes, the present economic downturn may well indeed weed out at least some of the dreck out there attempting to masquerade itself as alleged “perfume”.
I don't know if it was the same article, but the NY Times had a piece a few months ago that mentioned rich ladies shopping at Hermes but hiding their purchases in plain bags!
Cynthia, I think the reformulations are coming regardless, sadly…
Yep — doesn't sound good.
Yes — I wouldn't mind if we went back to say, 600 new scents a year? Some doable number…
Somehow, don't think perfumistas are going to stop buying, so like to think AT & DSH are safe, and it's the silly flankers that won't sell.
Virginia, I give what I can to charity, but not about to give up all of the things that make me happy: perfume, chocolate, books, tea. I don't buy high end “luxury” items anyway.
I think everyone, even those not hit by the recession, is rethinking how they spend money. Whether most people will give more to others is unlikely though!
Yes, it just made me think of some of the really over the top luxury perfume things we've seen lately — leather boxed sets & diamond encrusted bottles & whatnot.
Yes, that's likely too.
LOL — I wish!
Yes — I saw that too!!
says the small business owner
I think some of the niche perfume prices are way over-inflated. I realize there is this cultural attitude that if it costs an ungodly amount it must be really really great and exclusive….well some of perfume lines ARE quite exclusive but they may also exclusive themselves right out of business! Does Bond no 9 really need to charge $200+ for a bottle of fragrance?? no, I don't think they do.
I think those middle of the road people—like most of us seem to be: will we still buy fragrance? yeah, I bet we will, but where a year ago many of us might have bought a bottle of Bond no 9 with our perfume $$$, I think now you'd think long and hard before buying it. I don't mean to pick on Bond no 9 more than any of the other high end parfumeurs…it's just that I was searching Chinatown last night….most of the nice ones have priced themselves into a pretty tight corner in my opinion. I'm just sayin
I know – I just keep hoping against hope that they won't ruin any more classics. I wish they would at least tell us when they reformulate – I can still remember my Grandmother's reaction when Emeraude reformulated into the mess it is today. She sprayed it on, recoiled in horror, and ended up scrubbing it off and tossing the bottle.
I can't even imagine dropping hard cash for something like Chanel No. 5 or L'Heure Bleue only to have it turn out to be some horrible, cheap-smelling reformulation.
Especially since many of Bond No 9's offerings are fairly pedestrian – most of them certainly aren't original or exquisite enough for the prices they charge, imho anyway.
yes indeed, who of us was desperate for the swarowski-chinatown bottles?
I don't know for sure, of course, but I like to think that niche perfumery will do alright in the current climate. Certainly some things – lingerie, apparently, and scented candles – are selling better than before, and perfume isn't an obvious place to economise for the average person. According to an article in the Times of London, which may(?) have been posted here, niche perfumery is doing rather well at Harvey Nicholas and Selfridges:
Yep, I saw that article…..
I think many niche lines will survive. Whether all of them will, who can say, but then, there are too many of them IMHO, and too many of them aren't doing anything of interest.
Not going to happen — after all, who would be *happy* to hear that their favorite was reformulated? But I wish they'd tell too.
Hmmm…strictly speaking, none of the brands “need” to charge what they do, or at least, the mark up on perfume is simply tremendous. That said, don't see that Bond is any more overpriced than anyone else, necessarily, although as with many brands, much of what you're paying for is prestige & packaging.
LOL — but the Swarovski is one thing. That was not priced so high that a mere mortal could not buy it if they saved up. I'm thinking of the really REALLY high end things, with real diamonds. Things most of us couldn't buy unless we gave up something necessary, like housing or transportation.
Hi all! I'm new here but have been a reader for some time and felt compelled to comment on this post. It's relieving to know I'm not the only one concerned about the survival of niche perfumery in today's market, but I think that there is hope, for a couple of reasons.
One, most people do still have SOME disposable income and investing in a few bottles of perfume is not only appealing as an affordable investment, it is an outlet which can provide one with, as Jirish commented, an experience. Marketers know this and it's just a matter of gaining the attention of the right audience: cautious, bored people who have a bit of money to spend and who don't exactly know where to burn it. People with taste will seek out niche houses if they have an interest in perfume. If it means niche houses will grow and dominate the market, let's just say selling out isn't always a bad thing. Yes, it would be awful for a woman who otherwise wore Marc Jacobs' Daisy to douse herself in a SL, AG, or AT and not appreciate the fragrance for what it is, but if it means I wouldn't have to search high and low for a bottle myself, and that there would be less trash on the market, well, I'm up for the sacrifice.
Two, most perfumistas are essentially addicts. My guy and I recently moved to the bay area as he had a transfer opportunity and I still have yet to find a job in my field and it's been months (no kids for us, either). We survive, we struggle at times, we don't take vacations and we shop at H&M, Gap and more affordable boutiques. But you can bet I'm not giving up my Clinique and Benefit make-up in favor of cheaper brands and that I won't be giving up my perfume, either. I do a bit more research before I buy and we sample a lot first, but we're spending more on niche, luxury scents than ever before. If it means we cook dinner every night that week instead of going out, we make the sacrifice because a bottle of perfume is a luxury to last months, if not years. Instant gratification takes a backseat. I think there are plenty of people, like us, who have found fragrance to be a worthwhile investment and articles like the one capillary posted only reaffirm this. Staying positive is important!
Oh and darn those rich women who hide their spending! They should be out there setting an example! It's what we need!
I think you're right, many people will cut back in other areas to keep buying….it's just hard to say where we're headed at the moment…I mean, you can only cut back in other areas and keep buying perfume if you've still got a job, right? It's the uncertainty about how much worse things will get before they get better that is worrying me, and that I think is keeping people from spending money even when they still have it…
Oh, and should have said: Welcome! and hope you'll keep commenting
sorry, I'd forgotten that one, but it's not really about the perfume inside, is it..whereas chinatown would have it's points even without the silly stones
I don't worry about niche perfumery, I think in some respect niche will have some protection in that many perfumistas would rather cut back spending in other areas rather than abandon purchasing new and unusual scents.
The run-of-the-mill releases are more at-risk than niche because the are not designed to be a “legacy” scent, perhaps their target consumer is into what's new and the latest fashions are pretty disposable.
For me, I'd rather eat lunch and dinner in and save my pennies toward a SL or OJ.
But what about the run-of-the-mill niche? There is SO much niche product now that isn't any different from what you find in department stores.
That's definitely true, imho anyway – many of them also seem to be “smells” rather than true perfumes or fragrances as well. Not to pick on Jo Malone, because I really love some of her stuff, but how many single or dual note perfumes do you really need? She does encourage layering, so that help up the interest factor, but I'm pretty much too lazy to do that on a regular basis (on purpose anyway, it does happen on accident sometimes) and tend to prefer a “proper” fragrance.
There seem to be quite a few niche house out there that are simply bottling air freshener scents or stuff that you can find in Walgreens for a lot less cash – if companies like that don't make it, it won't bother me too much. (other than feeling bad for the employees, that is)
I don't mind the “smells” myself, but there are lines that are just making the same sweet fruity florals you can find at Macy's…so why bother paying more, just for the name?