Two years ago, in 2011, French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur published an interview with the perfumers Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo, who regretfully mentioned, that their newest perfume creation called La Guerre des Nez (i.e. The War of the Nose), which costs 100 eur, actually costs 1,5 eur to produce. A little shocking, isn’t it?
Even though the topic of prices in perfume industry is still a very sensitive as well as confidential topic, French perfumers are very open about it. They claim that advertisement and distribution is way more expensive than the initial product itself. Besides, perfumers only get a relatively small salary and it does not depend on popularity (or disgrace) of the perfume they create at all. The total price of La Guerre des Nez – 100 euros – is just the price of advertisement and distribution, mainly. The initial product, which is the liquid in the bottle, in perfumery world usually represents only 2-3 per cent of the total cost of producing it. Out of 100 euros one pays for the perfume in a boutique, money goes to VAT (19,6 eur), distribution (36 eur), advertisement (25 eur) and so on. It seems that the money we save to have the bottle of our favorite perfume doesn’t actually reach the hands of creators; they rather reach hands of assistants and marketers instead.
Given day may actually seem a little shocking, but it actually is not: science is partly to blame. Today, the great majority of perfumes are not coming from nice smelling gardens fulls of beautiful flowers. They are rather made in laboratories out of synthetic molecules. It actually takes 750 kg of jasmine flowers to create only 1 kg essential oil, which could be used for perfume. And it’s even worse with roses: they must be picked by hand, flower by flower, at sunrise. The initial price of rose can cost up to 35,000 DKK, whereas its synthetic equivalent costs only 3,500. Therefore, synthetic materials are cheaper to make than it used to be, though a century ago perfumers would not spend that much on advertising, too.
An interesting fact is that successful businesses always earn even from such small amounts that they get in return. An advertisement of a perfume is a good investment into future sales. A good example of that could be Chanel: Miss Gabrielle has advertised her perfumes widely in ’30, and the result of that is a very beneficial and positive Word-Of-Mouth even after more than 80 years have passed. In such cases, companies save advertising money (since they consider they’re already well-known) and therefore earn more.
How to choose it, after all?
The only way to tell the quality in perfume is to smell it. You should not rely on prices as an indicator of better materials used. The retail price of the perfume bottle is largely determined by the environment in which it is sold; setting the price has literally nothing to do with the cost of an item. If it is branded perfume, it will naturally cost much more, but your nose is the only “detective” to check the quality and preference of perfumes you choose. Actually, the cheap perfume you like might be even better than an expensive bottle of branded perfume, since in this case the biggest amount of money you pay are for the brand, not perfume itself. As fragrance consumer, the only way to get better perfume is to train your nose to recognize the “best” materials. Try forgetting the labels, prices and brand knowledge you have prior to buying; try asking for testers in perfume stores (Magasin and Salling are usually up for that) and try perfume on your skin for a couple of days, until you are sure that is the perfume you enjoy. Don’t forget that in perfumery the price does not reflect quality – only your senses do.