French Woman and Her Perfume : Research Study

For those who think that consumers can’t judge differences in quality or that most new launches today indeed smell alike:

“French women also express severe judgements on new launches, 41% considering the offer as excessive, with rather negative comments about the lack of originality of new fragrances. … Although they mobilize a massive share of advertising spending, only few launches succeed in reaching the top 100 sales.”

paris-hotel-ville

The Fragrance Foundation France released a new study on consumer preferences in France which shows some interesting results on how women buy perfume and what criteria they follow. To read the summary and see the graphs, please click here.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Hôtel de Ville in Paris.

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61 Comments

  • Belle: Ugh, the industry looks like its going down the drain, and I haven’t even started yet! And have you heard? Rochas made new, similar, and boring designs for Femme, Madame, and Tocade! Smells like reformulations 🙁 July 9, 2013 at 7:19am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: What! Are they going to reformulate Femme again! Are you sure? Well, better be sure than sorry–I will buy a bottle of my beloved Femme before it is too late. Thank you for the warning, Belle! July 9, 2013 at 7:33am Reply

      • Belle: Only happy to warn you! The news about it is at the front page of Fragrantica. July 9, 2013 at 8:05am Reply

      • Victoria: Even the vintage Femme is still possible to find, but I have to say that I like even the reformulation (the cumin spiked one) from the 1990s that’s on the counters now (at least, the perfume in the older bottles I still see at the stores). If anyone gets to try the fragrance in the new bottles, please let us know what it’s like. July 9, 2013 at 8:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried them yet, but it looks like only the bottle designs have been changed. It’s very expensive for small houses to produce different bottles for different perfumes, so this is probably what necessitated the change.

      My view on the industry is that it’s changing very much. The current huge output is just unsustainable, and the lack of diversity among the brands and their offerings is very obvious. But perhaps, this means that something big change will take place or some restructuring. We will see… July 9, 2013 at 8:13am Reply

    • Ann: Don’t say it’s so! I love Femme too and I don’t want it to be reformulated. 🙁 July 9, 2013 at 10:32am Reply

  • Caroline: Speaking of being mainly attracted by the scent: how many stars are you assigning to PdN’s Soleil? July 9, 2013 at 9:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I completely forgot to do that, thank you for a reminder. It’s a 3 star perfume to me–a very well-done fragrance that I would enjoy wearing, but I would probably not buy another bottle. Cologne Sologne and Eau d’Ete still hold my heart more. July 9, 2013 at 9:43am Reply

      • Caroline: thanks Victoria, think I’m content with L’eau a la Folie and Temp d’une Fete. OT, but do you know if there’s a difference between Number One & Number One Intense (or is the latter just a re-name)?
        Was very interested in your interview on Olfactoria today! Have to see if your book recommendation is available in English…. July 9, 2013 at 9:48am Reply

        • Victoria: I prefer the original, because Intense seems heavier, warmer, and I miss the delicate interplay between the different white floral notes. I keep thinking of the original Number One is a white lace perfume, and Intense is more of a satin damask.

          The Little Man from Archangel by Simenon is definitely available in English. I forgot to mention in my response that it’s a somewhat bleak story (no happy end there), but it’s so well-written and fascinating. July 9, 2013 at 9:58am Reply

          • Austenfan: Funny you should be reading Simenon. I recently bought the complete DVD box of the Crémer Maigrets. I adore the universe he creates, and Crémer embodies Maigret impeccably. I watch them while ironing.
            The Maigret stories generally give closure, but no happy endings either. July 9, 2013 at 4:15pm Reply

            • Victoria: I haven’t seen these films, but since I’m a huge detective genre fan (and a fan of Simenon), they’re on my list now. I usually watch Agatha Christie based films or else Russian detective series when I do household chores. 🙂 July 9, 2013 at 5:31pm Reply

              • Austenfan: Miss Marple is a good household companion as well! I also like watching Foyle’s War or Morse, but I guess Maigret is my favourite. July 9, 2013 at 5:33pm Reply

                • Victoria: I somehow feel more efficient with my work when I watch Miss Marple. I especially love Joan Hickson’s portrayal, because she matched my own vision of Miss Marple perfectly. July 9, 2013 at 6:44pm Reply

                  • Austenfan: Joan Hickson is my favourite as well. She embodies Miss Marple’s compassion, aloofness and intelligence like no other actress. July 10, 2013 at 7:08am Reply

                    • Victoria: My absolute favorite must be her Nemesis and The Caribbean Mystery, in which she is just splendid. I love the scene when she confronts Clotilde Bradbury-Scott in Nemesis. July 10, 2013 at 8:08am

                    • Austenfan: My favourite one is A Murder is Announced with A Pocketful of Rye a close second.
                      The confrontation with Clotilde is a very moving scene, I remember it well. July 10, 2013 at 9:12am

                    • Victoria: Oh, how could I forget A Murder is Announced! I also love Sleeping Murder (and red lipstick the actress playing Gwenda Reed wears inspired me to start wearing red myself). July 10, 2013 at 9:17am

            • Cornelia Blimber: Ah, Simenon! yes, i read all of the Maigrets.I love that old, experienced, wise policier without illusions but with full understanding of the human weakness.
              I never saw Crémer, and have a TV from the Stone Age (1994), so DVD is impossible. But I cherish my own image of Maigret, pipe and Calvados included! July 9, 2013 at 5:50pm Reply

              • Victoria: Now, imagine a fragrance capturing Maigret’s character! I think I would love something like this, Calvados and pipe tobacco notes included. July 9, 2013 at 6:45pm Reply

                • Austenfan: I would love that fragrance! July 10, 2013 at 10:38am Reply

              • Austenfan: They shot 54 episodes with Crémer. I think the last 2 were dubbed by another actor as Crémer had cancer of his tongue and had trouble speaking towards the end.
                He is one of my favourite French actors and I just love him as Maigret. July 10, 2013 at 7:10am Reply

          • annemariec: Another Simenon fan checking in here. I feel extra special because Simenon is not well known in Australia and I feel like a one-person fan club. I discovered him by chance at a second-hand book market – there was a pile of about eight Maigret novels (the old green Pengiuns) going for a dollar each. Puzzled, I flipped through a few, wondering what they were, and resisting my impatient daughter. In the end I bought the lot, just so that I could keep her happy and leave. The oddest thing is that they all smelled really weird, not just an old book smell, but extra must-fusty, as if they brought their own whiff of damp wool and pipe smoke from Maigret’s office!

            That was a few years ago. Then, just a month or two ago, I picked up a bigger cache of Simenons (Maigrets and others, also green Penguins) from an eBay seller. Eighteen novels for $35, including shipping! I never was so delighted when my lovely package arrived, not even a perfume package. My daughter laughed at me sitting on the floor, ‘playing’ with my new ‘toys’. But I think a lot of people collect Simenon so it’s not surprising to find bulk lots of them going second hand.

            All that said, the non-Maigrets can be very bleak. The Hatter’s Ghost is about a serial killer – told from the point of the killer so that you almost start to fell sorry for him. Ghastly. July 9, 2013 at 6:17pm Reply

            • Victoria: The Little Man from Archangel was the first non-Maigret I’ve read. I’ve picked it up because of the Russian city (Archangel, Arkhangelsk) mentioned in the title.

              I can completely relate to your joy of finding such a treasure! No purchase, not even perfume, makes me happier than books. Or I love digging through old books at my grandmother’s house. The smell of those books is a promise of interesting discoveries and many happy hours reading. July 9, 2013 at 6:53pm Reply

            • solanace: Is there anything better than old books? And I agree about the non-Maigret Simenons! ‘La maison du canal’ depressed me for more time than I’d care to acknowledge – at least it ‘talked me out’ moving to the middle of nowhere. If my teen kids would feel so melancholic (he painted a hell of a picture), I’m glad I live among the traffic, noise and pollution of the big city. July 10, 2013 at 4:33am Reply

        • solanace: Maigret, with that wife!
          Simenon is such a humanist, his characters are not your average CSI guest actor, they feel alive. I dream of spending some time travelling through Europe’s channels like he did. July 10, 2013 at 4:42am Reply

          • Austenfan: He must have been born to be a writer. I read a few volumes of his memoirs and he describes that one of his favourite pastimes was walking in cities. He clearly must have been very observant. July 10, 2013 at 7:11am Reply

            • Victoria: Which memoirs did you read? I realized as I’m reading this discussion that I’ve read very little of Simenon. My parents were huge fans, and I’ve heard the name a lot. But it wasn’t until recently that I started reading him. July 10, 2013 at 8:09am Reply

              • Austenfan: I think I read “Un homme comme un autre” years ago. I want to start reading all the Maigrets, having watched quite a few of them. July 10, 2013 at 9:13am Reply

                • Victoria: Thank you, adding it to my list! July 10, 2013 at 9:17am Reply

  • Natalia: Here is the difference between me and French women. I, too, am strongly attached to my perfumes, I, too, am attracted to fragrance, first and foremost. But I have to say, I am always enthusiastic about new launches and always have hopes for the future 🙂 I think last year launches were great, I am already on my second 100 ml. of Jour d’Hermes (!), love Coco Noir (perhaps not the most innovative scent but quite pleasant nontheless) and, out of this year launches, I’ve already fallen in love with Gris Montaigne. Frankly, I don’t want this kind of love falling happening every month or I’ll be out of money pretty soon 🙂 As far as I am concerned, we have just about the right amount of good fragrance launches every year, no reason to bury the industry yet. July 9, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m not too pessimistic either, and I overall agree that it’s possible to find good fragrances even among new launches. The one part in the report that rings true to me though is that there are way too many launches (more than 1000 per year) and that it’s not surprising that a casual perfume consumer feels confused. If you shop at the regular perfumeries or big department stores, it’s hard to make sense of this huge choice, especially when the guidance from the sales reps is lackluster.

      Coco Noir is one of the better offerings, I think, especially since for the price, its quality is quite good. I smell it quite a bit around here, and I always enjoy it on others. If I had fewer perfumes in this style, I would also wear it more often. July 9, 2013 at 9:52am Reply

      • Natalia: Yes, the overall number of fragrances launched each year is ridiculous. Why invest so much money and effort into something that is destined NOT to make a difference. Don’t really understand this. There are interesting launches but they are vastly outnumbered by the uninteresting ones. July 9, 2013 at 10:59am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s not logical, I know, but the way the business is structured today benefits this sort of myopic thinking. For instance, the retailers will send back the unsold stock to the brand after a certain period of time, so for a brand, it makes sense to create something that’s instantly appealing and can generate a quick sell. But in the end, they end up doing the same theme over and over again. July 9, 2013 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Cecile: Bonjour, Victoria! Thank you for an interesting link and discussion. I’m French and I don’t like too many new perfumes. I discover niche thanks to forums and blogs and to me it’s more interesting.

    I also love your photo of a science muse statue, beautiful. July 9, 2013 at 10:05am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Cecile. I didn’t realize that she was a Science muse, but yes, of course, you’re right! I love the statues in front of the building. July 9, 2013 at 1:06pm Reply

  • Ann: I guess classics still sell better. July 9, 2013 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: If this inspired brands to create classics, it would be great. July 9, 2013 at 1:05pm Reply

  • theperfumeddandy: Dear Victoria
    Fascinating.
    I must say I am at one with you on the ‘unsustainability’ of the current rate of production of ‘new scents’.
    My suspicion is that many are neither new nor really true perfumes at all: quite a few will have been hanging around for some time waiting for a brand to take them while others are merely discarded workings out for actual fully formed fragrances.
    At some point this supply of ‘seconds’ will become a little exhausted and when new scents actually have to be developed from scratch the law of diminishing returns will finaly enter into the equation again.
    Perhaps Guerlain’s huge support for Petite Robe Noire and the creation of lines such as ‘Aqua Allegoria’ which are self-confessed simply scents and the development of ‘luxe’ micro-brands such as Arts et Matiers indicates a subtle change in direction.
    Of course I could be wrong and every perfume could be set to suffer the fate of Shalimar and be fractured into a thousand pieces, though the original oftn remains, as in this case, the best.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy July 9, 2013 at 11:32am Reply

    • Victoria: For many brands, increasing the number of launches is the only way to survive financial in the short-run. The initial sales boost the profit line, whereas supporting the brand is what costs the most. So, we have a vicious cycle and lots and lots of perfumes. July 9, 2013 at 1:02pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: And may I throw into the mix…the price points are through the roof! The French are notorious for not sampling either. I was just in (Saks Fifth Ave.) and Tom Ford’s Private Collection has recently increased their prices which doesn’t say that it’s any better “juice” than before. July 9, 2013 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: The prices are getting higher, especially in the niche (or brands trying to be niche) sector. Nothing irritates me more than yet another overpriced niche line that offers fragrances that are smell no better than what you can get for much less at a department store. Tom Ford is not necessarily in this category, since their perfumes are quite good, but they’re definitely very expensive and a large chunk of the price is the brand name itself. July 9, 2013 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Dear Victoria,

    Well articulated as always! July 9, 2013 at 1:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nancy! I guess, one can write a whole post on this topic alone. July 9, 2013 at 3:00pm Reply

  • ralu: Nice! Speaking of France, I went on the site for French Sephora and got really envious. The selection of perfumes on Sephora.fr is way, way better. Wish we could get that in the US. July 9, 2013 at 1:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: French Sephora is fantastic in terms of its perfume offerings, but it’s also the function of demand. Notice something on their websites–on the US Sephora’s main menu, you get makeup and skincare first, and perfume comes third. On the French Sephora, perfume comes first! July 9, 2013 at 2:59pm Reply

      • sisty: And I bet that’s because 90% of French women wear perfume daily. I’m sure the American rate is not nearly that high. July 9, 2013 at 4:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re right, many more French women use perfume every day, whereas this isn’t at all the case for the American women. July 9, 2013 at 5:30pm Reply

          • Ralu: We need to change that about american women. 🙂 and i did notice the difference in menu options between the 2 sites. July 9, 2013 at 11:03pm Reply

            • Victoria: That’s the most telling difference to me! July 10, 2013 at 8:02am Reply

  • Ariadne: Oh to be a butterfly on the wall of some frenchwoman’s boudoir and hear her assessment of Brad Pitt hawking C5! ROFLH! July 9, 2013 at 5:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I tried looking for some funny remarks on the French blogs to translate here, but my internet connection is poor, so I’ll try searching later. Yes, some commentary was hysterical. July 9, 2013 at 5:32pm Reply

  • annemariec: It sounds from that article that French women are loyal to just two or three perfumes at a time, so the vast majority of new releases make no impression on them. But – because of that loyalty, and the high consumption of perfume (90% of women use it every day) – it is worth the perfume houses making desperate bid after desperate bid to get and retain the biggest slice they can of that spending. If most of the product fails to stick, well that’s just too bad. It’s a sad situation for perfumers though.

    I know nothing about economics except a few basics like ‘What goes up must come down’, so you’d think there will have to be a correction in the market at some point. July 9, 2013 at 7:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: And the classics also have a reassuring familiarity. Of course, some fragrances become classics overtime, like Angel and J’Adore (I suppose, you can call them classics at this point). They offered something very different from what existed already. In case of Angel, Clarins, the parent company of Thierry Mugler, did a tremendous amount of work to support the new perfume. The initial sales were not impressive, but it was thanks to training the staff and educating the consumers that TM made Angel a star. July 10, 2013 at 7:34am Reply

  • solanace: Designing perfume specifically for people who don’t care about it cannot be good in the long run. But I do have some hope, because there is a renewed interest in perfume and in protecting this cultural legacy, in spite of mainstream’s general disdain in the last decades. I believe (like Mulder) we will not lose these beautiful works of art because of the incompetence of a few executives currently in charge. July 10, 2013 at 7:54am Reply

    • Victoria: The renewed interest and appreciation is something that gives me hope too. July 10, 2013 at 8:10am Reply

  • perfumekev: Victoria your blog is so inspirational! I think the more people who are the perfume lovers of the world connect then we all concentrate on looking deeply at the positive aspects of perfume we will swing the pendulum in the opposite direction of negativity.

    There are so many perfumes that are all really the same basic architecture. This has been true of the fragrance industry for a very long time.

    I feel as though what makes the difference between now and the turn of the 19th century into the 20th was the quality that went into a fragrance was much different. Most perfumes were developed over a longer period of time. Since there were no GC machines the perfumers would work very hard at recreating other companies perfumes. But within that process a perfumer finds other notes and accents that can truly give the fragrance it’s own unique character.

    Now GC’s are used so heavily and fragrance companies want to capitalize other fragrances success. There-for the perfumers are told to use this and that part of the following best selling perfumes. This creates a kind of perfume that has a nice smell but no “real bone structure”.

    I am hopeful that many of the really fantastic niche brands and independent perfume brands will continue to make great perfumes that will give the market newness and excitement for the public to experience.

    The more cheer leaders there are for new and great fragrances the more positivity we will bring to table.

    together we can all make the difference!

    Vive Le Parfum! July 14, 2013 at 4:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your interesting, thoughtful comment! It’s so true, the industry has changed dramatically, but the change has not happened overnight. And seeing how many truly passionate people work in perfume I retain my hopes that they will continue to create beautiful, unique blends.

      (In the short term, I hope that the new Bottega Veneta Pour Homme will be as elegant and interesting as its feminine counterpart.) July 14, 2013 at 5:42pm Reply

      • perfumekev: Yes, Victoria I very much agree with your comments, I truly appreciate all the fantastic writing that you have been doing over the years to look at fragrance from all sides. Your dedication and passion for perfume is indispensable.

        My real name is Kevin J. Verspoor. I have been a perfumer for over 22 years now.

        I left the conventional part of the perfume industry a few months ago and am redefining myself as an Artist who creates Perfume. I am here to help in the cause of making sure that the great classics of perfumes are kept that way, and that the possibility of creating new fragrances of that magnitude is fully explored. The ART OF PERFUME is to be preserved for ALL to enjoy :o)

        I am starting my own perfume house. The focus will be creating truly great perfumes. I invite anyone along for the ride. I will do ALL I can to make sure that the amazingly beautiful thing that PERFUMERY is will be not only preserved, but celebrated for the future generations.

        Perfume lovers please start finding every way you can to unite to protect your rites to enjoy the perfumes you love, your way.

        I optimistically look to the future and pull from the past to make sure that Perfume is respected and restored to a level of Art that it once was.

        Yes Victoria I totally agree about these changes not happening overnight I have been watching them happen for the past 25 years.

        Almost every perfumer that I speak with all have the same challenge, They all feel as though they are caged birds, not truly able to fly. If all the perfumers were allowed to put just one fragrance on the market that they made just for the beauty of perfumery the world would be a different place. So, I ask myself what can I do to make the world a more beautiful place, and that means a lifetime of dedication to the art Perfumery.

        We must band together help the all the artistic communities of the world and this of course includes perfume. Truly new and innovative creations will be happening in all creative fields in the future. There is so many possibilities that need to be explored in the universe of fragrance! Those rites need to be protected. Creation of great fragrance is something to be cherished, admired and truly loved!

        We must explore all avenues and never stop learning and creating and experiencing beautiful fragrances. Our sense of smell is such a spectacular thing. The art form that surrounds it “Perfumery” is one of the greatest gifts to the world.

        Let’s all dig deep and find that inner positivity that will help to preserve The Arts. These are vehicles that celebrate our senses and exalt the beauty in life.

        Let’s all make a JOYfull noise for Perfumery and the Arts! July 14, 2013 at 11:09pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Amen. July 14, 2013 at 5:26pm Reply

  • Michaela: As usual, I’m late at this party, but we were away on holiday, with very poor internet connection… Great topic, Victoria, I was thinking the other day about what’s going on with the perfume industry. I was in a duty free shop on Monday, looking around and sampling. I hate buying on impulses, I know I’ll be disappointed later so I was just checking around to see if I can sample something I cannot test where I live. But, as sometimes happens, I spotted a Shalimar giftbox on sale, with a 50ml and a purse spray for about 30 euro, so I grabbed it. The SA literally started screaming: Noooooooooo, you cannot buy this, you are not THAT age! Come here, look, this is new, Roberto Cavalli -something-aqua-I-don’t-care!

    Pardon me, are you kiddin’, lady ?! It’s my money, I am spending it on whatever I want, I don’t need your approval!

    But this is for 55+ women! she said in dismayal face and a horrified voice. She really looked like she was about to faint… And suddenly I just couldn’t help myself and started to laugh out loud! Oh, it was so funny and people were staring, which made it even funnier for me! 🙂

    It’s nothing more than an industry, a game… I suspect parfumistas are about the last people who still think of perfume as an art form. It’s just business for the others. I’m not blaming them, but I’m not blind, it’s obvious… The thing is the cultural awareness of the buyers is gravitatig towards absolute zero, so naturally, perfume houses create and launch accordingly. When I was a child I remember my aunties and my grannies telling me about perfumes and about fashion and about how things should be checked for their real value. Now this is gone, everything is about how new an item is, like the whole world is scared of aging! I can’t find the lipstick I bought last year, it’s out of production, it’s already history… And all the new perfumes smell alike and their producers ask themselves why they don’t sell more! Everyone wants to have a piece of luxury but luxury is fake or gone and slowly everything morphes in just another form of fast-food-consumption. July 19, 2013 at 9:13am Reply

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