Big perfume makers smell threat from niche scents

Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:28am EST
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By Astrid Wendlandt

PARIS (Reuters) - The first thing one sees on entering Guerlain's perfume shop in Paris' Champs Elysees is the French brand's exclusive collection - Les Parisiennes - which costs 200 euros ($250) a bottle and is sold only in a few dozen shops around the world.

Les Parisiennes and other limited editions are Guerlain's answer to the myriad small, niche perfume brands invading the $26-billion fragrance industry and starting to steal market share from big labels.

Niche brands take up increasingly more shelf space at upmarket department stores such as Harrods in London, Printemps in Paris and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

They are also backed by a new generation of trendy perfume and cosmetics stores such as Liquides and Nose in Paris, Min in New York and Space.NK in London.

They are popular in part because of a growing perception that many mainstream perfumes, designed to mimic other successful scents, end up smelling the same.

"They smell of fear. The fear of being a flop," Denyse Beaulieu, perfume blogger and author of "The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent", says of many mainstream perfumes.

Industry analysts say many mainstream labels such as Yves Saint Laurent, Armani and Lancome have been launching too many so-called "flankers" or variations of the same perfume name, adding to confusion among consumers and overcrowding the market. Also, consumers have become more demanding and knowledgeable.

"I am a big fan of niche brands because they offer something different," says Federico Bardarzzi, 56, a dermatologist from Bologna, Italy, shopping at niche perfume shop Jovoy in Paris.   Continued...

An employee poses with an exclusive single edition perfume by Roja Dove on sale for 75,000 pounds ($117,877) at the Salon de Parfums in Harrods, London, December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor