Recently, I’ve become rather perplexed at how the various concentrations of a perfume are priced. For many, the extrait (also known as parfum) concentrations of perfumes are often deemed to be the best of all concentrations, because they are plusher, richer and fuller etc. etc. Obviously, this varies depending on one’s personal preferences. But I’m not so much interested in discussing anyone’s preferences regarding concentrations as I am with the pricing strategies of companies with regard to the various perfume concentrations.
Have you ever noticed that the extrait concentrations of perfumes tend to be rather extravagantly priced? I certainly thought so, so I did some snooping around on the web for a comparison of prices. For the purposes of my research, I decided upon Guerlain‘s Shalimar, since it is well-known and discussions about the various concentrations are well-documented on online forums such as Basenotes and Fragrantica. Here’s what I found on online perfume retailer Escentual:
Since prices per ml vary even within the same concentration (e.g. the extrait costs £10.08/ml if you buy the 7.5ml bottle, and £6.06/ml if you buy the 30ml bottle), I decided to use the price per ml of the largest bottle size for each perfume concentration.
This works out at £0.72 for the Eau de Toilette, £0.81 for the Eau de Parfum and a whopping £6.06 for the Extrait.
I’m not sure if alarm bells are ringing in your head right now, but in my head, the reality of the ridiculous, incommensurate prices of the extrait concentration clanged louder than the clashing gongs of a vigorous lion dance during the Lunar New Year.
As I wasn’t sure what the exact percentage of oils for each concentration of Shalimar was, I decided to assume that the EDT had 10% concentration, the EDP had 20% concentration, and the Extrait had 30% concentration. Now, I know that the percentage of oils in each concentration varies across perfumes, so I do urge you to view these figures only as a ballpark that doesn’t apply across the board, but which will have to suffice for the purposes of demonstration here. Let’s do some mathematics.
Using my rudimentary logic, I hypothesised that an EDP ought to cost twice as much per ml as an EDT, and that an Extrait ought to cost three times as much per ml as an EDT, and 1.5 times per ml as much as an EDP.
It turns out that in reality, the EDP of Shalimar works out to cost 1.125 times per ml as the EDT and the Extrait costs 8.417 times per ml as the EDT and 7.481 times per ml as the EDP. It seems as though that in the case of Shalimar, the EDP would be the most ‘value-for-money’ in terms of how much perfume oil one would get.
Hypothetically speaking, if pricing decisions were to be made purely based on the concentration of oils in a perfume, then the price per ml of the Extrait should be (1.5 X £0.81) = £1.215. But we find that at the current price of £6.06 per ml, the Extrait costs a whopping FIVE TIMES more than it really should. [Note: I’m comparing it to the price of the EDP and not the EDT since that would work out to the most oil per pound paid. Hey, I have the license to manipulate the statistics in a way that best demonstrates my point! 😀 ]
What should we make of this? Perhaps we might try to explain this difference in pricing by considering that, perhaps, the bottle of the Extrait concentration costs more than the bottles of the other concentrations. Well, the Extrait bottle is SMALLER than the others, so technically there’s less glass used, and so should really cost less. Ok sure, they added a tassel here, or a ribbon there, or a little trinket on the cap etc. etc. That costs like, what, £0.01? Or perhaps we might appeal to the notion that the Extrait concentration of perfumes usually differs not just in concentration, but also in composition of ingredients. So it might use a higher concentration of a more expensive ingredient, say orris, for example. Fair enough, but would that lead to a five times increase in price? Call me a sceptic/cynic, but I honestly don’t think so, although I don’t have any concrete evidence to prove this (you can blame the perfume companies for their secrecy).
So what really explains this difference in pricing? I speculate that perfume companies price the Extrait concentrations at these levels primarily because it’s good for their profit margins. I suspect that with the extraits, perfume companies price them in this manner in order to market them as ‘luxury’ goods meant only for the extremely well-heeled who have mountains of dollars to throw at them.
Question [feel free to leave comments below!]
Is the Extrait concentration really worth all that money? Would you still buy the Extrait concentration knowing, at the back of your head, that you are in some way being ‘conned’ of your money?
And now, to demonstrate the illogicality of how a perfumista’s brain works, I’m off to dab on some Coco Chanel Extrait.
I’m just glad I got it for £6.50 off eBay.
~ The Smelly Vagabond
Pssst… There’ll be a lovely post and giveaway tomorrow, so don’t forget to drop by the blog! 🙂