FRAGRANCE RETAILER COMPARISON
Spring 2011

INTRODUCTION

Data for this article was collected during March and April 2011 without the participation or foreknowledge of any retailer.

This article is a comparison of eleven perfume retailers and their prices.

The main objective is to identify the lowest-price retailer(s): We use a test-basket of twenty-seven different fragrances, and compare prices offered through the retailers' websites.

We also consider which retailers had the "best selection": using our test-basket, how often the retailers had the particular sizes, concentrations, and options we wanted.

Along with prices and selection, we also consider retailers' customer-service reputations: For this, we use customer-service reviews, and records and reports kept by the Better Business Bureau.

Finally, we consider testers, refills, and discounted unboxed merchandise: which retailers offered these products, and what potential savings they represented. The issue is pursued less vigorously, using only a small sub-sample of fragrances from our test-basket.

RETAILERS

There are many Internet-based retailers of perfume. Retailers included in this comparison were selected one of three ways:

One way a retailer was selected for this comparison was if they were a participant in the Commission Junction or ShareASale networks, which FAMAMOCA also participates in. It was how this article began: The comparison was intended to inform our own decision about which retailers to make application to for business affiliation — among the potential partners, which was most likely to offer good prices and good customer service.

A second way a retailer was picked for this article was if they were identified by Google Product Search, Google's shopping and price-comparison service, as offering (1) what appeared to be a low price on at least one of the fragrances in our test-basket, and (2) an established and at least satisfactory customer-service reputation ("seller rating"), as identified by Google Product Search and its users. For "established" and "satisfactory", the criteria we used were at least one-hundred ratings/reviews with an average of three stars or better on them, though we did not stick to this religiously.

The purpose of using "established" and "satisfactory" was to try to eliminate from our comparison any unreliable retailers, and any kind of "scam". Though the phenomenon would seem to apply more to the retail sale of electronics goods than to perfume, we are aware of a reported business practice where an Internet retailer will advertise a very low ("teaser") price, but then delay or cancel a customer's order unless additional merchandise is subsequently purchased (possibly at very inflated prices). We have no evidence that any fragrance retailer engages in such a practice, but we used these "established" and "satisfactory" criteria in an attempt to eliminate from our comparison any kind of doubt like that: Where we selected a retailer specifically because they appeared to offer a good price on a fragrance, we attempt to compare only trustworthy, reliable retailers.

A third way a retailer was selected for inclusion in this comparison article was if they were an advertiser on one or more of the Internet perfume blogs we consulted. We did not screen these retailers, or apply any other criteria than that their website was functional. We were pointed to the blogs themselves by the Bing or Google or Yahoo! search engines, while we were researching the FiFi Awards discussed below.

Excluded from this comparison were retailers who did not have their own, stand-alone websites: Sellers/Retailers operating as individuals or through storefronts exclusively on eBay.com were not considered for this comparison. Sellers/Retailers operating exclusively through storefronts on Amazon.com were also not considered. Because the lowest price shown on Amazon.com (also, attributed to Amazon.com by Google Product Search) was sometimes from one of these sellers, Amazon.com itself was not considered for this comparison.

Retailers were excluded from this comparison if they did not sell "genuine" or "authentic brand" fragrances.

Only retailers supplying the United States and offering prices denominated in US dollars were considered.

Ultimately, eleven retailers were selected: FragranceX, Luxury Perfume, Overstock.com, Perfumania, Perfume.com, Perfume Emporium, Perfume Space, The Perfume Spot, Scent Monkey, Scentiments, StrawberryNET.

THE FRAGRANCE TEST-BASKET

We use the word "fragrance" to mean a retail perfume product in a particular size (ounces) and concentration (eau de toilette or parfum).

To compare prices between retailers, we constructed a test-basket of twenty-seven fragrances. The basket consisted of fourteen women's and thirteen men's fragrances.

One fragrance, at most, was selected from a designer/fashion house/celebrity's entire product line: After Calvin Klein Eternity Perfume for Women was added to the basket, no other Calvin Klein fragrances were considered.

With respect to the year of introduction, new or recent or "Oh, that's been around forever", we attempted to pick a mixture of fragrances.

Fragrances were selected one of three ways:

Best Sellers (9). We consulted lists of the current twenty-five best-selling men's and twenty-five best-selling women's fragrances on Amazon.com. Working from both lists, we picked a fragrance randomly, and if the fragrance was carried by at least two of the retailers under consideration, the fragrance was added. A fragrance added to the test-basket using a different method also sometimes turned out to be on the Amazon best-seller list.

FiFi Awards (11). We consulted lists for the previous twenty-five years of the Fragrance Foundation's FiFi Awards, "the 'Oscars' of the fragrance world" according to the Fragrance Foundation's website. Winners and finalists in categories such as "Fragrance of the Year — Women's Popular Appeal" and "Best Packaging of the Year — Men's Prestige" were added to the basket if at least two of the retailers under consideration offered the fragrance. Fragrances were selected haphazardly from the lists.

We did not exhaustively search through the FiFi Awards lists, so it's possible that some fragrances used in our comparison received awards we do not make note of. It was also sometimes the case that fragrances added to the comparison by a different method turned out to have received a FiFi Award.

Other (7). We selected fragrances using methods that are admittedly capricious:

We selected Lagerfeld Photo because we like Karl Lagerfeld, we like the advertising campaign for this fragrance, and because the fashion model for that campaign, Laurence Vanhaeverbeke, is sometimes mistaken in that campaign for Claudia Schiffer, who Karl Lagerfeld frequently worked with, making the whole story rather entertaining. (If you are interested in the Lagerfeld Photo print campaign, you may click here to ask FAMAMOCA to source Lagerfeld Photo fragrance ads featuring Laurence.)

We selected Thierry Mugler Angel Perfume for no other reason than because we like the designer and author Thierry Mugler.

We selected Chanel N° 5, Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds, Beautiful by Estée Lauder, and Drakkar Noir because we wondered if there might be more (or less) intense price-competition in these fragrances, simply because of their relatively long product-life.

We're also, unabashedly, fans of many of the fashion models in the Chanel fragrance campaigns: Ines de la Fressange, Carole Bouquet (also a Bond — James Bond girl), Patricia Van Ryckeghem, Tricia Helfer, and so on. As an admitted act of capriciousness, it simply appealed to us to include Chanel N° 5 in our comparison. (If you are interested in comparing the Chanel fragrance ad campaigns, you may click here to ask FAMAMOCA to source them, here for a more general publication history of Chanel ads.)

Similarly, among the several alternatives in the Estée Lauder line, we picked Beautiful because we like the print campaign, which has featured two models we like very much, Willow Bay and then Paulina Porizkova. And Lauder campaigns from around this time also typically feature the work of photographer Victor Skrebneski, who we also like very much (also, Uli Rose). (And if you are interested, you may click here to ask FAMAMOCA to source Estée Lauder Beautiful ads, here to source Estée Lauder ads that are credited to Skrebneski.)

We selected Creed Original Santal for Men for no other reason than its relatively high price, because we wondered if we would observe a larger or smaller (normalized) variance in retailers' prices. This was the only case in which the observed price affected our decision to include or not include a fragrance.

TABLE 1: WOMEN'S FRAGRANCES

Fragrance Amazon.com Best Seller
Top 25
FiFi Award

Best Seller list observed March 2011.

Beautiful by Estée Lauder

2001 Inductee

Burberry Brit Perfume

×

2004 Winner

Calvin Klein Eternity Perfume

×

2003 Inductee

Chanel N° 5

1987 Inductee

Cinema by YSL

2005 Finalist

Couture Couture by Juicy Couture

2010 Winner

Dior J'Adore

2007 Winner

Dolce & Gabbana The One

2008 Finalist

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist

×

Just Cavalli

2005 Finalist

Kenzo Amour

2007 Winner

Marc Jacobs Lola Perfume

2010 Winner

Thierry Mugler Angel Perfume

2007 Inductee

Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds

2009 Inductee

TABLE 2: MEN'S FRAGRANCES

Fragrance Amazon.com Best Seller
Top 25
FiFi Award

Best Seller list observed March 2011.

Adidas Dynamic Pulse

×

Armani Code

×

2006 Winner

Bvlgari Blv Notte

×

Chrome Legend

2008 Finalist

Creed Original Santal
Drakkar Noir

×

1985 Winner

L'Eau D'Issey Issey Miyake

×

Lagerfeld Photo

1991 Winner

Nautica Blue for Men

×

Paco Rabanne 1 Million

×

2009 Winner (UK)

Sean John I Am King

2009 Winner

The Essence by Porsche Design

2009 Winner

Versace Pour Homme

×

For each fragrance, if there was a choice, we attempted to randomly select a concentration: sometimes EDP, sometimes EDT.

For each fragrance, we attempted to randomly select a bottle or product size, sometimes selecting a large size from the available options, sometimes a small, or smallest. Sizes of fragrances in our test-basket varied from 1 ounce to 4.2 ounces.

TABLE 3: THE TEST-BASKET

Fragrance & Concentration Size (oz)

Adidas Dynamic Pulse for Men EDT Spray

3.4

Armani Code for Men EDT Spray

2.5

Beautiful by Estée Lauder EDP Spray

2.5

Burberry Brit Perfume EDT Spray

3.4

Bvlgari Blv Notte for Men EDT Spray

3.4

Calvin Klein Eternity Perfume EDP Spray

1.7

Chanel N° 5 EDT Spray

1.7

Chrome Legend for Men EDT Spray

2.6

Cinema by YSL EDT Spray

3.0

Couture Couture by Juicy Couture EDP Spray

3.4

Creed Original Santal for Men EDT Spray

4.0

Dior J'Adore EDP Spray

1.7

Dolce & Gabbana The One EDP Spray

2.5

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist EDT Spray

3.4

Drakkar Noir EDT Spray

3.4

Just Cavalli EDT Spray

2.0

Kenzo Amour EDP Spray

3.4

L'Eau D'Issey Issey Miyake EDT Spray

4.2

Lagerfeld Photo for Men EDT Spray

1.0

Marc Jacobs Lola Perfume EDP Spray

3.4

Nautica Blue for Men EDT Spray

3.4

Paco Rabanne 1 Million for Men EDT Spray

3.4

Sean John I Am King for Men EDT Spray

3.4

The Essence by Porsche Design for Men EDT Spray

1.7

Thierry Mugler Angel Perfume EDP Spray

1.7

Versace Pour Homme EDT Spray

1.7

White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor EDT Spray

1.7

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