Will the rise of niche perfumery cause its demise?

niche perfumes

Is it possible that the rise of niche perfumery will cause its demise?

Let’s be straight  — what is ‘niche’ or ‘selective’ perfumery?

It is classed as any perfume produced which is sold in limited distribution. 

In the past niche were more experimental perfumes which did not have a wide appeal. They played with new concepts and ingredients and created masterpieces or disasters which could never be sold in the more mass designer fragrance arena. The segment harked back to the times when perfumery was not a commodity, it was seen as an artisan profession with a high degree of expertise.  Niche perfumery was an area where perfumers could really let their imagination run free and not be bound by commercial restrictions. As a result, niche perfumes have always had a much higher retail value, maybe 150 USD and above per bottle to reflect the higher cost of the essential oils inside them.

The niche perfumery sector has been growing exponentially over the past five years, largely due to new entrants to the area. The Excense 2022 had over 280 brands showcased at this year’s exhibition, whereas three years ago in 2018 there were only 112 brands exhibiting. It seems everyone wants a piece of the action!

In my opinion, the lines are truly blurred now between niche perfumery and designer perfumes.

For the following reasons:

  1. Many of the most original popular niche brands like Frederic Malle,  L’artisan Parfumeur, Dyptique, and Kilian have been purchased by investment companies and multinational perfume groups over the past few years.

2. Mainstream designer brands are also launching their own range of selective perfumery, focusing on certain ingredients.

3. The sheer number of entrants to the niche arena, many of them attracted by the financial rewards rather than the creative process and the ability to innovate, has meant that there are many niche perfumes nowadays which don’t excite or add anything new.

4. Many of the new players just play on the old formula — ok, lets add a rose, an oud, a sandal wood, a floral, a citrus fragrance and maybe a gourmand  to your perfume repertoire and then your job is done. So the offerings from everyone seem the same, there is little differentiation. No magical story or concept to entice you.

Many mainstream companies seem to only understand the niche brand as a luxury high priced perfume. But they fail to understand the creative allure of the niche brand, the inspirations and innovative necessity of it.  It should be like a piece of art created for the sheer beauty or expression of an idea.

If the ‘niche’ market continues to grow at this pace, then it is likely to be a victim of its own success, the sheer growth of niche perfumery will cause its demise.  Because end consumers will start to be unable to differentiate between the main designer houses and the niche brands. There will not be enough of the new and exciting and avant garde left in niche. to draw the consumer into this world and to justify the high price of its offerings. Also if the distribution is more widespread, the consumer will become confused.

Niche or selective perfumery will always have a place amongst true perfume afficionados. But this over-commercialisation of the sector may lead to consumers moving away from it for some time and only returning when a good percentage of the ‘same same but different’ brands have exited the arena.

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