I am spending this fine mid-October weekend among people who share my passions. Half of it will be spent with my fellow comic book fans at New York Comic-Con and half will be spent with my fellow perfumistas at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball. One thing both groups have in common is the willingness to spend for that which they believe to be unique and/or collectible. As I have observed this over the past few years I have begun to wonder if there is an upper limit to the price we can be asked to pay for our passion.
I rarely talk about price in my perfume reviews because I try to judge based on the quality alone. I leave it up to the reader and eventual consumer to judge whether it is “worth it”. I do talk about perfumes I think are a great “bang for the buck” and heck there is a whole category called Discount Diamonds on the sidebar to the right. There have been ultra-luxe lines exemplified by Amouage, Roja Parfums, and Clive Christian. Not to mention extrait versions from established houses like Guerlain. There are bottles of perfume in my collection which required me to pause for a moment before paying the price. I always justify it as the price for owning a piece of olfactory art. No matter how a buyer justifies paying the price the brands can still go too far.
What is beginning to concern me is that brands that previously didn’t charge high prices have started to do so. There have been numerous examples of brands in the last year charging significantly more for a new release. Some brands have charged up to four times their previous price. Sometimes I can understand the increase in price because of the choice of ingredients….and sometimes it is not so obvious. That is really where my concern lies if the much higher priced offering doesn’t differ significantly is the brand taking advantage?
Many of the brands I am talking about have spent years building a passionate base of perfumistas who await each new release. I don’t know what it must feel like to see myself, or another reviewer, wax rhapsodic about that new release only for the consumer to get sticker shock when choosing to buy it. Business principles say the market will only bear what the consumer is willing to pay. I wonder if that factors passion into that equation.
My final worry with this tactic is if the passionate supporters feel taken advantage of can this do damage to the brand as a whole? Once a consumer feels taken advantage of there is no easy way for a brand to re-capture that one time supporter. This could be a case of short-term gains at the expense of the long-term.
How much something is worth to someone is a very personal decision. Almost as personal as choosing which perfume brand commands your respect and loyalty. I don’t want to see either taken for granted in an attempt to increase the bottom line.