You woke up, brushed your teeth and put on some clothes. You’re about to apply your favorite perfume and notice the bottle is almost empty. You say you’ll pick one on your way home.
You tried 3 different stores on your way home and came up empty. You’re searching the web but keep getting ‘unavailable’. It slowly starts to sink in. You’re realizing the 12-letter word every fragcomm member is scared of came to your doorstep.
Now you’re here trying to make sense of the world.
How is it possible that a perfume that smells that good is being discontinued? Am I the only one with a functioning nose in this world?
Here’s why fragrances are being discontinued, and why it may actually make sense.
In 2021, 3,790 perfumes have been released to the market (Zara being the leader with 115 perfumes) and another 1,531 perfumes have been released so far in 2022 (Again, Zara in the lead with 36 new releases).
You can now get a hint of why perfumes are being discontinued. There are just so many of them being released every year, naturally only the strong ones survive. Any perfume that doesn’t meet a certain amount of success, or can’t maintain success (gets outdated) is dropped.
But the question remains, why are the popular ones may ultimately suffer the same fate?
Simply put, the reason is most likely related to profitability, and sometimes regulation. Sure, there may be some occasions where there was a specific unknown case, but it mostly falls under these categories:
Demand isn’t high enough to justify production
Demand can drop for many reasons. Scents get outdated and people are chasing the new shiny object. Competition is harsh between the big brands, and even in different perfumes within the same brand. Economic factors can come into play when consumers opt for cheaper perfumes.
This is possibly the biggest reason for discontinuing fragrances.
Companies are here to make money. In order to do that, they usually buy ingredients & produce a fragrance in bulk.
When demand starts to drop, and the company can no longer sell high amounts of a specific perfume, it no longer makes sense to keep producing it.
If they’ll keep producing high amounts of it – it will not sell and they’ll be left with inventory which will result in a loss.
If they keep producing smaller amounts – they’ll pay more for ingredients (since buying ingredients in bulk will always be cheaper) and they will have to increase prices, which will likely lower demand even further, resulting again in a loss.
Natural ingredients prices can go up at times, or become unavailable altogether. Since natural ingredients are hard to replace for many reasons (as opposed to synthetic ingredients) it’s one of the main reasons for the discontinuation of perfumes.
Raw ingredients go up in price: it’s all about demand and supply. If an ingredient becomes scarce, it will become more expensive, sometimes to the level where it doesn’t make sense for the company to keep sourcing it without drastically increasing the retail price.
Raw ingredients become unavailable: for all kinds of reasons, some ingredients may simply become unavailable. Sourcing the exact same ingredient from a different place may increase prices, but it can also change the scent.
It sounds weird, but a natural ingredient sourced from location A may produce an entirely different result (end-scent) from location B. So even if the price makes sense, but they just can’t recreate the exact same smell, they may opt to discontinue the fragrance.
Regulatory updates (Ingredients)
Perfume companies go through regulations from time to time. For example, HICC, Atranol and Chloroatranol are 3 fragrance allergens that are found to be unsafe to use in cosmetic products.
In 2017, perfume companies were given 4 (!) years to remove those substances from their products. By 2021, the companies who were able to replace those substances and maintain the same scent were fine, but companies that weren’t, discontinued perfumes.
Another example is Ambergris. It’s a waxy substance coming from the stomach of a sperm whale. Being used as a stabilizer in luxury perfumes, it is a rare and valuable material. In the US, the use of Ambergris has been banned. In some places, however, it is still used if it doesn’t involve animal suffering.
Regulatory updates (Trade)
Just like any other industry, perfumes could be affected by the consequences of trade regulations. Whether it’s trading between countries, a new rule or tax imposed, it could have an effect on an entire line of products of a company (or just on specific items).
Other potential reasons
Sometimes the fragrance was a limited edition, you just didn’t know it. Not all perfumes come with a ‘Limited Edition’ sticker, so it may be confusing. Note that sometimes these ‘limited editions’ are available for years.
A brand can only have so much “space on the shelf”. If a brand introduces a new fragrance, it may choose to retire the least performing fragrance it has (by its standards) to make room for the new one.
If a fragrance is a best seller for brand A, it may be the current worst seller for brand B, even if the number of sales is the same. It’s all relative to each brand.
Perfumes that survived the test of time
Do you see yourself using the same mobile phone for 10, let alone 100 years? It’s mind blowing to realize that there are some perfumes that were released 100 years ago and are still available.
CK One by Calvin Klein was released in 1994, almost 3 decades ago. To this day it remains a very popular perfume that obviously survived the test of time.
Chanel No. 5 was released in 1921. That is more than 100 years ago and it’s the best selling perfume ever created. It was the first perfume of Coco Chanel, and when Marilyn Monroe was asked what she wears at night, she said “Five drops of Nº5”.
Chanel had to reformulate No. 5 due to the ban of Oakmoss in 2017. Many hardcore fans claimed the new formulation was an inferior one in terms of longevity and scent. Still, it remained a best-seller to this day.
Popular Discontinued Perfumes
This list goes on and on. As you probably know by now, perfumes are being discontinued every day. Here’s a list of some popular ones:
- YSL – Nu
- YSL – M7
- Versace – Versus Uomo
- Dior – Fahrenheit Absolute
- Dior – Miss Dior Cherie
- Davidoff – Davidoff
- Giorgio Armani – Idole d`Armani
- Gucci – Gucci Eau de Parfum
- Jo Malone – Ginger Biscuit
- Fendi – Fendi
- Rochas – Alchimie
- Guerlain – Shalimar Parfum Initial
- Bond No 9 – Andy Warhol
Hopefully, by now you can understand why perfumes are being dropped, despite being popular. I don’t expect you to feel any better, I certainly wasn’t when Midnight Poison by Dior was discontinued, but there’s nothing we can do about it, or is it?..
Any chance my perfume will be back?
We’ll be honest, it’s most likely lost, but there were some occasions when a discontinued perfume was brought back to life. Read more here.
So what do I do?
If your perfume was discontinued there are still options. In some cases it’ll still be easy to find, in others you’ll need an open mind or an open wallet: My perfume has been discontinued, what’s next?