Late last year while shopping with a friend we stopped at a department store so that she could get a refill of her Thierry Mugler Angel. She has been wearing it for years; I forgot to ask her how many refills she is up to but it would several by now, I would think.
It was quick process and relatively cheap of course because she is only paying for the juice, not the bottle. I came away wondering, not for the first time, why more perfumes are not made available as refills. I think I read recently about one of the Bond No 9 stores in New York offering refills of one or two of its perfumes, but it was only for a very limited time. On the whole the practice seems rare. (By refills I mean that you take in your empty bottle to be filled, not the sort where you buy a plain bottle and insert it into a fancy container which you already have.)
Naturally there is more money to be made per customer if she or he has to buy a new bottle every time. If the perfume is a flop the fragrance company will have wasted its money on the refill infrastructure. And then there is the problem of shops having to store big vats of perfume.
For most perfumistas it is maybe not an issue: rarely do I get around to draining a full bottle. But recently I was reminded of this whole business by seeing yet again the oft-quoted statistic that one bottle of Chanel No 5 sells every 30 seconds. That is huge. How many a year? I can’t be bothered with the maths. But the environmental impact of it, in terms of producing the raw materials and manufacturing, packaging and transporting the fragrance, must be enormous. I silently re-committed myself to purchasing samples, decants and vintage fragrances where possible. It’s my own little waste and carbon reduction scheme.
It seems unlikely that the fragrance industry cares one jot about any of this. However, in other areas of consumption there have been changes that would have seemed radical only a few years ago. Near where I live, a university (and elsewhere whole town) have reduced plastic waste by agreeing to cease the sale of bottled water in all their retail outlets. And in my city plastic shopping bags will be banned by the end of this year.
So if consumers agitate, could perfume refills become more common? Perhaps through a mail order system?
What do you think?