Mon, 12 Nov 2001

The Jakarta Post K. Basrie Jakarta

Perfume A matter of budget or trend?

Distributors of world-class brands cannot deny that sales within this business, just like others, are still low in Indonesia following the mid-1997 economic crisis, which seemingly has still affected lovers of fragrance when it comes to spending that little bit extra on perfume.

Contacted by The Jakarta Post separately, they admitted that orders were significantly down and more selective.

"It's a setback. Before the crisis, regular customers usually purchased all our, say 20, new lines, from our outlets. But now they're very thrifty and more focused, picking up only the light and long-lasting fragrances," said Timur Widayanti Suwito, trainer executive at PT Intercos Prima, sole distributor for Yves Saint Laurent and Escada fragrances.

Ating Osmala from PT Pulau Mahoni, in charge for Estee Lauder products explained: "For years, we stopped ordering (highly concentrated) perfumes because they were too expensive for the local market."

But traders are always traders. They know pretty well what to do and how to attract customers. Just visit their glittering outlets and you will find not only the broadly smiling sales promotion girls, but all the world's latest products on the shelves, with their distinct fragrances, flavor formulations and raw materials.

And perfume does dress people. Therefore world producers, with the help of the world's great "nose", never stop launching new products. Among the newest in the Indonesian market is Nu of Yves Saint Laurent for women.

As it was with the legendary Yves Saint Laurent scents, Rive Gauche, Opium and Yves Saint Laurent Paris, nu (from the word nude) tries to define another new Saint Laurent woman: mysterious, complex, and an enigmatic seductress.

With its strikingly unconventional bottle and packaging, the eau de perfume fragrance -- a formula of wood, spice, wild orchid and bergamot -- has a price tag of Rp 541,000 (30 milliliter) and Rp 693,000 (50 ml).

Other brands already on the shelves include BLV Pour Homme (Bvlgari), Coco Mademoiselle (Chanel), Classique C Dress (Jean- Paul Gaultier), Presence for Man (Montblanc), Pi for Men (Givenchy), Light Blue (Dolce & Gabbana) and Pour Homme (Escada).

Most of them come in eau de perfume (with concentrations of 10 percent to 20 percent) and eau de toilette (concentration from 4 percent to 8 percent) with prices ranging from Rp 250,000 to around Rp 1 million for 30 ml, 50 ml, or 100 ml bottles.

In comparison, a 7 ml bottle of perfume fragrance, also called the extract, with a concentration of between 18 percent and 30 percent, could already cost over Rp 1 million.

"Perfume fragrance is no longer popular in the market here as people, who are already stressed by the current situation, want something light, inexpensive but still long-lasting that could be used on different occasions and at any time," said Widayanti. "That's why many prefer eau de perfume or eau de toilette. And that's also the trend for 2002."

Other suppliers estimate that the popular aroma for next year will be fresh-floral for women and fresh-woody for men.

Like the brands, the fragrances already available here are also rich in scent, color and bottle design -- all of which are carefully formulated for different markets: from liberated men and women, sports-lovers, to teenagers and those seeking elegance.

Fragrances made from different species of flowers, plants and fruit, like water lilies, irises, roses, lilies of the valley, jasmine, cloves, pineapples, raspberries and peaches -- you name them -- and many others that you might never have been taught about in biology class, are available in many shopping centers and plazas here.

Each formula -- blended with alcohol and water -- has a different effect, such as cool, a sense of well-being, romantic, sensual, and a sense of warmth. That's what the manufacturers and distributors always claim.

But again, like traders, consumers have their own way to limit spending. Some go to street traders in Melawai and other street corners and pathways in Jakarta or other big cities to bargain for cheap scent that illegally uses world-famous brand names.

When asked, distributors of imported perfumes all agreed that traders of these abal-abal fragrances were not a big problem for their business.

"They are not our real competitors because we have our own customers, who do understand well the quality of the abal-abal perfumes even though they are packed in the same bottles as ours. It's a small thing," Widayanti said, referring to the fake products, whose prices are about 10 percent to 20 percent of those of the imported products.

"Our big problem and real competitors are the other imported products."

Others consumers with tight a budget share their collection with a partner.

"Due to a tight budget, my husband and I pick up perfumes that we can share together. It's not bisex perfume, but certain men's fragrances match my taste and mood. So, why not as long as the fragrances are original?" commented a female executive of a firm.

Noted Italian Fashion designer Giorgio Armani once said: "A perfume is nothing without skin, it is the encounter between the two that is magical."

And the other "magic" thing that still happens here is that any fragrance bearing a "Made in France" label still has prestige.

Beauty is not just about prestige or looking good. It's about feeling good as well, and feeling good about the fragrance you use.

The sense of smell is also very individual. Scent can change our mood and outlook, set us somewhere very different from where we are, awake us, move us, remind us of all that's alive.

In many cases, it can be a very personal journey where we have a golden opportunity to forget the rupiah's depreciation and our limited budget.