Scents and sense -- or perfumes for peanuts?

Having just read "Estée Lauder defends brands", a Financial Times article published today and composed by Jonathan Birchall and Francesco Guerrera in New York, the IPKat has been pondering over the purchasing patterns of the market for scents, cosmetics and so on. This is because it is a long while since he has read anything particularly positive about selective distribution agreements. The article reads, in relevant part,
"Europe's small city-centre perfumeries and luxury boutiques have gained an ally from across the Atlantic in their continuing efforts to prevent the top brands they sell being available at cut-price rates on the internet.

William Lauder, chairman of Estée Lauder, ... warned ... that changing European competition laws could turn the business of buying beauty and skin care brands into an experience akin to flying on EasyJet, the low-cost UK airline.

Estée Lauder, whose brands include Clinique, MAC and Aveda, currently benefits from a "selective distribution" exemption to European competition law that allows the company to sell exclusively to authorised retailers, including the small city centre shops that are part of the traditional fabric of retailing across western Europe.

But the European Commission is reviewing the selective exemption rights that it grants to leading luxury companies that allows them to restrict distribution to favoured retailers and to their own branded e-commerce websites.

Mr Lauder described small local retailers as having "a real familiarity about the local clientele" that is "one of the key, core fundamental social principles of so many cultures and societies in Europe".

Mr Lauder compared the potential impact of taking away the selective distribution exemption to the experience of flying on EasyJet. "You got on the plane, they throw you a bag of peanuts . . . that's a commoditised experience," he said.

... the Commission is not expected to contest the "selective distribution" principle when it puts new draft guidelines out for consultation next week.

However, there has been heavy lobbying over some of the details and Brussels-based advocates for the brand manufacturers say there is still concern that, if a luxury manufacturer does not have an authorised distribution channel in one of the European Union's member states, unauthorised distributors could move in.

They are also concerned that imprecise language in the proposals could encourage litigation - although they say the unpublished draft has improved".
The IPKat notes that, when faced with the opportunity to purchase expensive perfumes and cosmetics, a very large number of consumers excitedly jump at it. If nothing else, this suggests that there exists a market for expensive products sold cheaply and without the hassle or the embarrassment that some feel when purchasing the equivalent product following a face-to-face encounter with an upmarket assistant in a fancy shop. It's equally plain that there are some people who value the experience, the intimate personal touch, the advice and the ambience that a sweet-smelling retail outlet can provide.

The Kat wonders what his readership, comprised of rich lawyers, poor students (not to mention poor lawyers and rich students), scholars, cynics, brand owners, policy makers and other bloggers, makes of this issue. Accordingly he is organising a little sidebar survey (see the top left hand corner of the IPKat's home page) in the hope that he can learn about prevalent attitudes. The survey closes at one minute to midnight, British Rainy Summer Time. on Sunday 2 August.

Adds Merpel, I've flown on easyJet a few times and never got any peanuts thrown at me. Perhaps Mr Lauder got mine as well ...
Scents and sense -- or perfumes for peanuts? Scents and sense -- or perfumes for peanuts? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, July 23, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. I don't think any airline throws peanuts anymore - too much chance of being sued by someone with a nut allergy. Now it's usually mini-pretzels.

  2. Derek, there are a few. I was on a flight a few months back that handed out peanuts. But my thought was pretty much like yours, 'what about people allergic to peanuts?'

  3. easyJet might give peanuts away, but things could be worse. Some might like to launch an urban myth that Ryanair is introducing a charge per peanut for any passenger bringing his own unconsumed supply of Arachis hypogaea on board.

  4. No room for those who like to buy where they can try, preferably large chemists: don't fly much, don't care about chic and glamour!

  5. We need to know whether Tufty and Merpel EACH use scented or unscented kitty litter. Or maybe they share a box? (Don't mean to pry).

    This will help us to sniff out any possible evidence of bias in this very crucial consultation. My own kitty uses unscented because he is waiting for a real Dior enhanced, dust free, clumping, environmentally friendly brand made from recycled unread translations from Brussels and Luxembourg. In the meantime, better nothing than some cheap mass market scented litter made from inferior perfume - or worse still, eau de cologne.

    Please ask Tufy and Merpel whether they think that "eau de cologne" should be a GI and whether the EC has a position on this.

  6. Mr. Lauder espouses non scents.

  7. What a stinking analogy; there's a wealth of consumer choice in air travel, from cheap & un-cheerful to turning left options of traditional carriers.

  8. no checkbox for me in the voting. Similar to Derek I want to try adn buy in a "downscale" location, without glamour, unattacked by sales assistants.
    Won't use the internet though until "computer device for remote perfume test smelling" is patented..


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