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How To Present Your Home Made Perfume In A Package That Will Boost Sales Dramatically

Step # 3 in a series of 5 articles

Francois Coty's "breakthrough" perfume order is said to have been 12 bottles of La Rose Jacqueminot. As business picked up, Coty's wife, it is said, decorated the bottles with ribbons and sewed pouches for them. Crude by today's standards, yet it was the beginning of an amazing business empire built on the power of perfume.

Today when Estee Lauder, or Elizabeth Arden, or L'Oreal, or Inter Perfumes or Parlux — or Coty — launches a new fragrance, the design of the packaging alone costs tens of thousands of dollars. The upfront costs are based on anticipated sales of many hundreds of thousands of bottles. If the marketer recoups all of its startup costs in the first year the fragrance is on the market, the fragrance is considered a success. If even a small profit is recognized, the fragrance is considered a great success!

Packaging obstacles for the independent perfumer

But what about the home or independent perfumer? He or she is in very much the same position Coty was in when selling his first bottles of la Rose Jacqueminot. You don't have the money to spend to buy a custom bottle and packaging when you are only producing a handful of bottles. You, like Coty, start out with a stock, off-the-shelf bottle from a company willing to sell bottles in small quantities. Then you decorate it as best you are able.

So how, as a small perfumer, do you approach bottling and packaging design? The first step is to look to your business plan. What are your projected sales? What is your budget? These factors give you answers to two questions: (1) how many bottles am I going to produce, and (2) how much money can I afford to put into each bottle?

Knowing how many bottles you expect to produce puts you in the ball park for calculating any quantity discounts you can expect to get — or not get — when purchasing your bottles, caps, pumps, labels, and any other materials.

Knowing how much money you can spend to produce each bottle is largely a factor of your anticipated retail and wholesale prices for your fragrance, always leaving yourself a fall-back margin in case your fragrance can't fetch the price you hope to get for it.

When all of your planning is done, you'll discover what experienced people could have told you in the first place — you have to get very, very creative to make your product look classy, with the very little money you have to spend.

If goes without saying that you, the independent perfumer, must watch every penny you spend. The first issue is the bottle and closure. What size bottle do you want? Two ounce ... one ounce ... 1/4 ounce? What is available and affordable in the size you want?

And what closures are available that will fit it? Did you want a fine mist spray pump? The number of sizes available are highly limited when you are buying in small quantities. Does the bottle that you want have the right neck size for the spray pump? Or will you forget about spray pumps and opt for sprinkler neck bottles with a cap?

But caps are a problem. With a few exceptions, vendors will not break a carton — and a carton may hold 5,000 caps or more. Can you find the style you want in a size that will fit the bottle you want?

This is not a problem for the marketer producing several hundred thousands bottles. Bottles can be custom made; pumps can be found to fit. But for the independent perfumer available selections are highly limited, not currently stylish, and clearly no relation to the trendiest bottles on the market. But that's all you'll be able to find that's available and affordable.

So bottle design is a limited issue for the independent perfumer. Once the parameters are laid out — bottle size, closure type and quantity needed — stock bottles available may be as few as half a dozen. None will look brilliantly creative or original. But beautiful packaging helps sell a fragrance. So what do you do?

Packaging opportunities for the independent perfumer

Deprived of the opportunity to design your own fancy bottle, your challenge is to design a beautiful package around your rather ordinary bottle. "Beautiful" can be simple or ornate. Your goal will be to demonstrate your good taste to those who you hope will buy your fragrance. The "look" you develop must suit the image you want to project for your perfume.

Thanks to the inexpensive ink jet printer and pressure sensitive, adhesive backed papers, labels offer an invitation to creativity. Any design that can be created with desktop publishing software can (within limits) be reproduced on paper using an inexpensive ink jet paper — and specialty adhesive-backed papers designed for such printers. Scissors, an X-Acto knife, or a paper cutter allow you to create the label in whatever dimensions are appropriate for your bottle.


Boxes present a problem as stock, off-the-shelf boxes are often difficult to find in sizes that fit your bottles and, no matter how nicely you decorate a "standard size" box, it is not likely to be mistaken for a more sophisticated custom box designed for the exact dimensions of your perfume bottle.

Even so, it is well worth the effort to explore what boxes are available in sized that approximate the size of your bottles on the chance that you might find a box that, with some creative input, can be made to work perfectly for your fragrance.

Plain boxes themselves can be decorated. Labels can be created for boxes (again with that ink jet printer!), ribbons can be tied around them, bows can be attached to them, cotton or various decorative fillings can be used to take up excess space within.

Sources of packaging ideas

Where does the small perfumery get packaging ideas? Where do they find graphic artists who can provide innovative but affordable packaging design? Artists can sometimes be found under your nose, in your own community. How did Francois Coty "discover" Rene Lalique? Lalique's workshop and jewelry boutique happened to be located next door to Coty's perfume boutique. Lalique, at that time, had never designed perfume bottles or packaging. Coty convinced him to give is a try. The result? Lalique went on to design fabulous perfume bottles and labels for Coty and, later, for other perfumers. And, when Coty opened his shop at 714 Fifth Avenue in New York City, Lalique designed the facade and interior. Look around the "art world" in your own neighborhood and see what talent you might uncover.

Of course it helps to have some ideas of your own, before you approach an artist to work for you. I find craft shows and gift shops to be great sources of ideas. I look in particular for individuals and "home" type businesses that sell soap (there are quite a few of them!) for their creative challenge is much the same as that of the small perfumery. They can't spend a lot of money on packaging but, when nicely presented, their soap is far more likely to sell well and fetch a higher price.


In summary, packaging is extremely important to the seller of perfume. Yet because an independent perfume maker cannot afford the packaging costs associated with perfumes sold by the giants of perfume marketing, packaging success lies in the ability to make innovative, creative use of materials — and artists — that are available and affordable.

Anyone who is making and selling their own perfume should learn to constantly keep their eye out for packaging ideas — and for talented artists who, given the challenge, might prove to be wonderful designers of attractive packaging.

By Philip Goutell, available at Amazon:

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Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.