Firstly, an enormous thank you to my expert guest blogger Lisa Wordbird. She teaches me so much and on my return I thoroughly enjoyed reading her blogs written during my absence. Equally, I was educated by the debate and comments her interesting articles stimulated. To everyone I learn from, and especially my dear, invaluable Wordbird friend, I am grateful.
On my recent trip to France, I had two ambitions: one was obviously to enjoy myself and watch my children make memories in the chilly Spring sun (thanks for having us Mum!), and two, was of course, to raid Sephora and Marionnaud with the last vestiges of my carefully hoarded birthday money, saved for this very purpose. It’s been six years since I last walked into a Sephora and two things struck me. Firstly- Why on earth don’t we do this in the UK? Those rafts of fragrance testers! Row upon row of gleaming, tempting bottles, with the kind of variety we are starved of in Blightly. Sephora is pure Heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in fragrance and it equals over-excitable joy to a hard core sniffer.
My second observation was the prices. My dears, I fainted out cold at the shock. They had to bring me round with a nasty blast of Ambre Sultan, for lack of smelling salts. I’ll give you an example: In my local Superdrug, you can buy a 30ml bottle of Cacharel Amor Amor for £14.99. In Sephora it was E37.50 for 30ml. Even with the current rate of the Euro against the pound, that works out at £31.81. Serge Lutens fragrances worked out very slightly cheaper at E84, or £71.26 for a 50ml bottle. Clarins Eau Dynamisante is £40.63 at Sephora (or E47.90), but just £24.65 (with free postage) on Cheap Smells.
I made a small purchase of a purse spray in the Sephora own brand range “Lagoon” and hoped that even a parsimonious purchase would reap me rewards in the samples stakes. With a smile and my best French, the lovely Paula either admired my linguistic efforts, or took pity on me. In any case, a few minutes after disappearing, she returned with two Serge Lutens samples (in cute little boxes) and a sachet of Dahlia Noir. Since my esteemed colleague Lisa Wordbird has already kindly reviewed Dahlia Noir L’Eau, I deem the two to be too similar to merit two separate reviews, so I will simply say it’s very similar to Dahlia Noir L’Eau, but has more resonance.
The Serge Lutens samples were La Fille de Berlin and Clair de Musc, more of which anon. I also visited the Parfumerie chain Marionnaud and was whacked over the head with a tester spray of Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsiuer. Surely this is Jicky by another name? I demanded of my non plussed husband, who was smelling of dreamy Habit Rouge by the time we left the shop, thanks to me. Mr IScent is so patient with me. No samples from Marionnaud since there was a distinct priciness in the air. Perfume obsessives must keep an eye on purse strings from time to time or temptation would lead us into being the best smelling homeless people in the world. A 50ml bottle of Cacharel LouLou was an eye watering E101 or £85, compared to £38.50 in Boots for an equivalent bottle, or even cheaper if you buy two 30ml bottles at £14.99 each in The Fragrance Shop.
Where French Parfumeries get it oh so right, is in the sheer variety, not only of brands, but of testers, widely available and on the shelf, ready to browse and be squirted. Increasingly in the UK, I am finding that testers need to requested over the counter and then of course, you get trapped in the sales spiel and are unable to complete your desired session of mindless capricious browsing. Sephora is a huge brand, owned by LMHV, and can be found on most typical French high streets. However, they have a full range of Serge Lutens and Guerlains, Givenchys, Hermes, Chanels, Diors, and all manner of lesser known brands, as well as the usual growing army of celebuscents. Equally sensible is the vast array of male fragrances too. Maintaining my husband’s interest in his side of the store induced me to stay longer, (and the end of that story would be to spend more).
I would love for Sephora to open its chains in the UK. Boots would be its biggest competitor, although they spread their nets wide and thin these days. Sephora is pure indulgence, selling nothing but beauty products and fragrance. If prices were more competitive, Sephora could revolutionise the smell of the UK High Street and maybe, just maybe, rid us of the fruity floral fog that we must live in until the trend for identikit scents passes us by.