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Refillable perfumes: new luxury & responsible gesture?

It has been about twenty years since Angel perfumes by Thierry Mugler have been refillable at perfume fountains in points of sale all around the world. After two decades of relative indifference from the other brands, new initiatives are finally coming. The big names of perfumery perceive in this solution the opportunity to associate an environmental strategy with the luxury codes. Manufacturers’ innovation strengths and consumers’ maturity seem to do the rest.

Mugler, and now Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Viktor&Rolf, By Kilian… several big names of the luxury world have been taking over the concept of “parfum ressourçable” (refillable perfume) to provide the product with an additional value and revive the bottle aura. Loïc Bouet, Customer Service Manager of Techniplast, the French plastic part specialist that created several refill solutions, confirms this trend. “We work a lot with many luxury brands, like those belonging to the LVMH and L’Oréal groups – they are very interested in our systems. All luxury brands can feel the growing demand for reducing the environmental impact on all levels. There is work done upstream on the manufacturing chain, but also downstream, on the level of the final user, by making it possible to no longer throw away their bottles,” he says.

New technical solutions

Just like the food industry, the perfume and cosmetics market has been studying refill solutions from the eco-design standpoint. In addition, alcohol-based perfumes, which are hardly concerned by bacterial contamination issues, are actually suitable for several consecutive refills. However, ressourçage mainly involves refilling the bottle by unscrewing the pump, and the problem is that most products are packed with a pump fastened on the bottle neck. Once closed, you cannot reopen the bottle and refill it. That is why manufacturers have been working on new solutions.

Distribution systems specialist Aptar Beauty+Home has noticed a return to more flexible solutions. “Systematically or almost, major brands ask us to create a version of their range with pumps that can be disassembled. The idea is either to make the bottle refillable, or to be able to separate the pump from the bottle, so that the product can be appropriately recycled. We have been working on new topics,” explains Patrick Bousquel, Director Market Development of Aptar Beauty+Home.

Other than their RT Lift, RT Twist, and spout tip systems to refill perfume bottles fitted with screw necks, Techniplast also developed a unique, patented technology called RT Plug to deal with the problem of set pumps and make it possible to fill in all types of bottles, even those with a pump that cannot be unscrewed. The idea is to place the bottle to be refilled upside down on the source, so that the pump is in the open position. A small engine controlled by an electronic card increases the pressure in the refill bottle positioned below 0.5 bar. This pressure helps transfer the perfume through a tube network from the refill to the customer bottle.

A “different” luxury

The concept seduced the Louis Vuitton development team, as they selected it for their fragrance line launched in 2016. “It is part of the Vuitton high-end product philosophy. The product is not thrown away, it is kept because it is a Vuitton product. We have provided a solution to be able to keep this beautiful object, which can be personalized and carved to revive its importance,” adds Loïc Bouet.

Although it is still rare, the perfume source concept does have several advantages, including that of restoring the value of the bottle, which reflects the luxury of the product, and which most consumers are reluctant to throw away.

We are definitely in line with the luxury codes. When you throw something away, you pollute, and there is nothing elegant about that, which is all the more true for perfumes. The ressourçable bottle is an opportunity to revive the object’s magnitude. At Pochet, we deeply believe in this, so we have been working on the notion of a ‘different luxury’,” confirms Isabelle Lallemant, International Marketing & Innovation Director of the glassmaking group.

Gildas Bonnel, President of the Sidièse agency specialized in responsible communication and consulting for Guerlain, also emphasizes the importance of the customer relationship built up with this strategy. “Luxury codes are much more interesting in the sales rituals than in the overabundance of the material. Guerlain offer their customers to appropriate and personalize this very beautiful Abeille bottle, which is part of the brand’s history, and then refill it at the store perfume fountain. It is all about the customer’s huge interest in living a new experience. There is something much more exclusive and personalized about it, which corresponds to luxury codes,” he explains.

Whatever the method, a fountain or a refill fitted with a spout tip, the solution consisting in refilling bottles in perfume stores also significantly impacts the niche perfumery market popular for its alternative market approach.

Brands have an opportunity to invent a different luxury world, refresh its codes and communication, and find new concepts to differentiate themselves,” concludes Patrick Bousquel.

Kristel Milet

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