Sorcery of Scent occasionally receives emails or comments asking me to make personal recommendations for reliable online fragrance e-tailers. Whilst bricks-and-mortar stores can provide you with the opportunity to sample scents and enjoy the tactile aspect of holding the flacon and packaging in your hands, e-tailers offer accessibility to scents that might otherwise be impossible to source in your area. It is wise to embrace both online and offline methods to source your smellies and to ensure you're getting the best deal.
As far as e-tailers are concerned, there are two main options:
1. Online Discounters, and
2. Online Retailers
1. Online discounters provide a shopfront in which mainstream and (occasionally) niche perfumes can be purchased at a competitive price to the same products in bricks and mortar stores. There are often excellent deals to be had, but the only downside is that you never quite know how "fresh" their inventory is. A vast number of discounters offer testers, damaged stock and dead stock - perhaps items that have been difficult to shift in stores and have been stored for a number of years. Some of these online stores are hit and miss, so its important to find one that clearly disclose if they are selling testers, unboxed items and so on.
www.strawberrynet.com is an online discounter that ships internationally that I can recommend. I have shopped with them for many years, and their generous loyalty program can offer you attractive bonuses. They are just beginning to add niche lines to their range such as Creed, Floris, Nasomatto, Serge Lutens and so on. I have also had successful and reliable transactions with www.directcosmetics.com - a discounter operating out of the UK.
2. Online retailers include websites created specifically by individual perfume houses, and internet shopfronts that offer perfumes at "standard" retail (non discounted) prices. As a consumer, one might wonder why one would wish to shop at full retail price for goods that you might well find on a discounted website (and pay for postage to boot!)... well, the upside is that buying direct from manufacturer's websites can almost always guarantee the product is fresh and uncompromised, and you will more often than not have the opportunity to sample other scents from their line. Perfume houses often reward customer loyalty for buying direct with catalogues and samples and small gifts. Joining the Thierry Mugler Circle, for example ( http://www.thierrymugler.com ), will mean you will be sent generous samples of new releases, digital media items such as perfume-related CD roms, and comprehensive literature.
Other online shopfronts such as http://www.ausliebezumduft.de and http://www.essenza-nobile.de - both sites I strongly recommend for European perfumistas - cater to an international clientele, and build their business by offering a staggering range of niche and hard-to-find fragrances, and also offer generous free sampling programs. Some will also provide e-vouchers which will furnish the customer with 'cash' to put towards their purchases. http://www.luckyscent.com is another reputable e-tailer that ships internationally, and is based in the USA.
Whilst there are a vast number of e-tailers on the internet, it is always good practice to do your homework in order to determine whether a specific supplier is reliable and trustworthy. Customer feedback presented on "discounter" sites for example, is not always dependable as there is a slim chance it might well have been fabricated. A good resource available to cross check e-tailers and legitimate customer feedback can be found here. Basenotes is the leading internet perfume resource with over 35,000 members and 66,000 consumer reviews.
Ultimately, a little leg-work, combined with some hours spent on the internet should provide you with a sound idea of what is available to you both locally and in cyber-space. Armed with this information, I wish you many enlightened perfume purchases.
Footnote: At the time of publishing this blog, Sorcery of Scent has no affiliation with any of the e-tailers listed above.