Saturday Question: What Constitutes Niche?




Hello Fellow Fumies,

At APJ we have a Saturday Question. Everyone gets to chime in with an answer, chat with other responders and it’s a fun event each week. Taking sides never means taking offence and everyone keeps it respectful and light, even though we can sometimes trawl the depths.

The idea is you’ll see it on the weekend or chime in through the week. Hopefully you will come back regularly and see if anyone has responded to your comment and you can reply to them. The aim is to generate real conversation and connection even though we are scattered around the globe.


Over 100 responses I will draw a Secret Scent Sample Pack (from my collection)

Last Weeks Winner: MMKinPA

eMail me at (portia underscore turbo at yahoo dot com dot au) with your address please

Saturday Question: What Constitutes Niche?

This question has me pretty much baffled in 2019. Niche as an adjective means “pertaining to or intended for a market niche; having specific appeal.” So my idea of niche was that it was made for a limited market, would only appeal to the very few and would be made in smaller quantities. There are bunches of new words added to a perfumistas vocabulary since the term niche was coined for perfume. Many are splinter adjectives used as nouns. Prestige, Mass-tige, Artisanal, Indie, Small Batch, are just a few. Plus, a whole bunch of the nichest crews then sold on to the multinationals who kept their packaging, dumbed down the ingredients and make squillions.

Everyone will have a different take on this. No problem. We aren’t looking for a definitive answer here. I’d like all of your input so I can formulate my own credo. So no snapping at people whose world view might be a lot different to yours. Your opinion is just that, an opinion. Let’s buoy each other up, not tear down eh? Discussion is welcomed, blocking, dismissing and mocking are not.

My Saturday Question to you is:

What Constitutes Niche?

34 thoughts on “Saturday Question: What Constitutes Niche?

  1. Honestly, I don’t know anymore. I have read other commenters say that niche is dead because of all that you have mentioned.
    I tend to prefer supporting very very small companies of a one woman/ man show that make small batches of interesting scents and don’t make millions of dollars a year. Maybe that’s my vision of niche.


  2. So excited to win – thanks!! I agree, it’s harder to know when formerly niche brands are bought by the big companies, and “designer” brands are putting out higher priced lines, aiming for the niche market. It’s hard to trust that “niche”, higher priced perfumes even have the supposed higher quality ingredients any more. Since my budget is limited, I’m mostly looking to independent/artisan brands for something new these days. I sample a lot, and some of the “niche” brands that I see splashed all over Instagram are just not interesting to me, which makes me wonder if some of the mad love is self-justification of the high prices paid? Obviously we all have different taste, and I freely admit that the whole oud trend of the last few years left me cold, so there’s that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey MMKinPA,
      So glad your name came out this week. YAY!
      Oh yes, a lot of the so called niche companies are greedy and lazy. The product is not so good and they are charging like wounded bulls.
      I think many of the artisanal peeps are pushing the perfume boundaries harder and further than niche has in years.
      BUMMER you don’t like oudh, it’s become ubiquitous.
      Portia xx


  3. I find it hard to point out what’s niche and what’s a lifestyle brand with limited distribution. And companies like Atelier Cologne and Acqua de Parma? Some of what they release have a niche vibe, other scents are clearly meant to reach a wider market segment.

    Niche vs. indie is also interesting, and not clear to me, seems there’s more small perfume businesses in the US than in Europe and their products are hard to come by here.


    • Hey Ingeborg,
      I see Atelier Cologne and Acqua de Parma as sitting in the same category as Serge Lutens and Amouage, Mass-tige. Creativity for the masses at higher price points to add glamour.
      USA is indie land, so many wonderful small batch companies. Have you checked out The American Perfumer? They have an extraordinary range.
      Portia xx


  4. I am not so sure anymore. Niche, indie and any other names given to small brands used to attract me before for their unusual and very limited creations. These days many of those small brands are releasing many scent in a year at huge prices and most of those scents are not so interesting and exciting anymore. Very few are really breathtaking lately. Mainstream brands are even having better offers recently. I wonder if at some point those “niche”, “indie”, etc, will join or become the future “mainstream” market. That’s the way I feel about it.


  5. This is reminding me of the use of the word “vintage”, which seems to boil down to what the speaker feels like calling something, genuinely older or not. I’d add the categories Formerly Niche, Faux Niche, and Unclear on the Concept of Niche.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m 2019 niche appears to be more of price point label that an indication of who the brand’s target market is. Sadly it seems the niche label is now used to simply justify higher prices. ‘Niche’ brands are even releasing flankers and other gimmicks to appeal to a mainstream audience.

    My take on each label:

    Designer: cheap, appealing to a large target market
    Niche: expensive, appealing to varying target markets
    Independent: appealing to a small target market


  7. Niche, to me, implies a product or service that is geared toward a small segment of the population. It’s not something that is wanted or sought out by the vast majority of people. Rather, it is geared to speak to consumers who have an unusual or specialized interest in a particular area.
    I don’t think that it inherently implies quality or value. Somebody that has a keen interest in cooking or bicycling might be interested in all sorts of gadgets that enhance the enjoyment or experience of their hobby that the less keenly invested person would probably ignore. They do not necessarily have to be expensive either. However, very often, an item of better quality does tend to cost more.
    Using this logic when applied to perfume, niche should describe a fragrance that is designed to appeal to consumers that have a greater interest and a more experienced appreciation of perfumery than the casual, occasional spritzer would have. I think using the term niche to describe a perfume is now being used incorrectly. More often than not, it seems to justify putting an extraordinary price tag on scents that are neither enjoyable to the affirmed hobbyist nor the casual user. I have no clue what it should be called, but the description should imply originality and high quality at the least. Obviously there are loads of perfumes out there labelled as ‘niche’ that fail to deliver on both those counts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My earlier understanding was that “niche” houses were those that sold perfume and nothing else, as opposed to designer fragrances. But that leads to a brand like Guerlain, available in almost every retail outlet, being called “niche” which is clearly wrong.

    In think it is akin to craft beer. Niche perfumeries design a series of new fragrances and release them in relatively small volumes. They may have a concept (Imaginary Authors) or a marketing approach (Smell Bent) or an ingredient (Escentric Molecules) that they specialise in, and they release variations on those themes. Often they will go into overdrive and overdo the releases (Montale) to the point where they become mass-market and cease to be considered “niche”. Sometimes a niche perfumer will be bought out by a big company (Atelier) and become a mass-market fragrance house, just as Little Creatures ceased to be a genuine craft beer firm when bought out by Lion.

    There’s nothing much wrong with that, by the way. Niche perfumeries (and craft breweries) are like the start-ups of the tech world; they exist to get new ideas, products and techniques introduced and adopted by consumers. Sometimes they will take off and get a big payday, and why should we begrudge these hard-working people that? Hopefully they will then take their entrepreneurial skills and apply them to another niche venture to give us something new to admire.


  9. I think you nailed the definition of niche. Niche is pretty much a product aimed at a limited market. The targeted market may be limited by one or more characteristics such as limited production, limited distribution, and/or aspirational price. I think it is also important to note that the same brand may pursue both mass market and niche markets. Tom Ford’s mainstream line consists of Black Orchid, Grey Vetiver etc. and niche is Private Blend line.

    Some people think niche tends to smell quality and unique. I don’t think the smell or quality has a strong correlation with marketing strategy (mainstream or niche release). In fact, I think the batting average of mainstream releases exceeds the batting average of niche over time. I take it as an insult when someone thinks he is praising a mainstream fragrance by calling it niche-quality… what the heck does it even mean to be “niche quality”. Are you implying mainstream releases tend to be of lower quality than niche??? when the history clearly indicates that the best fragrances in history have almost been all mainstream releases. Is there a niche fragrance that can even dream to surpass, let’s say, Opium, Eau Sauvage, Dior Homme, Feminite du Bois, and Shalimar etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    • As some point out, some niche brands do go for wider distribution. However, despite wider distribution they may still be able to retain the characteristics of niche. For instance. Tom Ford Private Blend Line was truly niche when it was released due to limited availability. Now it is in much wider distribution. However, it still remains niche because the prices are so high that only a small segment of the population can afford it. So it does not really matter if it is more widely distributed because wider distribution does not make it more affordable for more people. If anything, Private Line has become even less affordable over time. It is like opening more dealerships of Ferraris all over America. However, Ferrari will still be a niche car company because having more showrooms will not increase the number of Americans who can afford Ferrari and are likely to buy and drive it. So you can use a number of strategies to market your niche product such as limited distribution, limited production and/or aspirational price. However, the end outcome is pretty much same. The number of people owning/using a niche product is far below than the number of people owning/using a mass market product.


      • However, the end outcome is pretty much same. The number of people owning/using a niche product is far below than the number of people owning/using a mass market product. How:
        1. Limited production: limited supply so only the demand of few buyers can be met, resulting in few people owning the product.
        2. Limited distribution: product is accessible to few people only, resulting in few people owning the product. All of you must have read about people living in small towns and cities as to how their local mall does not have certain brands so they cannot test it/buy it.
        3. Aspirational price: Make it so expensive that only few people can afford it so the end result is few people owning the product.

        The end objective of niche is thus ownership of product by limited number of customers so as to maintain some aura of exclusivity/scarcity around the product/service.


  10. I have very much enjoyed everyone’s responses and perspectives, so much to learn and consider here. I honestly don’t have a good definition of niche, other than to me it described a targeted market, artistic freedom, and limited production. I didn’t ever relate niche to expensive necessarily, as there are perfumers who I thought to be in the niche category (DSH and Jeffrey Dame for example) that are independent and make incredible fragrance and not mass produced, for very fair price considering the quality.


  11. I’m late to the party and don’t feel that I have any more to bring to the table. Lots of different perspectives and good points that I hadn’t even considered.


  12. I think that if a brand is available at department stores everywhere, then there is sufficient mass market appeal to disqualify that particular brand as “niche”.


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