6/4/15

The Curious Case of Claiborne Sport


No Longer A Bargain.

The other day I happened across my bottle of Claiborne Sport for Men, a super-cheapie that I purchased two or three years ago for a grand total of $13. I had seen this perfume often at discounters like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, and had always avoided it because it's a Claiborne product, and Claiborne products generally suck. Eventually I relented and dropped a few pennies on it, only to find it derivative, but relatively well made, and a pleasant scent.

On Monday, and just out of curiosity, I Googled this scent to see if it's still bargain basement-tagged. Turns out, it's not. No, Claiborne Sport is now on sale for up to $80 a bottle. That's right, eighty dollars a bottle. That's a 515% price increase.

Now, I have to ask myself, in all seriousness: What the fuck?

This is clearly a case where I have the direct experience of purchasing an already-cheap fragrance at an even steeper bargain, only to find, in an aspirational sense, that its value has skyrocketed in the merest span of twenty four months. Theoretically, I could take my 70% full bottle and sell it on eBay for at least a two hundred percent price increase. Ebay is claiming that its "Top Rated Seller" of Claiborne Sport sold forty-five bottles for sixty dollars apiece, a 361% price increase. Of course, assuming his sales picked up in the summer of 2013, which is around the time I noticed this scent had become scarce, that's still only about two bottles per month being sold, or $120 worth of merchandise.

Are they selling to Claiborne Sport fans? How likely is that?

Not likely. Let's consider why.

Serious fans of Claiborne Sport, people who genuinely love the perfume enough to frequently wear it, would have taken advantage of its dirt-cheap price during the five or six years that it was on sale for five bucks an ounce, and stocked up on it. At least two or three extra bottles would have been purchased. I do that with the fragrances I'm a fan of. I've read accounts by other people who do the same. A 3.4 oz bottle of Sport for $13 at Marshalls? Hard to buy just one. And you know, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, they throw a half dozen bottles of the same fragrance on their shelves at any given time.

So if you've got a handful of bottles from when Sport was still available at those prices, why would you spend four times as much for one more bottle now? I thought the point of buying a cheap fragrance was that you could buy enough to avoid worrying when supplies ran low.

But that's just basic common sense. Let's think about "supply and demand." Is the supply of Sport so limited, and the demand so high, that people are willing to shell out up to $80 for a bottle? Where does that number come from? Even $60 is ridiculous.

Another merchant selling bottles on eBay for $40 has supposedly moved thirty units so far, fifteen fewer than his competition, because he's not a "Top Rated Seller." But even $40 is too much for Claiborne Sport. It's a decent frag, but for twenty or twenty-five dollars, tops. If you like Sport THAT much, you're better off buying Curve, or maybe CK's Eternity for Men. Even Cuba Paris Grey, which is still in production and of equal quality, is a more than worthy substitute. CP Grey is arguably even a bit better than Sport, because it's a softer, fresher, "sportier" blend, and the Perfume Palace here in Waterbury gave me a one ounce bottle for free with my purchase. That's zero dollars spent, and a whole bottle at my disposal. Should I ask sixty dollars for CP Grey when that one goes extinct?

If the demand is so high, why was Sport only worth four dollars an ounce in 2013? Marshalls could have easily gotten sixty dollars for it, if people wanted it that badly. The lizard of logic eats away at its own tail.

Then there's the basic question: Where's all the internet chatter about Claiborne Sport? If this fragrance is sought after by ardent fragrance "aficionados," wouldn't there be lengthy conversations about it on Basenotes and Fragrantica? Alas, there's nary a single word about it. The last Fragrantica review was written in August of last year; the last Basenotes review was penned in September of 2013.

A last-ditch argument is that people who are unfamiliar with Sport are springing for it now, because it's discontinued. It's simply being perceived as "rare" and "collectible." If you're familiar with Sport, you know that it's neither. If you're unfamiliar with it, and spending sixty dollars on a bottle, chances are you're a complete idiot.

I can only conclude that this is a classic case of fantasy pricing in a fantasy marketplace. Whoever is buying Claiborne Sport at a 361% mark-up in 2015 is either
A) Looking to commercially resell for even more money, or
B) A complete idiot, or
C) Both A & B.
Most of the eighty dollar bottles will never sell. They'll remain up on eBay as automatically renewed ads, long after the merchants have forgotten they even tried to sell them. The illusion of value lives. Meanwhile, I still have my bottle, and it's worth about four dollars an ounce to me today, just like it was when I bought it.

Update, 9/5/15:

Another curious thing has happened with this particular fragrance, on eBay at least - prices have come down again.

I've talked about this on Fragrantica in a thread posted within the last few days, saying the following:

"These things happen frequently. A couple of months ago, Claiborne Sport was going for no less than forty dollars per 3.4 oz bottle. Most were going for $50 to $80 per bottle. This was in June, on eBay. Also on Amazon, where there were only two or three listings for Sport, all at outrageous prices.
Then, sometime over the summer, the prices suddenly dropped again. Suddenly it's back to its usual $17 per bottle. My theory on this is simple. Sport was discontinued a while ago. It was never a big seller, and most people didn't really know about it. Those who did might have purchased a bottle once or twice, but its numbers weren't good. This kept prices low. Really low.
Then, after its discontinuation, independent sellers decided to get greedy. Up shot the prices. Close to niche level, but more on par with high-end designer, at twenty-five dollars an ounce.
And nobody was buying it. Disregard all the supposed 'sold' listings. eBay is loaded with scammers who manipulate their sales stats. There are also plenty of aspirational price-gougers who buy from each other, then relist the merchandise at even higher prices.
This is what happened for a few weeks with Sport.
Then it occurred to them - nobody else was buying the scent at these prices. Literally nobody.
So down came the prices. And surprise, surprise, the sales are moderate, and the scent still isn't that popular."

I stand by this theory, and also can state with total confidence that this Claiborne Sport phenomenon is proof of what I've been saying all along: they'll try to get away with price gouging if they can, but only until they realize they're just fooling themselves. Eventually, when absolutely nobody pays what they're asking, they're forced to reduce prices back to their correct level, and hope people haven't written off the fragrance entirely. In this case, I think it all happened within a relatively short period of time (no more than three or four months), so people may not have even noticed. With more expensive frags, like Gucci Nobile, for example, people will occasionally bite and sucker up big money, but just enough to keep the fantasy alive in the heads of greedy sellers.



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