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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour - Sniffing Out Stocks For The Big Sniff Off

On Monday I reported on the remarkable news broken by the News of The World that discount chain Lidl's latest £3.99 perfume, Suddenly Madame Glamour, was preferred by 150 women in a blind test to Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle, which costs 15 times as much. Since then, I have spent quite a bit of time on the phone to several helpful people at Lidl Customer Services in a bid to track down the new scent in a store near me. Stocks arrived in Cannock yesterday, some twelve miles away, but the Stafford branch of Lidl had none in its delivery this morning, and I was advised to call again on Saturday to see what had turned up in the next shipment.

But that's the problem, you see - the stores don't seem to know what is going to come in the next drop: it might be perfume, it might be salami, and it might equally well be a rotary clothes line, a motorcyle helmet or flippers. Now you'd think there must be some kind of a method in this merchandise madness, for how else could an individual store replenish its stocks of milk, say? It seems unlikely on the face of it that the deliveries of all categories of goods could be totally arbitrary, as opposed to just the discretionary items like all the above...and, er...perfume?

Given the vagaries of the Lidl distribution system, and the fact that I was afraid I might be racking up a phone bill to the 0870 number of Lidl's Customer Services that far exceeded the cost of Madame Glamour itself, I decided tonight to seize the initiative and drive to Cannock. My main contact at Lidl had tried valiantly to speak to the manager on my behalf to confirm that there were still stocks left, but had not been able to get through by the end of his shift, so it was a calculated risk to go that far on spec.

Well, as it happens I nearly didn't make it, for my satnav had one of its funny turns and kept taking me to Church Street, Bridgtown (an outlying district), instead of Church Street in Cannock proper. So in the end I just switched the darn thing off and started asking passers by, particularly anyone carrying shopping bags. A mere three people later (the photocopying quest in Poland was excellent training!), I turned into the car park of Lidl, seven minutes before closing time.

Imagine my disappointment to find the perfume fixture all but bare!: just three lone bottles of Suddenly Fleurs were left standing, looking a little lost on their own in the large cardboard tray. Instinctively I knew there was no point asking the staff if they had "some more out back". As with T K Maxx, I always assume with discount stores that what you see on the shelf is all there is.

So with a heavy heart I started to head out, but something made me ask the check out assistant if they had in fact sold the entire stocks from yesterday's delivery. "No", she replied brightly, "it's here by the till - it's new, you see.". Hallelujah! There were about 10 bottles left, so I picked one up, resisting the allure of Suddenly Madame Glamour's glamorous shelfmates of fruit juice, raisin and chewing gum multipacks, and handed over a fiver. Pocketing my change, I thanked the assistant profusely, a broad grin on my face from yet another tricky mission accomplished...

Back home, Mr Bonkers was standing by to officiate over our very own blind test, albeit one comprising a not terribly representative sample of one, namely me. First of all I put ear plugs in, in case I might be swayed by the sound of differential sloshing noises (the small vial of Coco Mademoiselle vs the 50 ml bottle of Suddenly Madame Glamour). Then I offered up my inner arms to Mr Bonkers (the prime wrist sites having been taken earlier that day by Opium Fleur de Shanghai), and squeezed my eyes tight shut. Mr B did his best to spray jets of scent of comparable force from a similar distance, so that the only thing I had to go on was the respective smells of the two perfumes on my skin.

As the first spritz hit my arm, it wafted up to my nose and I thought: "That's Coco Mademoiselle, I recognise that!", but once the second one was applied, I was not so sure any more, as they were remarkably similar. The second one seemed stronger, with more of a patchouli note to it, so I decided that it was probably the Coco Mademoiselle after all. I actually preferred the first scent, because it was softer, like an EDT version of the Coco, near as dammit. And yes, I sensed that there might also be "less going on with it", but to be honest, my perfume deconstruction skills are so remedial that I couldn't really tell you what I thought WAS going on with the scent I now believed to be Coco Mademoiselle.

After several solemn challenges by Mr Bonkers of the "Is that your final answer?" variety, I settled on my verdict and he confirmed that I had correctly told the two scents apart. I asked him if he would like to smell them now and see which he preferred, to which he replied: "I can smell them both from miles away - just take yourself away, will you?" So no advance on our sample of one, then...

On a whim I doorstepped my next door neighbour, who just happened to be wearing Coco Mademoiselle herself today!! I told her that I was wearing it on one arm and the new Lidl scent on the other, and challenged her to figure out which was which. She smelt my arm with the Coco on and pronounced it quite clearly to be "NOT Coco", and was unable to detect any perfume whatsoever on my other arm! Granted, Suddenly Madame Glamour is quite a light scent for an EDP, but I could still smell it myself. And how interesting that she didn't clock the Coco Mademoiselle on me, whilst wearing it herself. It just goes to show how bamboozling this blind testing lark can be, even with odds of 1 in 2.

Now here's the rub...as the evening wore on, I warmed to the Coco Mademoiselle sample on my left arm: it seemed to have more body and complexity, but for reasons that I could not put my finger on. Pressing into service a medical term typically applied to urinary tract infections, I now believed the Coco sample was slightly superior for "non-specific" reasons that were something to do with its "modern chypre" base.

But I am wary of this shift in my appreciation of the two scents, for I feel that the truest response was the one I gave when deprived of other sensory stimuli like price, brand name and pack design. And while we are on the subject of packaging, I must say that compared with the cut out, "cut on the bias" box Suddenly D'Or comes in, Suddenly Madame Glamour looks more upmarket, though the bottle itself is identical to Suddenly D'Or, bar the opaque cap.

So in summary, to be perfectly fair, you should count me in with the 91% of women in the blind test, because I did genuinely prefer Madame Glamour blind. It is the quieter of the two, and as regular readers know, I am a sucker for quiet. And what I also learnt is that to my nose it is not so much that Suddenly Madame Glamour smells all that expensive (though a darn sight more expensive than £3.99, I will say unequivocally), but rather that Coco Mademoiselle doesn't either...


Photo of miscellaneous Lidl products from infotradegallery.com, photo of Lidl logo from lichfieldlive.co.uk, photo of Coco Mademoiselle sample from cgi.ebay.uk, other photos my own

38 comments:

  1. Maybe you'll feel better about your sniffing skills if you know that I couldn't even figure out what perfume I wore yesterday when I smelled the sweater this morning-and I didn't do it blindly!

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  2. I think your conclusion is completely valid, but I am completely biased because I've never thought Coco Mademoiselle smelt as luxurious as other Chanels. And who needs luxury all the time anyway, right? ;) (especially when an approximation can be had for 4 pounds?)

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  3. I am so glad your curiosity was finally assuaged. and quite a journey it was... :)
    I absolutely agree with your last sentence: Madame Glamour ma be as good or bad as it might, the point is the Chanel is NOT good. It is not worth its price tag, and that is the sad conclusion from your highly scientific study. I am sure I won't like the Lidl scent, not because it is bad in itself, but because I cannot stand Coco Mademoiselle either. But I sure as hell am going to try in on Saturday, since our Lidl even has a tester! :)

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  4. I'm glad to see you got your bottle to test it side by side. :)
    I'll probably have mine this weekend and I'm very much looking forward to trying it. I do like Coco M but I can't really wear it much because I find it very strong and would prefer a lighter touch so Lidl's Madame Glamour might be the ticket. (and for such a silly amount of money...)

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  5. Hi Cymbaline,

    I do indeed feel greatly reassured. That sounds like a case of remedial nasal prowess overlaid by a senior moment. That is me down to a "T"!

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  6. Hi anotherperfumeblog,

    I had never given Coco Mademoiselle much thought till this launch, but now you mention it it probably does smell more mid-market in the first place, notwithstanding the very aspirational and "luxe" ads featuring Keira.

    A theory also came to me in the night that the opening of the Coco is slightly more synthetic and rough / "crass" for want of a better word than the ensuing development, which could be why, in a kneejerk moment, me and these 91% of women favoured the Lidl...

    I urge anyone who acquires Madame Glamour and also has access to Coco Mademoiselle to try the blind test game - it is most educational!

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  7. Hi Olfactoria,

    It was well worth even a trip with a demented GPS on board, such was the head of steam I had worked up about wanting to try this scent, and my accompanying doubts about my ability to be in the right place at the right time when it came to my local store's stocking patterns!

    I think Coco Mlle is perfectly pleasant, but not remarkable, and I never normally reach for it because it is so ubiquitous. I think I *will* wear Madame Glamour, not least because it is a triumph of chemical engineering over budget!

    And doesn't it make you think about the profit margins built into most scents? Now they DO smell luxurious....: - )

    Do report back tomorrow, and if you can do the blind test stunt that would be even better!

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  8. Hi Ines,

    Looking forward to your feedback too. That is exactly what Madame Glamour is - a very creditable "approximation", to quote anotherperfumeblog, for an insanely bargain price!

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  9. By the way, in my haste to get to Cannock before closing time I just grabbed my purse, not my cards, and only had a fiver and some shrapnel when I got to the store ie a single bottle's worth. I will doubtless be cruising the aisles of my local Lidl at the weekend, however, so if anybody would like me to custom buy a bottle if I see one, give me a shout!

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  10. I was curious about this one after reading the NOTW article, and I am also writing a blog post on it. While doing my research, I stumble upon your blog. I was really captured in your quest : will she finally ge the perfume or not? Thanks for the posts, it's helpful.

    I will try to find it in a Lidl nearby, as I like Coco Mademoiselle, but for some reasons, Chanel's perfumes don't develop really good on me, they kinda turn... Maybe this one will lack the one thing that makes this happen?

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  11. Hi Ms Bubu,

    I am glad you found my posts helpful and I very much hope the Lidl scent doesn't "turn" on you like the Chanels! It is soft and gentle, but unmistakably a Coco Mlle clone.

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  12. Reporting from eastern Europe: this Lidl cheapie smells not only like Coco Mademoiselle, but also very close to Gres Cabotine Gold. I mean, that bottle I am trying to sell because it smells too metallic on me (gold, yeah). Suddenly MG is a bit softer than this one, too.

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  13. Hello Hiacint,

    Thanks for reporting in, and what an attractive avatar you have there! I am not familiar with Cabotine Gold but will look out for it. Meanwhile, I am delighted to hear that you also think Madame Glamour is a good dupe of Coco Mlle. I reapplied it twice during the course of yesterday, and each time was struck again by the similarity.

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  14. Welcome back from all your wanderings, and many thanks for the funniest & most suspenseful investigative series of the summer! The faux- fragrances our discount stores stock are so grim in comparison to the quality-close-call you describe here, it makes me sad - as if someone in marketing land has said, "Send the swill to the States, they can't tell good from bad, let alone real from knockoff...." ;)

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  15. Hi olenska,

    Thanks for that! Oh dear, dear, that is a sorry state of affairs if it is true, and most unfair. I just went to my local Lidl, and not only did it not have any Madame Glamour in - it had gone and put three trays of deodorant where the perfumes should have been! I don't know if that is because Madame Glamour came in and sold out again like lightning, or because the staff have given up hope of it ever arriving.

    If I do see some more, I will buy a couple of bottles on spec, in case any Coco Mlle-loving readers are struggling to find it where they live. Though I shan't hold my breath.

    And wouldn't it be fun if Lidl's next release was an Estee dupe? Any preferences? : - )

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  16. I tried it today, I am not in raptures since I don't like Coco Mademoiselle anymore either, but it seems to be not a bad knockoff at all. Certainly a great bargain for CM lovers! Lots of stock over here too!

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  17. Can you believe my security word was fochannl just now? Lol! :D

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  18. Hi olfactoria,

    Thanks so much for letting us know - I was thinking of you today and hoping you would be able to try it and report back. Your efforts are all the more appreciated as I know you don't care for the original! : - )

    I just conducted the same blind test with Mrs Bonkers Senior (aged 76) and she thought the Lidl scent *was* Coco Mlle when it was first applied - as I did, indeed - because it seemed relatively strong on first spraying, but switched her verdict later on as the Coco Mlle kept going and the Madame Glamour began to fade. In fact it was quite a bit weaker on her than on me, while the Coco Mlle was pretty tenacious on her skin.

    So initially she said she liked them equally as they smelt exactly the same(!), but over time, the Coco won her over, purely on strength grounds.

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  19. I'm a little (?) behind on my reading but I finally got to this post and I want to say that I enjoyed it tremendously! I love this type of side-by-side runs and you described everything just perfect. Too bad I've never liked Coco M. Otherwise I would have been plotting how to get this CM wannabe.

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  20. Hi Undina,

    "Side-by-side runs" would doubtless appeal to your methodical mindset... : - )

    Too bad you are not a big fan of Coco M. A German friend of mine has also done the comparison, agrees on the strong likeness, but is similarly underwhelmed by both scents!

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  21. I am reading this about an hour after getting a bottle of the Lidl scent, which was stocked in my corner Lidl at the weekend and alerted to me by another Lidl-loving friend.I don't have any Coco - never really loved it - but I do like this. It is very fruity on me and very cheerful.Considering that it's sharing an arm with Amaranthine I think it's holding up very well indeed.

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  22. Hi mixedbabygreens,

    Would you believe a consignment finally came into my local store, so I bought another bottle last night in case you or another reader was frustrated in their quest! To hold up against Amaranthine is praise indeed, I'd say, so it is looking as though you don't regret shelling out the four quid!

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  23. I'm not happy,cause I did not get it:( All fragranses is gone in My nearest shop. shame...same as "Coco Chanel" ..My nose tell Me so.

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  24. I don't buy Lidl's beauty products usually (only their organic range) but was "magically" drawn to the beauty counter at Lidl's on Saturday where I discovered Suddenly. "Why not try ?" I said to myself, not expecting a lot and "wow,that's nice and a scent I know" I said to myself. Although I love Coco Mademoiselle I have never actually bought it, just tried in perfumeries a couple of times, so I didn't see the connection immediately. When I got home, I rushed to the computer and typed "Lidl Perfume" and discovered this story about the Coco Mademoiselle copy (I live in France and nobody has actually spoken about it). And that's when the penny dropped. At nine o'clock this morning, I was at Lidl and bought 6 bottles ! Two as a gift for birthdays and 4 for myself. The use by date is end 2014, so I will keep them cool and in their boxes and shall be enjoying it for the years to come. Of course I sprayed it on today and just love it. Staying power on my skin is excellent too. By the way, there are still more than 20 bottles left at my local Lidl, no rush at all since nobody knows about this copy !! I just wonder why you only bought one bottle after driving 24 miles ?! Bye, Tartangirl from France.

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  25. Hi Tartangirl,

    Thanks for sharing your story with us - I can well believe your local French store has not had a run on this one, as it is not subject to the same hype as over there! Glad you were able to put your finger on the Coco Mlle connection in the end and that you have secured enough stocks to keep you going for some time.

    Since my earlier comments, I have actually stocked up on two further bottles myself - one from the Stafford store (which finally got some in), and one from a store in Germany where I was over working last week. There too there was a full display and not too many takers!

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  26. Does Anyone Know If There are Any stocks In Coventry ?

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  27. I am afraid I can't help you on that specific point, but maybe some Lidl staff in The Midlands might be looking in. Or if you ring the main customer service number on the Lidl website they should be able to call round a few stores in your area to tell you where you might find some.

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  28. Thank you so much for this excellent review and test. I am a huge fan of Coco Mademoiselle (possibly in the minority here!) - it's been my signature scent for at least eight years! However, finances not being what they were, I've been curious to discover whether there was any truth in the rumour that it was (almost) as good as CM, or whether it was in fact, just hype.

    One of my friends mentioned it being good (I was unaware of the newspaper article until a few days ago) but one person's idea of similar can be vastly different to another's.... especially when that person doesn't actually wear CM and was relying on her memory of having tried it in a store, and SMG (*not* a sub-machine gun, or Buffy!) at another friend's! I was rather hoping she would be able to get me a bottle so I could do a comparison but that was an epic fail - she wouldn't even venture into a Lidl store!

    I have hyperosmia, so I am intrigued to find out which differences I'd be able to detect! It's a moot point however, because I don't have a Lidl near me...I suppose I could try Ebay.

    Anyway, keep up the good work - now I have found you, I shall keep coming back to read about your fragrant adventures!

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  29. Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for sharing your story and I am very confident that you will like Sub Machine Gun well enough! : - )

    I have surplus stocks of this, so if you are UK-based I could send you a sample in the first instance to see if you like it - am still on my travels but if you are interested PM me on flittersniffer@gmail.com

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  30. Oh Vanessa, that would be fab - you are very kind. Thank you! I'll drop you a line!

    N x

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  31. I got a bottle last week.When I first sprayed it I wasn't too sure but after the top notes had evaporated I quite liked it! My daughter also liked it so I bought her a bottle when I was in my local store at the weekend.There were lots available.But blow me she came back from her dad's house with a bottle her stepmum had given her, who apperently has brought 10 bottles! She said that they said you're only allowed to buy 2 bottles at a time?? I'm going to stock up on some more when I go shopping again if there's some left!

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  32. Ph I am a big fan of this perfume, after reading the hype and being a fan of Lidl, I thought I had to jump on the band wagon.
    It is gorgeous.
    It just doesn't last as long as a EDP...
    x x

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  33. That was meant to say OH not PH. Typing too fast with two kids running circles around me!!
    Come and visit my blog soon, also planning to mention the Suddenly Madame Glamour in the next post.
    www.treasuresfromthecherrytree.blogspot.com
    x

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  34. Hi Gem,

    I totally agree with you on the strength issue, but it is a small price to pay to pay a small price for the perfume!

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  35. Hi Anonymous,

    Well, it looks as though your daughter is sorted, then! There have been a couple of mentions of people stocking up with 10 bottles at a time, so maybe the policy on bulk buying varies by store. Worth a try at least!

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  36. Hi Vanessa,

    As I said in my email to you earlier (repeated here for the benefit of other olfactory adventurers!); the sample you send has been thoroughly tested...utilising the noses of three different people!

    My conclusions are that while SMG does smell similar to CCM, there is a difference, most notable after dry-down when it becomes a little powdery. The Chanel seems to be...sharper. It’s like the difference between HD and not, if you see what I mean. CCM is the hi-def plasma screen, while SMG is the high-end CRT – still gives great picture quality but lacks the definition of the plasma!

    On me it seems to have less staying power than CCM but I wouldn’t hold it against it...CCM lasts for ages on me – right through until I wake up if I don’t shower or bathe before bed (yeah it happens sometimes....nights out an’ all that!).

    As a substitute, no I don’t feel it *is* – it just doesn’t meet the standard of Chanel, IMO; however, just because it isn’t an exact copy is no reason to dismiss it. As a perfume in its own right, it’s perfectly acceptable, and is actually very pleasant. For me it would never replace CCM but I’d be happy to wear it for its own sake.

    Thank you for all of your help; not only do I really appreciate it but once again, I am touched by the kindness of strangers. :-)

    N x

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  37. Hi Nicole,

    With renewed apologies for the lack of circumflex...

    Thank you for conducting such a thorough side-by-side assessment - as a Coco Mlle wearer your feedback is particularly authoritative. Love your HD TV analogy - that is spot on! I do know what you mean about Coco Mlle being sharper, while SMG is a bit weak and watery by comparison. That said, the resemblance is still strong to my nose, if not the scent itself!

    I am sure that actual fans of Coco Mlle - as opposed to random members of the public who submit to the test - will be the hardest to convince of the likeness. Maybe Coco Mlle is an oil painting, while SMG is a water colour that has additionally been left out in the rain!

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