Does it smell like that? Fragrances are a key element of the store’s identity, even in Covid


So many things stink about the pandemic, and one of them — thanks to more people in a household working, going to school, cooking, snuggling up, adopting pets and showering less — is that it’s is really Is it that stink.

  • 67% of consumers say they feel “more bad smells” than before Covid.
  • Air freshener sales were up 10% in 2021 compared to 2019, while candle sales were up nearly 30% over the same period, according to IRI data.

So in terms of sales, the pandemic felt like laundry and heaven for Febreze and the rest of the home air freshener category. But for their commercial counterparts, it’s a different story.

“Has it had an impact on sales? asked Roger Bensinger, executive vice president of Prolitec, a company that provides scents and scent delivery devices to retailers, in an interview with Retail Brew. “Absoutely.”

  • Many of Prolitec’s more than 180,000 customers, like Skechers, L’Occitane and Haagen-Dazs, to name a few, operate internationally, including in countries that have locked down more drastically than the United States, such as China and Australia.

But that was then. A rebound is now. Bensinger expects to return to pre-Covid revenue levels “in the near future” (but he declined to provide specific sales data). And companies like Prolitec believe they can also be part of the retail rebound, when it comes to enticing more shoppers to return to stores. Because if the enormous growth of perfume companies suggests anything, it’s that buyers can be led by the nose.

something in the air

The commercial fragrance industry has grown from around $300 million worldwide in 2014 to more than $800 million today, estimates Caroline Fabrigas, CEO of Scent Marketing Inc., and Air-Scent International dominates the industry.)

One of the best-known examples of a scented retail environment is Abercrombie & Fitch.

In 2002, the chain launched Fierce, its soon to be ubiquitous fragrance for men, and to promote it, employees walked around the store spraying sample bottles. In 2008, the retailer upped the ante. He hired Prolitec, which began diffusing the top-selling scent from ceiling fixtures, and still does today. (Brings back memories of Jason, the captain of the lacrosse team, doesn’t it?)

  • Prolitec told us that it charges businesses a flat monthly service fee to scent them, controlling all equipment remotely.
  • Abercrombie estimated it spent more than $3 million on olfactory devices in 2008 and 2009.

The smell of money: Bensinger calls approaches like Abercrombie’s “universal sampling,” which essentially (literally) means that everyone is given a sample of the perfume in the hope that they’ll buy it. But the execution is generally more nuanced.

Stores distribute fragrances in a way that may not consciously register with shoppers, but which studies have shown causes them to stay in stores longer and buy more.

A 2019 study found that shoppers in stores with a pleasant scent spent an average of 3% more than those who shopped in a scent-free store.

  • In another, customers of a scented store perceived that they had spent less time there than they had. And the opposite: customers of the same store, but not perfumed, perceived that they had been there longer.
  • A pleasant smell in a store increases the likelihood that customers will return, according to another study.

Appeals to smell are arguably more important than appeals to sight, explained Martin Lindstrom, the brand guru whose book, Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Products We Buyurges businesses to market with all five senses.

Smell has a strong connection to memory and emotion, Lindstrom told us. And he noted that shoppers often don’t even notice when they’re in a scented environment.

  • “It speaks to you on a subconscious level,” Lindstrom said. “And when you’re not aware of things, you’re much more susceptible…because you to feel rather than “I was told to think a certain way”.

Still, it took a bit of convincing to convince retailers. When Spence Levy, president of Air Esscentials, another commercial fragrance company, got its start in the mid-2000s, he went to Miami Beach stores to introduce them, to some recoil.

“A lot of people, at first, were very hesitant,” Levy said. “Why would I want to spend money on this?”

So he offered stores a free trial of his machines and would come back a week later. “They were like, ‘Wow, people stayed longer,'” Levy said. They “did their own studies and told us that…people…buy more, they come back more often.”

Today, Levy said retail accounts for about 35% of Air Esscentials’ revenue (but didn’t share specific numbers), and she lists US Polo Assn., Dunhill, Versace and Modani among her clients. .

  • His machines now sell for between $64 and $620 (usually unscented).

A perfume of its own

Perfume manufacturers offer a wide selection, often with common notes like grapefruit and vanilla, which are known to uplift your spirits. But brands are increasingly hiring fragrance developers for custom scents.

When The North Face unveiled its new interactive store in Soho in 2019, for example, it also introduced its new retail fragrance, Half Dome, formulated to evoke the smell of the outdoors, particularly the National Park of Yosemite (which is known for its fragrant pines and cedars). .)

The North Face fragrance, unlike a store fragrance like Abercrombie’s which coincides with and promotes a fragrance, is “actually a brand statement,” said Fabrigas, of Scent Marketing Inc. The store “brings life to all of these values ​​of The North Face and to enhance the experience of this brand and the products you interact with,” she explained.

  • Although Scent Marketing did not formulate Half Dome, its devices are streaming it to several The North Face outlets, including Soho.

“Brands have a visual identity…a logo,” Lindstrom said, adding that they should also have “a distinctive smell.”

In addition to developing their own scent for their stores, Lindstrom suggested retailers infuse scent into packaging for online orders. The reason, Lindstrom said, is that when you have a unique experience in a store while smelling a unique scent, the two become linked. So when you next order something from the online retailer, “you smell that box when it’s opened. [and] you immediately feel that warmth you had when you went to this amazing store.

  • But, but, but: Lindstrom doesn’t know of any brands that have actually tried this.

Refreshment: In addition to producing good smells, air freshener companies are of course also hired by retailers to deal with unpleasant smells.

Petco has worked with Prolitec for several years to scent what Besinger called their “hot mammals” section, where shoppers buy small pets like guinea pigs, hamsters and ferrets, whose cages sometimes don’t smell as overpoweringly as their inhabitants.

Prolitec now releases a scent called Green Cedar, “which creates a kind of natural, outdoor, woodsy environment for this region,” Bensinger said. He added that it eventually spreads to other sections of the store and is actually a positive olfactory experience for shoppers, as it is something that neutralizes occasional odors.

The other impact of the Covid era

Perhaps because many shoppers are wearing masks, some retailers are now increasing the amount of fragrance they inject into stores to walk through them. About 10% of Air Esscentials’ more than 10,000 business customers buy more fragrance, Levy said.

If before the pandemic a store was buying four bottles of perfume a year, “right now they’re buying six or seven bottles of perfume,” Levy said. “Sales are exploding.”

Another effect of the pandemic: more interest in fragrances that evoke cleanliness. After all, as consumers may be reluctant to return to stores, one way for retailers to communicate about safety and cleanliness may be that stores feel in this way.

In late 2020, Prolitec launched a line it promoted as “The Scents of Clean”, with offerings like Mint & Eucalyptus, Citrus & Sage, and Flax & Lemon. He said that of the three lines he introduced during the pandemic, this is the best-selling one. Buyers “need to walk into the space and feel that the space is clean and properly maintained,” Bessinger said.

  • The retail restroom segment, a perennial winner for fragrance companies (duh), has also grown recently, according to Bensinger. “Toilet hygiene has always been important, but it’s especially important during Covid.”

Lindstrom, the brand’s author, said he understood the temptation for retailers to switch to clean-smelling fragrances, but warned against it and smelling like “every bloody store on the planet” . A better strategy for retailers to welcome shoppers back, he said, is to smell the same as before Covid.

“It wakes people up and takes them to a time capsule of the past where everything was normal,” Lindstrom explained, “where everything was safe and I had no fear in my mind.”


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