The power of smell
As legend has it, US variety chain, Woolworth, was the first to make the radical decision to put a brass band on the shop floor.
“People were so thrown by music. It was distracting,” says Samantha Goldworm, business director of New York scent branding company, 12.29.
“Today, if you walk into a store without music, it’s too quiet without it.”
While it’s definitely not as entrenched as the store soundtrack, perfume and fragrance is following music’s journey in retail.
“Scent is becoming that next step. It’s the strongest link to our memory and emotion,” says Goldworm.
“You can create an emotional connection with a customer through their nose and take branding to the next level.”
In the last decade, this global trend has seen the likes of fast fashion chain, Abercrombie & Fitch, develop its own personal scent.
This all American chain is widely referenced due to its brash and overpowering smell, which cascades out of its stores onto footpaths.
In Australia, fashion retailers Peter Alexander, Supre and Shoes of Prey have mimicked this model with feminine or sugary store scents.
Goldworm says retailers are learning the power of restraint and are using smells that heighten rather than overwhelm.
“When music was first introduced it was very loud. You had a band playing but now it’s a background consideration. Scent is the same,” she says.
“Abercrombie & Fitch was the first to push it to the limit with a smell that you could recognise from the street. Now scent is becoming more subtle and in some cases it’s become more of a general feeling.”
A nose for retail
Goldworm, who founded 12.29 with her sister and the nose of the operation, Dawn Goldworm, says smell should always complement a store’s branding.
One of her favourite client examples involves the Hong Kong men’s shirt retailer chain, Pye. “What’s interesting about stores in Asia is there’s a lot of pollution in the air,” she says.
“So when you walk into a centre, you walk out of all these intense smells that you’re used to. Scent really helps create a new environment.”
The branding company’s solution for Pye was a clean fragrance in line with the Asian olfactory preference for restrained fragrances.
“There is floral for freshness but there is a dry part of woods on the bottom notes. There’s a creaminess from sandalwoods. It comes together in a cloud.”
At the other end of the 12.29 client spectrum is Corto Moltedo, a luxury niche handbag retailer from Italy.
“Its bags are poppy and young and kitsch. So we created a scent for [the designer’s] bags that let the bags speak.
“His stores are more showrooms. We created a scent that works with elements of the store’s wood showcasing and glass interior.
“It’s a modern cologne and then it has leather notes. It’s a very classic and luxurious scent.”
Goldworm says smell can be brought into virtually any retail environment, including food retailers, which already have existing scents.
Bars, restaurants, and food chains should pick smells that complement rather than compete. For example, 12.29 worked with a Japanese restaurant in New York that needed a relaxing smell.
“[It’s owner] wanted his customers to come into a space and feel like they’re going to sit and have a nice meal but also have the smell of the fish,” she says.
“So we created a fragrance with a green tea chord for freshness and then bottom is soft wood finish for lasting fragrance.”
The Goldworm sisters wil speak at Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Marketing Breakfast next month.
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