If I owned a perfume shop…

Look at the above still from a movie made in 1939.  Barring  wearing hats… can you imagine that we are still buying perfume from a business model that dates back over 70 years???  Dreadful.  Why hasn’t it changed?  I’ll tell you… because it works for the store and the perfume manufacturers but it STINKS for the client.  When I look at my own collection of unworn perfumes, I immediately think of the perfume counter.

If I owned a perfume shop, you wouldn’t see any display cases, factices, boxes or bottles.  NOTHING!  I’m thinking of a neutral space with a couple of simple chairs and a coffee table to hold the scent strips.  Spraying would be done under a ventilation fan in a separate room.  And of course, there would be COMPLETE SILENCE so that clients could think!!!

A large poster would list the brand names that we carried in the store so that clients would know what they would be testing.  There would be no competing SAs pushing their brands and clients would be able to veto brands based on past experience.  No Givenchy?  No problem!

Clients would be asked the following questions…

1. What are you wearing now and are you looking for something similar or different?

2. Would you consider wearing a man’s fragrance if you loved it?

3. What would you be willing to pay for a 50 ml. bottle (before taxes)…

a. $50 – $99

b. $100 – $149

c. $150 and up

d. Any price as long as I love it!

4. Are there perfumes that you know the names of that you like?  What are they?  What do you like about them?

Then we would start.  Clients would then be given 3 scents with a code on each scent strip.  Only the SA would know what perfume the code refers to.  From their comments, clients would be given 3 more scents… it’s a little like the optician experience… “which is better, this or this?  How about between these two?  More like #2?  Or more like #3?   Less floral?  Fresher?  How about this totally different scent?”   When we got to 3 or 4 “keeper scents” then we would spray on skin and wait.  Clients could walk away and come back later or just hang around until they made a choice and then, and only then… would they be told the brand and perfume name of their favourite scent based on the code on the scent strip… no influences by brand or perfume name or fancy bottle… only scent!  Codes at the shop would be changed periodically so return clients couldn’t figure out what they were testing.  Of course, the success would depend exclusively on the SAs and their knowledge of the perfumes.  They would have to know about everything we carry and be encouraged to test on their own skin.

What do you think?  Could it work?

Top image : Still from George Cukor’s The Women (1939) with Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Rosalind Russell.

This idea has a copyright.

Leave a comment


  1. blecky

     /  April 8, 2012

    That’s a great idea. It would also be great to be able to tell a SA, this is what I like and some great blind sniffs.
    Scent appreciation classes would be great too. Pay $25, sniff a bunch of scents and then go home with testers.
    I love your perfume store idea, you should do it.
    Sell books on perfume making, history of perfume, bottle collecting, too.

    • Exactly! Lots of programming… classes on how to distinguish between families and then specialty classes just on ambers, just on woods. And maybe have a special room for small groups like they do for tea classes. Women love to shop with other women. We would have to be able to accommodate this.

      Thanks for the comments… if I meet a rich backer in the next few months and I do it, I’ll let you know!


  2. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  April 8, 2012

    I almost had a heart attack when I read this article. LOL! It could work if a person is interested in the juice, only the juice and nothing but the juice. It could also work if a person trusts a SA’s nose more than one’s own. Neither of these cases applies to me. I love the whole intoxicating confusion of bottles and smells of a perfume shop or department. Walking into a boutique full of gorgeus scents, bottles and displays is pure heaven and a therapeutic experience I would never want to cede to anyone. Over-zealous SAs are not an issue because I have no problem letting them know when I need space to explore. If I make a few mistakes over the years because of having gotten carried away, so be it. I need my perfumed refuge from the cares and worries of life.

    • I’m looking for a completely zen experience! The SA would act as a sort of sherpa… but the ultimate decision would go to the client… their nose, their choice. We would use Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World as the map… slowly working our way through the choices to the ultimate decision. I wonder if it would work…


  3. blecky

     /  April 8, 2012

    What about Kickstarter? The store could also have a web presence, tie it to the blog, and sell perfume note samplers along with an on line store inventory. It could start as a web store to build some capital to expand to a brick and mortar and would allow you to build some relationships with sellers.
    It’s such a good idea, I hope you do it. What are you going to call it? I suggest Sillage- A Fragrance Boutique

    • Sillage is perfect!!! I live in Montreal… it’s a bilingual word! And, isn’t sillage what we all secretly wish for. It’s the sillage that gets the comments!

      Great name! Will look into Kickstarter.


  4. Louise Cardella

     /  April 8, 2012

    Go for it! Whenever I’m looking for a new fragrance, I don’t know which way to turn. If I sample, never remember what’s on what arm. By the way, I’m still looking for that “seaside” fragrance!

    • Louise… can you refresh my memory of that seaside fragrance that you are looking for and see if one of my readers can help us out?

      • Louise Cardella

         /  April 8, 2012

        The best way I can describe it is a flowery coco butter smell. I haven’t noticed it on anyone since last summer. Next time I do, I will stop them and ask! And no, it’s definitely not suntan lotion.

  5. Really intriguing idea, Normand.

  6. The idea is interesting but it’s a little idealistic, I think. People who are “into perfume” usually go to the store not to find and buy a perfume but rather to investigate the offerings, figure out what they might want to try before deciding if they want it in their collection. They (well, we) will figure out eventually which perfume fits the current desire and I’m afraid the kind of service you describe will sooner rob us of an important part of the experience of getting a new perfume than add to it.

    Regular people, on the other hand, in my opinion, do not need a perfect scent stripped of all other influences – the brand, the bottle, the name because those will be an inextricable part of their experience with the perfume they buy.

    A couple of brands are doing some varietion of this idea: Ormonde Jayne have a special (free) service in their boutiques based not on perfumes but on components to build your perfume portrait and offer the most fitting perfume. And JAR is doing sitting and sniffing, nameless, narrowing down what you’d like to try on skin. Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels described both experiences if you’re curious.

    • I think that there might be a customer out there that would like the experience… even if just to see what they choose in the final analysis. I’ve polled a few friends… some like the idea, some don’t. Most say that they would buy a coupon and give it away as a gift. I think you might be right about “regular” people who like the complete experience… the bottle, the name. In a blind scent game I’ve played several times with girlfriends, they oohed and aahed when they tried Par Amour Toujours by Clarins. But when I showed them the bottle with the little pink hearts and told them the name of the perfume, they almost died! “I would never have that on my vanity table,” they howled. “It’s for little girls!!!”

      Still… in my perfume lectures I am often approached by women who have purchased a lot of perfume over the years and don’t wear it. I wonder why? What happened at the perfume counter that made them buy the bottle… and then not wear it. Maybe it doesn’t have to be completely blind. Maybe the scent strips don’t have to be coded.

      Thanks for the comment! Very thoughtful.


  7. isabelle

     /  April 10, 2012

    Où est ce magasin que j’y aille?

  8. I think it is a great idea and it would work very well in one condition: that you would charge a lot for this service! To make a point that you are the expert. Customers will only accept to be “blindfolded” this way if you project expertise. It is stupid because smelling perfume blind is a unique experience but most people buy perfume based more on visual and marketing stimulus and less on what they actually smell. This is why I believe that this concept would only fit in a high end concept..

    • I’m in my next post, I’m going to describe the kind of client that I think might go for this kind of service. Then… I’ll get back to perfume reviews.

      Thanks for the comment!


  9. Isabelle

     /  April 19, 2012

    J’adorerais magasiner dans une parfumerie comme ça. Tu me fais rêver! Envoie moi l’adresse quand tu ouvriras ton magasin!

  10. Pyewacket

     /  May 3, 2012

    Let me know when your shop opens. I will be there. It sounds like heaven to me.


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