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New Life for Perfumania

Emerging from Chapter 11 in a swift manner, a streamlined Perfumania has a bold new look focused on experiences.

Perfumania is back and with a new concept store that puts experiences on the front burner. The 30-year-old retailer is ready to reclaim its share of the $4 billion prestige fragrance business with a buzzy — and yes, Instagrammable — new look.

Opening Sept. 27 in the new Denver Premium Outlets, the 900-square-foot store is designed to maintain the existing consumer base while courting new shoppers by demystifying the scent selection process. The store is the first since Perfumania emerged from Chapter 11 just shy of a year ago as a private and streamlined operation.

“It seems like we gave birth to something brand new,” said Perfumania’s chief merchant of retail stores and e-commerce Nicole Anello Rose, who joined the retailer in March from Nordstrom-owned HauteLook, where she was senior director of merchandising responsible for beauty. “We took a hard look at ourselves after reducing our fleet of stores [as part of its restructuring plan, Perfumania shuttered 90 doors] and asked how we are going to define ourselves going forward.”

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The result is a playground for fragrance exploration that is less about promotions and transactions and more about making shopping fun. It is fine-tuned to court younger shoppers on a quest to unlock their personal scent, while also maintaining Perfumania’s value-oriented and tourist customer base.

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Industry sources estimate the experience-loaded concept can produce sales exceeding $1,500 per square foot — at least a 20 percent increase. Perfumania did not comment on projections.

“We want them to visit, stay and not feel pressured,” Rose said of what she calls a living laboratory that offers flexibility to change up as needed. And while driving customers into Perfumania is crucial, Rose said it is OK if they grab a sample and leave — as long as they buy online. “I am a huge proponent of taking our company omni — it is one customer, that’s how our customers shop — especially the younger ones. They don’t see a difference between a store and digital experience. The customer should not see a delineation between digital and store.” Learnings from the Denver concept store will be rolled out into Perfumania’s most productive existing and future stores.

An expanded product portfolio sports designer and niche brands including Carolina Herrera, Gucci, Juliette Has a Gun, Elizabeth and James, L’Artisan, Narciso Rodriguez, Versace, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Christian Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Burberry and Jimmy Choo. And while value is still paramount, the store is designed to be less promotional than former Perfumania designs, with more subtle pricing messages.

The design, envisioned by Scott Faucheux, creative director of marketing firm OSK New York, is bright with a flexible layout. The open-sell format is a departure from the past Perfumania concept. There are several spots in the store to explore including a Community Wall where Perfumania encourages customers to share their thoughts on an evolving roster of questions designed to engage with customers and make them feel part of the ongoing conversation. A Discovery Hub equipped with a Discover Fragrance digital application is featured to linked to a program to discover an individual’s scent profile and get appropriate recommendations. Younger customers, in particular, appreciate the educational approach, Faucheux said. There is also a rotational artwork program fit for Instagrammable moments and the capability to expand to custom shopping bag options — all part of a personalized approach at the store.

“We are merchandising this store in a completely different way. We were known for being the library of fragrance where we merchandised A to Z,” Rose said of the past alphabetically presentation. “That’s not how the customer shop. They don’t even shop solely based on brands anymore. We now merchandise by scent family [fresh, woody, spicy, floral and citrus] and we’ve highlighted that with a fragrance wheel to help the customer decide what they like.”

Another centerpiece of the concept design is a fixture devoted to new and niche fragrances featured. “Customers can sample and play with scents they may never had interaction with before,” Rose said. As part of the education of fragrances, there are displays of the raw elements used to create fragrances. “People can literally sit and smell and so they know what Vetiver or Lemongrass is…it becomes a tactile experience.” A Scent Gallery serves up more than 40 fragrance samples to take home.

Fragrance, said Faucheux, is one of the few categories in a digital world that is challenging to pick out online. “It is almost impossible to shop for a scent without actually smelling it. We wanted to incorporate the building blocks from nature these fragrances are built upon.”

While Perfumania dabbled in makeup before, the new concept has a well-thought out and edited selection of proven brands such as Bare Minerals, Buxom, It Cosmetics and Paris Hilton Cosmetics. The latter, said Rose, is an extension of the Paris Hilton’s fragrance collection as well as filling a gap in the physical store market to buy the brand. There will also be a display of on-trend brushes. The fixture can be easily adapted to bring in new lines as needed.

“For the first time we are introducing beauty in an intentional way, but also as a lab. We want the customer to vote what he or she likes and adjust the inventory and brand to their liking,” Rose said. “We are the fragrance authority, but there’s no reason why we can’t offer extensions of beauty.”

Candles, which are often an introduction to fragrance for younger shoppers, will be included in the holiday assortment. Gifts, added Rose, are an integral part of Perfumania’s appeal.

Perfumania’s bold new concept bows as fragrance is exhibiting some of its biggest gains in the past few years. Rose believes social media has helped fuel the flames. “The way things are going with social media, people want to stand out — be it the ath-leisure they wear, the wine they pick or their fragrance. Fragrance can be something you can aspire to — if you can’t buy a ticket to a Greek island, you can buy a fragrance and it takes you there. You might not be able to afford a Gucci handbag, but you can afford the fragrance. It is a bridge to who you want to be and we’re happy to be part of the business.”