- Posted by decisiongps
- On March 23, 2016
- 0 Comments
- DecisionGPS, Perfume, Retail
by Lucy S. Cole
What is it about a perfume department that is so deliciously enticing?
Is it that instant feeling of serenity that washes over you as you enter a lavish palace of shimmering lights and golden hues? Is it the appreciative murmurings of well-dressed women with burgundy nails who ‘oo’ and ‘ahh’ over the latest spritz of Chanel? Or is it merely the promise of change? One simple spray and presto: a new, decadent you. A you who smells fabulous. While all this might seem alluring at first glance, why is it, then, that so many of us eventually leave in an empty-handed tizzy; flushed, frustrated, with arms covered in a pungent combination of sickly bouquets.
With the perfume industry estimated at a value of over $30 billion today and over 1,000 different scents on offer, each assuring their unique blends of West Indian jasmine and nuances of balsamic resin – does resin even smell nice? – is it any wonder that choosing one’s own special recipe becomes an exasperated conundrum? Much like Sophie’s choice, but with multiple, floral options and an overly made-up twenty-something at your side to help ease the burden. Add to that the affliction of deciphering between eau de cologne, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and plain old perfume, and indecision is inevitable. And whilst coffee is helpfully suggested as a nasal palette cleanser, I’m unlikely to skip gleefully into my local department store with a nosebag of Starbucks swinging around my neck.
Tragically however, I think I can safely confirm that perky sales assistants have never once shed any light on the tricky task of selecting a perfume, despite hovering nearby like Burberry-infused beacons of hope. Weaving between counters, they glide effortlessly as a pack. Their raised pencil-eyebrows and unwavering smiles are questioning yet reassuring; maternal, even. In reality, it’s a subtle race as to who can spray you first with an assertive flick of the wrist, leaving a dream-like vapour to shower over you lovingly. The department store is the hunting ground of commission-working brand ambassadors; any moment of weakness on your part – an accidental meeting of the eyes, an external sigh of confusion – and you risk falling prey to their superficial chatter. I prefer to rummage in my bag upon entering whilst my feet patter over to the desired area.
Yet, perhaps the main reason these sales assistants have no chance is because the mere concept of perfume is clearly intrinsically subjective. I lose count of the number of times my mother has crinkled her nose up after smelling a perfume I’ve expressed an interest in, and vice versa. Similarly, she’ll usually nod sagely at my final choice, stating, “oh yes, that’s very you.” I still don’t really know what that means. Does it just mean that this particular perfume has mingled more readily with my natural odour to create a pleasing smelly cocktail? Or does it mean that all my perfumes are practically identical? This is probably the case. Whilst I might encourage myself at each purchase to try something new – “perhaps a bit fresher, a bit sharper?” – I’m continually drawn to a variation of my same-old scent, more often than not from the same brand: in my case, Dior.
Upon viewing the expanse of Dior in every shop, my reaction is much the same as seeing my beloved cat after a two week holiday: my heart begins to flutter a little faster, I find myself flexing my fingers ready for that first touch, and, dare I say it, there’s a distinct churning in my womb. So why is it that I would happily bathe in a vat of any Dior scent at random, and yet I fail to feel this lascivious urge towards any other brand? I’m quite convinced that each designer label must retain the same ingredients in each bottle and release it once a year or so in a slightly different pink complexion. In Chanel’s case, whilst the title and branding of the original Chanel No.5 was admittedly genius, it now seems they can barely be bothered to come up with a new name; they either pick a random number arbitrarily, or tag another sensual French word to the end of an already existing title. Fortunately for Chanel, this is all that is required; all we’re ultimately paying for is their name. This was made particularly palpable to me when a friend working at one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies was offered designer perfumes at the disgustingly low price of $4, purely because the label was damaged: proof that without the brand, all you have is musky water in a shapely bottle.
So, considering just how obviously over-priced perfumes are, why do we bother investing so much time and money on essentially quite a bizarre concept? Other than the elaborate and sexualised branding and the concept of perfume as liquid luxury, it is only my joyful prance in a cloud of Dior each morning that assures me I’m even wearing any. Buying perfume seems more of a present for those around you who are blessed enough to smell it – that’s if it even manages to prevail over the irregular sweats of a stressful day. So despite this, and despite the many online quizzes claiming to match your personality with a perfume, and despite my mother claiming my perfume is “me”, I still shun the idea that a perfume can truly be a reflection of your disposition.
Instead, maybe the pressure of choosing a perfume is so overwhelming because, as Jean Paul Gaultier remarked, “perfume is the most intense form of memory.” The scent you pick will force you to conjure memories of any given moment: that blissful family holiday, or perhaps an old boyfriend. It will forever haunt you. Moreover, your natural body odour is said to reveal your DNA and subconsciously attract your biological match. So perhaps if the handsome gardener hasn’t quite given you the eye yet, a squirt of Dolce and Gabbana’s latest heady rose bloom will make him reconsider. Perfume has the power to provide a whole parade of mini-gardeners mowing the lawn by the end of the year.
With all the potential a perfume can offer, it’s just a shame the purchasing process is so tiring. With a few simple tweaks from a retail connoisseur such as DecisionGPS, every mediocre perfume resort could be revolutionised into a 5 star day spa. In a world turning ever more to online shopping, the importance of creating an impeccable perusing ambiance in your scent show room is vital to making that step between the initial ‘pourquoi pas!’ spritz, and the final buy and bag.
Once achieved, the only problem that remains will be knowing which to choose. Perhaps next time I will take coffee.