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INTERVIEW The Perfume Shop: Recycling, refilling and a repurposed chandelier

Following the news that The Perfume Shop has partnered with L’Oréal to launch the UK’s first new multi-brand fragrance refill station, Katie Searles sat down with Karen Harris, head of marketing, and Miranda Savage, senior buying manager, from The Perfume Shop.

Q: Mugler first introduced a refillable bottle in the 90s, how has refillable perfumes evolved since? How is it changing to become easier for consumers to get involved?
Karen: The conception of the Mugler Refill Fountain was born in 1992 , and we have this real iconic following. The customers just keep coming back. Whilst Mugler absolutely nailed it very early, people’s perception and people’s want to buy sustainably is changing.

We know that conscious customers are increasing, 85% are looking for refill options. We know it’s a space we need to play in. If you look at category growth as well, refillable fragrances have grown by 23% versus the market growth of 9%. It’s quite significant growth, and felt like a very obvious next step for us.

From a sustainability point of view, it’s very high on our agenda, but also on L’Oréal’s. The partnership felt so natural.

The only part that we need to really build on is consumer awareness. We’re finding not every consumer is aware that this is a thing and it’s an option for them. They can refill, do their bit for sustainability, but they can also save quite a lot of money – the refill unit in Nottingham could save a customer on average 29%. 

Q: That’s an interesting point on re-education of the consumers – if they don’t know it’s there, they won’t be jumping at it. But then could we be seeing a “refill revolution” happening in the perfume industry? 
K: We’re finding that, although it’s very early days, because it’s by the entrance of the door, customers are seeing it. It’s drawing them into the store. They’re questioning – what is this? What’s it about? 

Also customers are actually coming in and buying into fragrances that are refillable. That journey, obviously, it’s going to be a cycle. We don’t expect people to come straight in and start refilling. But now that they know they can, they’re actually buying into those refillable fragrances. 

Miranda: We were the first UK retailer to launch a bottle recycling service and all of our customers, when they come in and they recycle their bottle with us, they save 15% off their next purchase. We are driving them within the category, but also encouraging them to bring their bottles in and make sure they’re properly recycled.

We’re already on the front foot with, like Karen says, Mugler for us has been a bit of an iconic refill, and it’s one of the L’Oréal brands too. They can already see our personal success with it at The Perfume Shop and how much our customers love it. 

We are definitely seeing, the stats show, more customers either searching for it, wanting to understand more about it. How does it work from the unit? How does it work from the at home refills that we currently offer? 

Customers are really keen to be able to refill from a sustainability perspective, but also with where the current total climate’s at, the fact that they can save when they refill is a huge win for them as well.

Q: Saving on your favourite perfume really is a win, because perfume is such a personal thing. Does that help with this journey and help support a more circular offering?
K: We have different consumers. You have the ones that absolutely are loyal to a fragrance. It’s emotive and it evokes memories every time you spray that perfume, it’s just so powerful.

But I think that’s where the recycling fits in with the refill because you’ll also have those customers that they want new. They want the latest thing, and that gives them an opportunity to buy into that. What we’re trying to do is offer customers choice, by their shopping style and behaviours.

Q: So refill and recycling fits into your wider sustainability plans, how do you see these systems helping you achieve your goals?
K: It’s really important to us as a business. We have some pledges, we released them on our 30th birthday. One of those pledges is to remove 100,000 bottles out of circulation by 2030. Refills will help us do that. Bottle recycling will help us do that.

Our new refit stores feature our big chandelier which repurposes the recycled bottles. It is such a talking point. It is looking at how to close the loop, it’s other ways we can use that bottle. We have an official recycling partner, but today we’ve been repurposing them, and that tells a really nice story. 

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