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The Perfume Shop MD Gill Smith on in-store expansion, post-pandemic shopping trends & preparing for the festive season

At the heart of The Perfume Shop’s success lie three core values: expertise, passion, and care. The brand revolves around knowing perfumes “like no one else on the high street”, the managing director of the company Gill Smith claims as she recognises the importance of an omnichannel strategy in a post-pandemic era.

An omnichannel strategy: embracing both online & offline

According to Smith, who has held the position of managing director since 2014, customers do not shop based on channels; rather, they seek a seamless shopping experience regardless of whether it is online or in-store.

“Fragrance retailing can be considered difficult to be online due to the need to test and smell the product,” she tells InternetRetailing.

“2022 saw us grow faster than the market with a market share of 18.5%. Since reopening our stores post covid, our e-store has continued to grow each year, outperforming the fragrance market online and general online growth.”

According to Smith, both online and in-store are part of the “ecosystem that is The Perfume Shop”. Covid-19 brought home how they have a symbiotic relationship and one can’t work without the other.”

However, despite some retailers shifting primarily to online platforms, The Perfume Shop has chosen to open more physical sites, in locations including Manchester, Dublin and London.

This decision is based on the retailer’s ability to “recognise shifting shopping patterns and adapt accordingly to meet customer needs.”

“We were one of the first perfume retailers to move online over 15 years ago, so online was not new to us,” Smith states.

“The consequences of Covid-19 have changed customers’ shopping patterns and we need to react to this whether offline or online.”

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Preparations for the festive season & focus on marketing

With the festive season being a critical period for fragrance sales, The Perfume Shop starts planning well in advance to ensure it delivers the best experience for customers.

“The “golden quarter” is the biggest trading period for our business, delivering approximately 50% of our total sales,” Smith says.

Last year, the company sold a record-breaking 1.8 million bottles of perfume between 28 November and 24 December 2022, while gift sets surged 26% year on year in the week before Christmas.

The retailer’s best sellers were Dior Sauvage, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Alien by Thierry Mugler.

As a result of the record sales, the company revealed this year, alongside its website re-platform in time for the golden quarter, it is also installing an automated packing machine to increase its online fulfilment capacity.

Marketing also remains an essential aspect of the company’s strategy, especially right now as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis continues to intensify.

As a result, The Perfume Shop is utilising a combination of both traditional marketing and PR, along with an expanding social media presence in hopes to drive awareness of all the brands it sells, alongside relaunching its price freezing scheme on over 138 lines, fixed until 2024 and offering discounts to five million VIP Rewards Club members.

“Making sure we have options for all our customers continues to be important,” she adds. “As a specialist retailer, fragrance is still an attainable, affordable treat and when times are tough, it becomes a much more considered gift at Christmas.”

Commitment to sustainability

According to Smith, the company understands the importance of sustainability, having set out clear goals to achieve by 2030, categorised under three pillars: “People, Planet, and Product”.

Earlier this year, the omnichannel retailer kicked off its biggest perfume bottle recycling service to date as part of its focus on sustainability.

The scheme, which was first introduced in 2018, allows customers to drop off their empty fragrance bottles for recycling in stores, entitling customers to an even greater discount than previously offered at 10%, with a new 15% discount off same-day purchases.

Smith notes: “We are encouraging our customers to start that journey with us, whether it’s through bottle recycling, planting trees or making donations to our chosen charities.

“As a high street retailer, our customers are expecting us to do this, and if we aren’t they will shop elsewhere. Without customers, there is no business, so we have to find the ways to do it, whether choosing 100% renewable energy, partnerships with suppliers, reducing packaging or developing a green store.”

Looking ahead

As the company looks forward to 2024, it has identified four key areas of opportunity.

These include building on the success of their upgraded ecommerce platform as seen this year, investing more in their physical stores with a refit programme and innovation in customer experience, streamlining processes through automation and upgrading its point-of-sale systems to ensure a seamless and efficient checkout process.

“We call ourselves The Perfume People and you can see our passion in everything we do,” Smith concludes.

The Perfume Shop Features in: 2023 Europe Top1000, 2023 UK Top500 report, click here to view.

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