“There's a big opportunity in awareness”: The Perfume Shop on in-store refillable fragrance systems

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

The mutli-brand refillable station could push more customers to refill rather than rebuy their favourite scent
The mutli-brand refillable station could push more customers to refill rather than rebuy their favourite scent

Related tags Fragrance Perfume Sustainability Environment circular beauty scents Packaging

The UK retailer The Perfume Shop stepped up the refillable movement in the fragrance category with its recent venture with L’Oréal. We spoke to Head of Marketing Karen Harris and Senior Buying Manager Miranda Savage about implementing the new system.

In late November, UK fragrance retailer The Perfume Shop teamed up with L’Oréal to launch the first multi-brand fragrance refill station​ in its Nottingham store.

After a boom of refillable makeup products, there is a now a growing focus on refillable fragrances, particularly as the perfume market has seen a spike in sales in recent years.

To use this new system, the customer brings in the empty perfume bottle, which rises up and clicks onto a dispenser to avoid waste.

“We wanted it to feel like a nice customer experience, so one of our fragrance experts will be on hand to talk the customer through the journey,” ​explained The Perfume Shop’s Head of Marketing, Karen Harris.

Could encourage more customers to refill 

Harris said she can see growth in the scent refill market and acknowledges that customers can already refill certain scents at home but thinks that implementing this kind of multi-brand refill system in-store will further encourage more customers to refill their scents instead of buying a new bottle each time.

She noted that to do an at-home refill, the customer had to buy a smaller 30ml fragrance and then invest in another 100ml or 150ml to do the refill.

“The difference with this is that they can come into the store and refill from a 30ml upwards line,” ​she explained. “They've got that real chance to stay in an area that was affordable for them.”

All bottles sized 30ml and over can be refilled at the fragrance station, starting at a cost of £23 for a 15ml bottle, up to £100 for a 100ml bottle, depending on the fragrance brand.

Harris said the venture was part of The Perfume Shop’s wider strategy to become more sustainable, but also points out the money-saving benefits of the new refill system – and said that customers will save around 29% as well.

The refill station itself is made from sustainable materials and will stock the retailer’s best-selling L’Oréal fragrances including YSL’s MYSELF, Prada’s Paradoxe, Lancôme’s La Vie Est Belle, Armani’s Code, Si and My Way, and Mugler’s Angel and Alien.

So how did they choose which scents would grace the new refill system?

We viewed our customer data to look at repeat rate purchase across these core L’Oréal brands,” ​explained Senior Buying Manager at The Perfume Shop Miranda Savage.

“Lots of these are in the top 10 fragrances in the UK anyway, we can see that from a customer loyalty perspective. We've already got that engagement with those customers, so they're going to really feel the benefit of having this there,” ​she continued. “And there are a couple of new launches that have done particularly well for the business and that we know are going to be key focuses for us in the next year.”

Paradoxe for example, was not yet considered a ‘core range’ scent, but it had been a standout success for The Perfume Shop since it launched, so gained a place in the new venture.

Another new-ish scent YSL MYSELF, which has broken down gender barriers by using a male model Austin Butler in the campaign but attracting more female customers, is also there.  

“On this fragrance in particular, we are expecting to have slightly more female customers because of the some of the notes in there are more commonly found in a female fragrance rather than male traditionally,” ​said Savage.  

She continued: “The target customer are customers who absolutely love the fragrance; they want to come back and refill it. But more than ever, we're seeing customers be more sustainably led and really want to understand what CSR credentials the fragrances have before they make that purchase. So, for us, it's leading the way with that conversation, but also giving them a real cost saving.”

A need to “raise awareness” of refillable options

This isn’t the first scent refill system in The Perfume Shop, as L’Oréal had implemented single scent refill units into the retailer for its Thierry Mugler Angel and Alien fragrances back in 1992. This meant that the retailer was already used to working with this kind of system.

Although, Harris noted that the fragrance industry as a whole needs to raise awareness of these kinds of offerings.

“I still think there's a bigger opportunity and a bigger job to do on awareness,”​ she said. “What we found since we put the unit in is that people are coming in and they’re interested in refillable fragrances but weren’t necessarily aware it was an option.”

Savage pointed out that when the refill station was being fitted into the store, many consumers walking past asked us what it was and how did it work. “There was a really excitement about it,”​ she said.   

The Perfume Shop now plans to perfect the prototype and roll it out into other stores. “We wanted it in there for peak season, mostly because we want that footfall there so we can let customers know is there we can excite them over Christmas,” ​said Savage. “It's something completely new for the store to talk about.”

For both Harris and Savage, this is the start of a new era for the fragrance industry.

“I think we are seeing a massive shift,” said Harris. “We all know there's already a rise of the more conscious shopper and data from NPD Group showed that 85% of them are looking for refill opportunity and options.

“I think it will only get bigger but there’s a big awareness piece that I think we just need to do in the market generally. I think if customers are more aware they can do it now they will do it.”

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