Stores Using Smells To Create Atmosphere, Sales

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you hit the stores, you expect certain sights, sounds, and even sales — but what about smells?

More and more businesses are actually marketing with man-made fragrances, including some that are already well known for their natural scents.

Smells sell. Just ask anybody who buys bath and body products, potpourri, or scented candles.

“I think they feel like an affordable piece of luxury,” said Linda Mohr of Minneapolis.

Patina built a business around it, because customers understand the connection between the nose and the mind.

“There’s something about the sense of smell,” said a shopper at Patina. “I think it brings back a lot of memories.”

But now some other kinds of businesses are seeing dollars in scents and using little machines to pump in their own special fragrances.

After years of burning candles, the Minnesota-based Hot Mama women’s clothing chain switched to a man-made scent, made by a company called ScentAir.

“It is made of white green tea and amber,” said Hot Mama vice president Kristina Klockars.

A little black machine sits on a shelf, adding the scent to the store’s ambiance, just like the music on the sound system or the clothes on the racks. They said it’s cheaper and safer than burning candles and creates a more consistent atmosphere from store to store.

“It’s definitely more about branding than any sort of buying cues that it gives anybody,” said Klockars.

“We sell the ambiance,” said Matthew of Le Meridien Chambers Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis. “We hit all five of the senses.”

Branding is everything at the Chambers, an art hotel that brags about stimulating your senses from the second you walk in the door.

With unique sounds in each area, heated tiles in bathrooms and art displays everywhere, the special scent fits right in, coming from little white diffusers, hidden in the rafters.

“Our scent is very distinct,” said Hawkins, “right when people come in the Meridien Chambers, they automatically say ‘what’s that smell?'”

It was developed exclusively for the Le Meridien chain, called LM1, with hints of cedar wood, musk, iris, and frankincense.

“It puts a brand to your nose,” said Tim Amireault of ScentAir, “and that memory of that store.”

ScentAir has created 1,500 fragrances, from fruity and sweet to flowery and aromatic. Its first scents were actually developed for Disney. They’ve also been used in flight simulators and by the army in urban warfare training to make them seem more realistic.

Las Vegas casinos use fresh fragrances to keep card players at the tables longer, and a shoe store uses fresh leather scent, but the most unusual place we found a ScentAir machine was in the middle of a grocery story. Bob’s Produce is a small, family owned place, with hand-lettered signs on the walls, and wonderful smells wafting from the bakery to the deli.

“Just enhancing their experience here at the store,” said Bob’s Produce owner Mike Schroer. “Just to give a good sense of what we are as compared to the big box stores.”

Schroer started using melon scent during the summer, and switched to hot apple pie for the fall. He worried about overwhelming the store’s natural “flavors,” but customers seem to like it.

“Makes me want to get apple pie to tell you the truth,” said customer Atesh Datt of Fridley.

“It kind of adds to it,” said customer Cathy Hannigan or North St. Paul.” Just like if you bake an apple pie to sell your house. It’s the same thing to me.”

“It’s not to have people buy more of something,” said Schroer, “it’s just creating that atmosphere of what we have in the store.”

ScentAir costs each business $69 per month.

  • Murph

    Luckily Faux News thought better of using Rush Limbaugh smells to trick us into voting Republican.Those poor Hawaiian people who had to endure the irrigation of his colon know the real stench of Republicaniism!

  • Mar Digat

    OMG I HATE those horrible chemical smells. They literally make me nauseaous! Give us a break, and give both sides of these stories. Some chemically sensetive people would become very ill just by entering a store. I hope they plan to post on their doors that their air is laden with formaldehyde and other toxins, DELIBERATELY!!!

    • Dawn

      Mar Digat, I agree with you. I am amazed that people want to put more poison in the air they breathe. When I sense that a store has an added chemical odor, I walk right back out the door. There is a toxic pine candle that some stores burn at this time of year that causes my throat to burn in about 20 seconds. A chain of bird feed stores sells the candle and burns it at this time of year as a way to demonstrate the odor of the candle. I let the store owner know the health hazard of breathing air laced with chemically created poison made to smell like pine. I let the store owner know that the candle sickens me and requested that the store place a sign on the door informing the public that a scented candle is being burned in the store, which they did.

      Some people come down with multiple chemical sensitivity as a result of one intense exposure to chemicals. Others become chemically sensitive over time as a result of numerous lower level exposures to poison.

      The petroleum based chemical cleaners, laundry detergents, etc. available at grocery stores dump poison into air in the home after they are used. Carpets expose people to a continuous flow of poison in the air as they outgas….over years. Paint and chemicals used for home and office renovation expose people to chemicals. Pesticides/herbicides applied liberally everywhere Spring-late Falll…..more chemicals. You don’t see flies trying to get in dwellings in the late fall in the Twin Cities because the excessive use of herbicides (most are made from pesticides) has killed them off. As if all of this were not enough, we now need to add more poison to indoor air at stores and movie theaters so that we can have a better experience? In theaters, there are scratch and sniff cards that are passed out to patrons for some movies. Scratch and sniff? Isn’t that something a dog does?

      I am moving up along L. Superior in a few days. My move is motivated by my inability to breath all of the poison in the air in the Twin Cities. When I am up North, I feel fine. When I come back to the Twin Cities, I have lower energy and feel somewhat sick all of the time.

      It is misguided to add more chemicals to already polluted air.

    • Deathly Sensitive

      I have severe chemical sensitivities. I CANNOT visit any of the shopping centers since just about every store puts some sort of noxious, toxic and life threatening “scent” in the air. I even have to avoid going anywhere near the candle isle at department and drug stores. Each and every time I am exposed to these chemicals my reaction becomes worse. Why in world would any store be interested in alienating customers by chasing them away with a smell. I can’t be alone in thinking that clean air would be the best marketing strategy any retail/service store.

  • Susan

    Stores have been doing this for decades, it’s not news.

    Casinos pump oxygen into the air to keep customers from getting tired and leaving.

    • Dawn

      Susan, I agree with Mike on the oxygen.

      What the casinos have is very productive air exchangers that bring in outdoor air and may also filter the air in the process. There are hepa air exchangers that take pollen and mold spores out of air entering a building, and UV light filtration, activated carbon filtration, and other strategies can also be used to filter outdoor air entering a building.

      In addition to providing air from outside, air exchangers also create positive pressure and in so doing, prevent the growth of mold behind external walls.

      Fresh air in any indoor setting is a very good idea.

  • Mike

    Susan, as someone who has been involved in casino HVAC work for over two years, I can say with authority you are dead wrong. Casinos absolutely do NOT pump oxygen into the air. Doing so would be extremely dangerous, illegal, and ineffective. Also, why didn’t this Minneapolis reporter include information on Lake Elmo’s AromaSys, an ambient fragrance competitor that predates ScentAir by over a decade and was started by two Minnesotans in St. Louis Park? I’m guessing it’s because ScentAir has a better PR agency. What ever happened to real reporting?

  • Diana van Deusen

    I was looking for a link on today’s report about the toxicity of fragrances. I would like more information. I am one that is sickened by shopping in stores, esp. Patina, where I can stay only 10 – 15 secs before feeling ill. More and more I can hardly go out. I go to the theater and get a migraine, I get on a plane and am sickened. I go for a walk in my neighborhood and am ill from all the people doing their laundry with scented products. I wish we had better protection from these chemicals.

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