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Stores Using Smells To Create Atmosphere, Sales

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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.

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