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July 22, 2009

Retail scenting

In recent years, I've been liking shopping malls less and less. Something about their sanitized, regulated interiors bug me, all marble and fountains and fatty-food purveying food courts.

There is a certain efficiency about malls - the high density of stores can make a multi-item shopping run quicker and require less driving. And in really foul weather (bitter cold, drenching rain) they can be a more comfortable way to to acquire new things.

But a recent shopping run has added another check on the "ugh!" side of the list. I'm not just talking about my Tuesday evening disappointment over finding goods advertised online unavailable in person, or cheap, sheer or unpleasantly colored. (At least the cast iron skillet was available, and on sale. But it seems harder to screw up a cast iron skillet than a cardigan sweater, somehow.) No, my current mall peeve is the store "fragrance." It's pretty clear that stores in the Abercrombie family are now using signature fragrances as a part of the creation of their no-doubt heavily focus grouped "shopping environment."  I walked past three separate stores during my latest mall foray where I was enveloped in what smelled like Axe-body spray scent rejects. Each scent was slightly different (all no doubt part of "positioning" the store), but all gag worthy. It was sort of like realizing that the person 3 cubicles down got what s/he thinks is awesome cologne for his/her birthday and has moved rapidly from use that might be called sparing to what would be more accurately termed "self-drenching."

Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of home or personal fragrance myself - I have a pretty strong and sensitive sense of smell. But If I'm walking 10 feet away from the store entrance and I can still smell it (hell, it's probably angled or even blown out the front door to lure people in), I can't possibly imagine how people work there, let alone shop there.

I know this really means I'm just galloping further and further away from their target demographic, and I have absolutely no doubt that this is all a part of a well researched effort to make more money at those stores. But truly, it will drive me away from enclosed shopping malls, and back into the outdoor shopping districts somewhat more (but not entirely) organic constructed in my fair city. Being nauseated is not high on my list of key attributes in a pleasant shopping experience.

July 22, 2009 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

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