Small Scents

When last we wrote about fragrance, consumers could choose from dozens of everyday household products with the added appeal of fragrance. Along with the usual air fresheners, there was lilac-scented glass cleaner, laundry detergent in half a dozen flavors and scores of new ways to scent the home, from warmed oil to plug-in air fresheners to a fragrance-emitting CD-like machine.

Today, there is even more to choose from when consumers walk down the aisles of their grocery stores. Glass cleaner in five different scents. Laundry detergent in 10 different scents. Plug-in air fresheners with fans and auxiliary outlets. There's even scratch-n-sniff wallpaper (see Cherry Forever is my favorite).

Consumers have become more educated about fragrance and the role it plays in mood and well-being. Many of the same effects that people seek in a hot tub - relaxation, stress reduction, rejuvenation - are the same effects yielded by carefully chosen scents. So it's no surprise that consumers want fragrance to be part of their hot tub experiences, too.

And experience is the key to the allure of fragrance. Our sense of smell is the only one of our senses that is directly connected to the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain that, according to the Sense of Smell Institute, controls moods and emotions and contains the apparatus for the formation, storage and retrieval of memories. Because scent is more connected to emotion than cerebration, it's a powerful force.

As important as fragrance is, it's sometimes overlooked. To be sure, fragrance is not going to be a huge profit center for your hot tub retail operation, but there are benefits to offering fragrance to your customers that go beyond the profit margin. Just about anything retailers can do to increase the satisfaction and enjoyment their clients get from owning a hot tub is worthwhile, and fragrance falls into that category.

Scent Strategies

Penny Johnson has her finger on the pulse of the industry as chairman of the board of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals and as an owner and general manager of Johnson Pools and Spas in Huntsville, Ala. We asked Johnson how she markets fragrance in her retail operation and she noted several keys to effectively using fragrance at her store.

Timing: "We're in the South, and people don't keep their hot tubs running all year," says Johnson. "But when it's starting to turn a little cooler outside, people will begin thinking about it. So I usually move the fragrances forward in the store; I'll bring them out to an end cap and display them nicely with some seasonal theme." Johnson carries fragrance year-round, but she finds that customers are more likely to be receptive to it in the fall and winter.

Point of Purchase: "It's an impulse item," Johnson says. "They're not that expensive - $8.99, $9.99, then the singles are around $1.29 - and customers will pick a few of those up and they'll end up with $10 to $15 worth of fragrances or salts.

"I have a really pretty glass bowl that typically I will keep at the register - especially during this time of the year - so they can do the little try-me sizes. They're 1-ounce pillows. I'll keep those by the register for people who are waiting to check out," she says.

Getting customers to try fragrance is key. Once they experience it, most will seek it out again. Although she doesn't specifically track it, Johnson figures a surprising number of customers regularly buy fragrance. "I would guess 50 to 60 percent of our customers use fragrance in their hot tubs," she says. It adds one more dimension to the experience, and that goes back to it being an impulse item. Fragrance 411: Some customers worry that adding fragrance may affect the operation of their tubs.

Johnson says it's important to let them know that scent products made for hot tubs will harm neither the shell nor the filter. It's also important to carry only products that you know won't cause problems for the hot tub. "I find people are a little more cautious with the salts than they are with the liquid," says Johnson. "They are worried that the salts might cake up on the cartridge filter. But there's no problem, the salts are soluble.

"I'm sure there are some products out there that you have to be cautious of. When I take on a brand, though, I don't jump around because it's important to me to sell consistently to customers who come in looking for the same fragrance."

Johnson says you can have too much of a good thing. "I find if you have too many choices, people can't make up their minds and they walk away. People aren't that tuned into brand name," she says.

Trendspotting: "We usually sell and display a number of different fragrances, and what's really interesting is, it doesn't matter how long I have been doing this, eucalyptus always comes back to be my No. 1 seller every year." (Johnson's not the only one; see Top 10 Essential Oils, above.) "I carry so many other scents, like 'tropical paradise,' or 'ocean breeze,' but it just seems like eucalyptus is always the No. 1," she says.

Not surprisingly, customers like to have a little fun with fragrance. Many manufacturers produce single-use or trial-size packages, which allows customers to easily try a variety of scents. "In the 1-ounce sizes, normally people will buy four or five at a time," says Johnson. "Even when they buy a larger size, they also buy some sample sizes."

Of course, there's an element of personal taste involved. "I find that people don't like things that are too heavy like gardenia or other overpowering floral scents," says Johnson. "They tend to shy away from those strong scents. I think it's that women realize that their husbands may not like something like that."

By the same token, some traditionally male scents may not appeal to the average woman. "A few years ago, musk was really big, and I don't care for that at all," says Johnson. Promotion: Just as fragrance is relatively inexpensive for customers, it's a cost-effective giveaway item for retailers. There are a host of ways for dealers to use fragrance for promotion. "When we sell a hot tub, we give the customer a package of samples and a starter kit and we always include fragrances," says Johnson.

Some manufacturers will package custom-label fragrances for your business. In addition to carrying these house-branded fragrances on your shelves, consider the promotional possibilities. Send a postcard to targeted customers (or future customers) inviting them to come into the store to receive a free fragrance package - with your store's identity on the label, of course.

Service calls usually don't put customers in a good frame of mind.

Consider leaving a few trial sizes of a soothing fragrance behind whenever your techs make a home visit. Remember, powerful things come in petite packages.

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