In the Air
When a man loves a woman, what signs of affection does he typically think to give her? Jewelry, fragrances, flowers and candy.
So doesn’t it make sense for a retailer who sells fine jewelry to also sell fragrances? They might even, as Seattle-based Ben Bridge Jeweler recently did, create their own “signature” fragrance.
Ben Bridge, whose first store opened in 1912, is known for being creative. Its more than 70 stores display candy on their counters, and each has its own unique merchandising touches like a working fireplace in the Alaska store and a built-in fish tank in the Hawaii store.
“We’re always looking for a difference,” says Lisa Bridge, the company’s director of education. “It’s a constant evolution. In my family, we have evolved, allowing each generation, over almost 100 years, to put their stamp on the business.”
Ben Bridge is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, but remains a family-run operation: Lisa is one of three fifth-generation family members working for the business, her father Ed and his first cousin Jon Bridge are co-CEOs, and Lisa’s grandfather Bob and great uncle Herb are co-chairmen.
Lisa says she was inspired to create a signature fragrance while traveling. “I was in a beautiful blouse store and each blouse was merchandised with a little hanging sachet. When they wrapped my purchase, they spritzed each blouse and the whole package. It smelled wonderful and I started to think about how important the sense of smell is …
“We had all of the other senses already involved in our stores. We had beautiful merchandise, gorgeous stores, music playing, candy on the counters, coffee available every day, intelligent associates, but we didn’t have a signature fragrance” until Ben Bridge’s Flawless perfume launched in November 2010.
“Perfume is so similar to jewelry because they both tie into emotion and memory,” she says. “You always remember the scent your Mom wore and the gift of your first diamond.”
Interpreting the retail experience
As it happened, co-CEO Ed Bridge knew Richard Weening, CEO of Milwaukee-based Prolitec, known for its in-store scent diffusion and sampling systems used by retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and bebe. Prolitec worked with Ben Bridge’s executive team to develop a turnkey entry into fragrance selling.
“It was synergy,” Lisa Bridge says.
Raymond Matts, the creative force behind fragrance classics like Clinique Happy and Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds — the top-selling celebrity fragrance of all time — was given the task of distilling the essence of the Ben Bridge retail experience into a fine perfume. He visited Ben Bridge stores, met with associates and absorbed the “feel” of the brand.
Lisa Bridge and her team wanted their fragrance to be a “modern classic, light, fresh and easy to wear from the day well into the night.” The finished product is a blend of cucumber, pear and citrus along with magnolia and verbena, finished with rich saffron and cocoa. It has “bright fresh notes on top,” she says. “They convey energy, excitement, the brightness of our stores. Then you experience the floral notes which evoke romance. Then there are the wood notes, which are grounding like the wood in our stores. It all goes back to the store experience.”
The fragrance bottle looks like an upside-down diamond with a cap cut like the Ben Bridge Signature Diamond. The bottle is packaged in an innovative purple and black box that opens like a ring box. “Everything ties back to what our business is about,” Lisa Bridge says.
The full-size Flawless, which sells for $85, is displayed on the cash/wrap counter. A purse-size bottle, which sells for $35, is displayed on a nearby pedestal.
A comparable fine fragrance would sell for about $130, Lisa Bridge says, “but our pricing philosophy for everything is to give the customers the best value that we can. We want to give them a quality product at a reasonable price.
“We don’t run sales because we don’t believe in marking product up [just] to mark it down,” she says. “Jewelry has intrinsic value [and] we brought that same philosophy to Flawless.”
Lisa wanted everyone who came into her stores to sample Flawless through the air, but did not want it to be so powerful that it might affect customers with fragrance allergies. She asked Prolitec to design a formulation of Flawless suitable and safe for diffusing.
Prolitec’s computer-controlled in-store scent system releases all the fragrance notes at once through the air conditioning system, providing a faithful rendition of Flawless without alcohol.
“Since no one will buy a wearable fragrance without sampling it, the objective of media advertising — including in-store displays and other visuals — is to persuade the target audience to try it,” Weening says. “The Prolitec system reaches out to every person in the store to deliver a tiny sample. If it’s a broadly appealing fragrance like Flawless, the scent in the air enhances the customer experience in the store.”
Smaller versions of the Prolitec appliance are available for mounting on walls or the ceiling, and there is a compact table-top appliance suitable for small boutiques or targeted sampling within a larger retail space.
Flawless is not only enhancing the Ben Bridge brand, it is also increasing the frequency of customer visits, Lisa Bridge says. Sales numbers were not provided, but she says the initial shipments have sold quite well and that people seem to be buying Flawless both as a gift and for personal use. Repeat sales are particularly strong on the company’s website, www.benbridge.com.
“A really great customer walks into a jewelry store to make a purchase every 18 months,” she says, “so anything we can do to bring a customer in more often is a great thing. We want people to adopt this as their signature fragrance.
“It’s been very exciting and fun to be part of this project. It’s fascinating to develop and create something new, then to work through how to bring it to market.”