business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got a lot of email yesterday about the trend toward “scent technology” to entice customers. (We thought the industry would be better off if it just had bakeries that actually smelled like bakeries.)

MNB user Peggy Long wrote:

I'm fine with bakeries smelling like bakeries (a wonderful sense for the senses!), but when I read this article, all I could think about was the big corporations spending millions to out do their competitors as we walk down the grocery isle. It'd be worse than going into a perfume store and being assaulted to the point of nausea! Sensory overload and leaving the store with a headache. No thank you!

But, in the produce section, the natural smell of fruits makes me daydream of a tropical vacation. That's a mini vacation without leaving the city!

MNB user Cheryl Lewis wrote:

One thing they need to be aware of and careful with is these scents sometimes negatively affect people with allergies. I know – I’m one of those people! There are stores that I can not go into and aisles I cannot go down without suffering – especially the candle aisle. Also, artificial scents bother people with Asthma. So, unless they want to drive more people to shopping on the internet, grocery stores should stick to natural scents like baking smells. Artificial is not always good.

Another MNB user wrote:

Retailers need to be aware that there are a number of people with fragrance allergies/sensitivities that would be turned off by the installation of a scent-delivery system. It can be difficult enough to shop in a store filled with soaps, detergents, cleaning products and scented candles, air fresheners and the like, not to mention the customers and employees wearing fragrance. The physical reaction to fragrances can range from annoying to debilitating and include migraines, asthma attacks, dizziness, sore throat, itching/burning eyes and nose, and more.

Adding fragrance to the entire store would force those with fragrance allergies/sensitivities to stay away. Stick with the natural smells of fresh baked goods and hot deli foods and avoid the hazards of chemical fragrances.

Yet another MNB user wrote:

I can see the lawsuits flying now from consumers with hypersensitivity disorder. The facility people (or the lawyers) for these retailers better take a course on indoor air quality.

MNB user Richard Evans wrote:

Read with interest your article on artificial scents and smells introduced into the shopping environment to increase sales.

As a former store planner, I have done some research on this very subject. My findings conclude, much as you have, that consumer hunger for instance, is not increased simply by introducing an aroma. What motivates sales has to be a multi-faceted, overall approach.

Visual (lighting, color, decor, cleanliness), Smells & Aromas (a fresh citrus smell is associated with cleanliness for instance), Audio (music played at a certain tempo with a particular number of beats per measure), Perceived value (competitive pricing), Product Placement and display, Layout (creating the right flow), and most importantly, Customer Service (taking a personal interest in what the customer wants and needs).

No single item by itself is going to do the trick.

MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

The Kroger store I shop at did something along these lines last summer, on weekends during the hour or two before lunch and dinner had a charcoal grill set up by the front door. Someone would be grilling chicken pieces and ribs, and putting them into to go containers for people entering the store. It was a wonderful use of a great aroma, I wish more would do this simple, yet very effective means of selling.

MNB user Cliff Balzer wrote:

At the end of the day, if the technology price/performance holds up, all supermarkets will do this - so there goes the differentiation! True differentiation is the "in-store experience." Do shoppers actually like being in-store? The more time in-store, the larger the basket size.

Here are some of chains that have created a premier, sustainable and competitively differentiating "In-Store Experiences":

-Trader Joes
-Roche Brothers/Sudbury Farms (a local New England chain)
-Whole Foods
-Stew Leonard's (another New England chain)

…When you create a premier In-Store Experience, it's very tough for the competition to duplicate it because they can't sense it at all.

BUT, customers can sense it.

On the subject of proposed government regulations banning trans fats, MNB user Ray England wrote:

Just what would we do if it were not for local, state, and federal governments looking out for us? Personally, I believe that it is one thing to identify the fact trans-fats are bad for ones health; great information for anyone making a choice on what or what not to ingest. I like to know if I am buying caffeinated, or decaffeinated coffee, or fat free sour cream. It is however, a choice that I make for myself. What if my local board of health decides that caffeine is a bad thing and forces a ban on products containing caffeine from local grocery shelves? What about sugar, or alcohol?

I saw a segment on this subject on one of the 24/7 cable news shows just a few days ago. The segment showed a member of the New York City board of heath talking about trans-fats attempting to make a case for banning them is his fair city. I just had to wonder if he tells folks that come to his house for a dinner party what the calorie count, saturated and non saturated fat grams are in the three meat lasagna he plans to serve? Not to mention dessert!

I guess I have too much faith in capitalism, just think about the pressure the decision KFC made concerning trans-fats will put on their competition to make similar changes. All government has to do is inform people of the risks and point out the source of those risks. Consumers can take it from there.

And another MNB user wrote:

It is interesting that you seem to infer that McDonalds is a bad player in the Trans Fat arena, while Ben and Jerry's gets a pass as a "calculated indulgence". Does that mean that the trans fats that Ben and Jerry's puts in their ice cream are somehow OK, because they are calculated indulgences made by intelligent people, while people who enjoy an occasional bag of fries from McDonalds are less intelligent and need government regulations to insure that they do not hurt themselves.

Wasn't Ben and Jerry's own original slogan, "Made from the best stuff on Earth."? I guess that means they use the best trans fats on earth, so that makes them ok. And no, it is not acceptable to argue that they are trying to remove trans fats, because McDonald's is also "trying". Until they actually do it, one indulgence is as bad as another.

We’ll cheerfully admit to a double standard based purely on personal biases. Hell, MNB parades our personal biases on an almost daily basis.

But we certainly did not mean to imply that people who eat at McDonald’s are less intelligent that those who eat Ben & jerry’s ice cream. To make a statement like that, even in jest, you’d have to be the junior senator from Massachusetts.
KC's View: