Smell Matters: Why Abercrombie Should Change Its Stores' Signature Scent

Can't handle the cologne in Abercrombie and Hollister stores? You're not the only one. Here's why.

Even just walking on the sidewalk outside an Abercrombie or a Hollister store is enough to nearly drown you in an invisible wave of store-brand cologne. The sibling stores' odors are as tied up in their identity as clothes loudly bearing their own logos. But Abercrombie announced last week that it is dialing back the scent, and researchers from Concordia University in Montreal have some theories about why Abercrombie might need to do even more than that.

Abercrombie blasts its stores with two different colognes: Fierce and So Cal, which Abercrombie refers to as "iconic" scents. Bianca Grohmann of Concordia would define it somewhat differently. Grohmann's work classifies scents used in retail spaces as evocative of either enclosed spaces or open spaces. Neither is objectively good or bad; the idea is that retailers have to thoughtfully design their scent profiles just as carefully as they'd design a store's layout.

According to the researchers, a scent like wood or buttered popcorn creates an enclosed feeling, best used for wide-open, emptier spaces. Outdoorsy scents like the beach or green apple create a feeling of openness, which better balance the feel of an enclosed retail space, Grohmann says. The whole game is balance. That's why Abercrombie's scent doesn't work well, the Huffington Post reports: the custom colognes are musky and masculine, which is an "enclosed" scent. But the stores are dark and crowded, creating a feeling of claustrophobia and discomfort.

Abercrombie's revenues have been declining lately; last quarter it had a net loss of $23.7 million. Scent obviously isn't the primary culprit. But changing it—or at least reducing its power—probably wouldn't hurt.

[Via New York magazine]

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  • Or maybe they're doing it because burning the eyes and nostrils of potential consumers is a bad move? Didn't need science to figure that one out. Haha.

  • Hate the place. it stinks. And the racket that booms into the street isn't exactly something that makes me want to go in either.. Perhaps they could change that too?

  • Sher Salt

    Man, I hate walking past A&F stores precisely because of the smell. Even at close proximity they pollute the air with their repulsive "iconic" scent. It's the number one reason I avoid those stores like the plague.

    I had a chance to work with their marketing team on their 'aromatizer' but turned 'em down flat. I can't work with a company I don't respect and I certainly won't shop at a store that's so 'in your face' with their product. It's like that guy on the subway with his radio turned up loud so everyone can 'enjoy' it. The idiot thinks he's entertaining everyone, but he's just an annoying, man-child fool.

    It sounds like this research could point them in the right direction. But can Abercrombie overcome decades of abuse from those damned "iconic" scents?