What’s fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal’ like? Part One…

What’s fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal‘ like right now?

If – like us – you’ve been a touch cautious about returning to the high street to shop for fragrance in an actual store, we’ve some reassuring news: Our roving reporter (and co-founder of We Wear Perfume) Amanda Carr, visited central London this week and found it was not just safe, but surprisingly enjoyable…

‘Sat on an empty tube, masked-up and slightly anxious is not how I usually approach fragrance shopping, but this pandemic has turned everything upside down. What would my first foray into scent stores be like? How would I inhale fragrance through my home-made, Liberty print face mask? I clutched my portable hand sanitiser – Perfumer H, Orange Leaf Hand First Aid, since you’re asking – and nervously headed out.

My first stop was Les Senteurs in stylish Elizabeth Street, and there’s a polite notice on the door explaining the ‘two guest’ policy for socially distanced shopping. Using the hand sanitiser as you enter is a must and masks must be worn, but your nose can peek out to allow you to inhale. All done, according to manager Clair Wills, to keep you safe while sniffing.

But oh what a joy to be back in a store!

 

 

On the central display was the newly launched Tauer fragrance Phtaloblue, exclusive to Les Senteurs. Trying it felt like a reward for just being there, as a new Andy Tauer fragrance is always a treat, Phtaloblue is like a cool, sea breeze, lightly tinged with orange blossom and geranium, with smudges of herby notes as if you were on a cliffside walk.

Although closed during the pandemic, Les Senteurs has remained busy selling fragrance from its website due partly, Clair claims, to the weekly e-newsletter the store continued to send out and its free-post service. ‘I think people slowed down a lot during lockdown and had time to properly read about and consider the fragrances we featured,’ she told us. ‘We do a good tester services so customers had the time to order samples and consider them at home, then they treated themselves.’

 

 

Store visitors experience a similarly ‘slowed down’ shopping experience, I had the store to myself, since foot traffic in the area is still low, and the staff seemed delighted to see a real-life customer, so it all felt quite special. I browsed happily through fragrances from Cloon Keen, a charming Irish brand I’d been meaning to properly try, again exclusive to Les Senteurs, including the delicious new tuberose-heavy candle Étaín candle. I almost didn’t want to leave.

But with a new skip in my step, I continued my tour, including a brief trip across the road to the wonderfully air conditioned Jo Loves, where it’s business as usual, albeit it at a masked-up and quieter pace, and where I caught an energising spritz of the new Mango Thai Lime fragrance, another winner during the heat.

 

 

Over at Jovoy on Conduit Street, the store has spaced out its many fragrance collections and displays to allow up to two groups at a time to navigate the shop floor. Visitors also get their own pot of blotters and a pencil to take round with them, which is such a good idea – I hope this continues when we get back to normal – and there are vinyl gloves to wear for when you pick up the fragrance bottles to spray.

There have been a number of new launches at the store since lockdown including a wonderfully cheering medley of song-inspired fragrances from Musicology, a brand that stimulates the senses, memories and vibrations via music. Anyone who has read the recent Music & Perfume edition of The Scented Letter will feel slightly smug at already knowing the strong connection between sound and scent. I tried ‘Caus I’m Happy, a veritable rhythm of grapefruit, orange and bergamot citrus, and found myself humming Pharrell’s catchy tune of the same name for the rest of the day.

 

 

The store is also trialling a pre-selling service (a bit like stores would create a waiting list for an ‘it’ bag, although doesn’t that seem and age ago now?) for highly anticipated fragrances suffering from postponed lockdown launches.

For example, store visitors can get an exclusive sniff of Widian’s Limited Edition 71 Intense, and put down an order before its autumn launch, grabbing one of the never-to-be-repeated bottles. Store manager Ines Serracino explained that they hope to do more pre-selling as the team has noticed an increased demand for hard to get fragrances.

Watch out fashion, it looks like fragrance is now the hot item creating wish lists…’

We continue Amanda’s ‘new normal’ scent discovery shopping trip TOMORROW.  So come back then to have your senses further temted back in store…

(Text and pictures by Amanda Carr, edited by Suzy Nightingale).

A whiff of hope: smell test detects Covid-19 early warning

The whole world has felt ambushed by COVID-19, but it’s only recently that experts have realised that the sense of smell is one of the first things to be attacked – well before any other symptoms present themselves. Now, IFF (International Flavors & Fragrance) have helped develop a smell-test to take at home, donating scents from their living technology collection to aid the testing process…

Scientists now agree that the loss of smell represents an early warning sign of Coronavirus. Anosmia (smell loss) and dysgeusia (taste loss) are extremely common symptoms that may appear before any other symptoms to suspect a patient might be infected. Researchers developing the pioneering (and self-administered) test say that ‘early awareness of exposure may trigger testing sooner and improve the overall accuracy of testing for COVID-19.’ And as we now know – the earlier a possible infection can be detected and the patient made aware, the fewer other members of the public could be infected.

‘IFF has a long history of developing innovative solutions for a multitude of global challenges,’ commented Dr. Gregory Yep, IFF’s Chief Scientific and Sustaina­bility Officer. ‘Our ongoing collaboration with Dr. Albers underscores our commitment to do more good for people and planet, and I hope our donation can help contribute to a solution for this pandemic.’

The Blavatnik Sensory Disorders Fund at Harvard Medical School is enabling the building of apps that allow long-distance symptom tracking and smell testing from home, and up to 400 patients at MGH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Spaulding Rehabiliation Hospital will be participating in their first round of testing.

After receiving a small and simple to use scratch card, the test will then be conducted on a patient’s own phone app (or via a tablet, or computer.) During the test, participants will answer a series of questions about possible COVID-19 symptoms and loss of smell and/or taste. By distributing this free smell test, the hopes are that presymptomatic detection of anosmia will trigger full testing and prompt patients to self-isolate – even if no other symptoms are present.

With the recent lowering of social distancing measures, many experts fear a second (and possibly even larger) spike in the numbers of new COVID-19 infections, it behoves us to be extra cautious and to be forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.

Dr. Mark Albers, an MGH neurologist specialising in memory and olfactory disorders, was one of the leading experts who wanted to set up the test, explaining that, ‘There is so much we don’t know about COVID-19, but the research shows that loss of smell and taste play a prominent role in identifying possible patients with the virus,’

‘If we can provide reliable self-administered tests to people and health care workers,’ Dr. Albers continued, ‘we may be able to slow the spread of the disease in the future and chart recovery of smell function, which may be helpful to determine when it is safe to reengage after having the COVID infection.’

Fascinating, isn’t it, how we are only now discovering how many medical conditions have early warning signs reflected in a loss of smell? Perhaps now, those scientists who were toiling away studying the sense of smell – which for so many years was disregarded as insignificant – will be taken more seriously; and (we hope – perhaps naively) will be given the funding they so desperately need.

By Suzy Nightingale