Selfridges’ Fragrance Lab is its latest retail theatre extravaganza. Retail Week takes a look around the installation in the London store.

Selfridges’ Fragrance Lab is the department store’s latest experiential retailing experiment. Photo: Hufton+Crow

Selfridges’ Fragrance Lab is the department store’s latest retail theatre extravaganza, designed to draw shoppers into the world of perfume and collect data on them at the same time.

In the video below, Philip Handford of design agency Campaign and Chris Sanderson of the Future Laboratory talk about their work on the project.

Philip Handford of design agency Campaign and Chris Sanderson of the Future Laboratory talk about their work on the Fragrance Lab at Selfridges.

The Lab is part of Selfridges’ Beauty Project, a six-week in-store campaign running from May 1 to June 12 that involves a range of events and debates.

The idea is to provide an example of what the future of retail looks like, while also collecting data and information on customers who take part.

The concept was developed by design studio Campaign and consultancy The Future Laboratory. Chris Sanderson, chief executive of the Future Laboratory, says one of the ideas behind the project was to find new ways to profile customers.

He says: “It was about the journey and getting to know customers better. We looked at methods of segmentation and ways to define customers that are different to traditional ways – more complex models for profiling. We wanted to understand about motivations and character and behaviour.”

The Lab itself looks convincingly scientific, with the white reception area filled with lab coat-clad staff and iPads on which shoppers are asked to complete a personality quiz. Plenty of data is collated on you – it asks for details such as email address, name, age, shopping habits and interests.

They are then given an audio recording that guides them through a set of rooms, including a couple that are created in Selfridges’ famous windows, before being told what their ‘signature scent’ is. The rooms each contain different experiences and scents, and are designed to help shoppers pinpoint what they like and what staff think would suit them.

Travelling through the rooms is a slightly confusing experience, but also an intriguing one. The aim appears to be to take the shopper on a voyage of personal discovery – deciding which scents you like – as well as to suggest a perfume for the consumer based on the team’s research.

At the end of the series of rooms, a member of the team speaks to the shopper about what she wants from a fragrance, and asks her to try a few different types. What might have been nice to include is an element of information about what you like – the scents you respond well to, and the types of ingredients to look for in future purchases.

Sanderson says the aim is not to drive sales, but to pique consumers’ interest and get them interested in the project and store. “It’s not about selling fragrance, it’s about creating an experience and testing the boundaries.” He adds the four companies who have worked on the project – Campaign, The Future Laboratory, Selfridges and fragrance supplier Givaudan – are interested to see how shoppers react to the idea.