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VM Basics: Smell part 3

Previous articles have looked at the use of smell in store display, especially for floral and perfume associations. Now, let us take a look at more exotic scents, commencing with spices.

The illusion of scent is sometimes the best option for VM, where stray smells can be off-putting and where colour can be useful. But, equally, smell itself can enticing and alluring, attracting customers even when colour is muted, as here in  Galleries Lafayette's Maison Food Hall spice counter in Paris.

Open counters are evocative of the clear blue skies of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and South Asia. Note the larger display of Herbe de Provence (a mix of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and other herbs): this mix is used on grilled foods and stewed dishes in France, and is typically sold in larger bags than other those of other herbs.

This pleasingly colourful section has a far more pungent aroma, with Indian and Thai curry mixes, garam masala, cumin, and Middle Eastern mixes, including Zaatar, grains of mustard, and fragrant dill. Almost as good as walking in to a fresh market while on a far-flung vacation, and visually a lovely mix of warm colours, perfect for an exotic VM theme.

Successful selling of fresh spices requires an adequate turnover of stock, and for VM displays ruffling the surface occasionally will help keep the smell powerfully fresh.

This image of Paris department store Le Bon Marche’s cheese counter alone conjures up the pleasure and scent of artisan cheeses: some washed, others rolled in herbs, or even ash. To look at them is to imagine the variety of smells and tastes. The black shelf and the individual signs suggest a quality product, but notice the wooden trays adding a little warmth to the lower display.

This Indian restaurant in Cookham suggests a range of fiery dishes with luxuriant and colourful planting across the front of the restaurant. Maliks has planted burgeoning hanging baskets with hot-coloured lobelia and fuchsia, and scarlet geraniums in the foreground set against the luxuriant green Virginia creeper clad walls, making the scents and colours of the dishes almost mouthwateringly real.

Similarly, the alluring smell of coffee is attractive at almost any time. Here at Nespresso’s London store, the main door opens frequently to release the smell of the coffee-making bar on to the street. This is invisible but compelling VM.

Moving on from food-related VM environments to home sections this towel display, again from Galleries Lafayette, offers a spicy selection of towels carefully mixing two colours in each pile through a spectrum from warm yellow to deep plum.

Still with spicy colour-evoking scents, the soft furnishing section of Galleries Lafayette combines a knobbly textured orange throw with warm-toned cushion covers redolent of exotic fruit. The yellow and orange bobble trim on the taupe throw on the left suggests traditional Indian decorative techniques, or the Cornus kousa, the Szechuan strawberry tree. The stripy mustard bath mat on the bottom shelf adds a zesty rind-like complexity, all set off by the dark wall.

Parisian home furnishing store Madura offers a similarly piquant display of orange and bittersweet plush cushions and curtain fabrics, particularly the Asian-inspired interlocked devore pattern on the right. The copper wire bowl filled with woven Indian throws incorporating the signature paisley motif, some embellished, suggests a sub-continent inspiration to the display.

Key to evoking a tangy atmosphere is the juxtaposition of pink and orange tones. Here the walls of the Greenwood Theatre in London’s Bermondsey have had their red brick concealed beneath apricot yellow-orange paint with vertical slivers of Barbie-doll pink. Note the airy, purple-flowering gerbera in the foreground adding to the hot mix.

Peppery themes can be suggested by colour as much as aroma, and in many instances, where VM is not retailing food products, the illusion of smell is as useful as any actuality, given that straying scents may adversely affect other retail sales, but smell remains a powerful tool of VM professionals to be used with care.