Former John Lewis home fragrance buyer Sara Allbright – now founder and director of Retail100 Consulting – shares her views on how retailers can maximise their customers’ home fragrance experience in-store

What’s your background?  

I was a John Lewis buyer for 18 years, culminating in the best part of a decade buying Gifts and Candleshop.

What trends have you seen develop over the years?  

Christmas World 2023

Home fragrance products have developed from just being about a scent you like, to products that can enhance your mood and support wellbeing, to brands that are seen as key interior trend pieces and have huge levels of demand and cult followings. The use of ultrasonic diffusers and fragrance oils has really taken off over the past two to three years, with people finding them a practical and reliable way of getting fragrance into their homes.

What do you think are key criteria when sourcing items?

It’s key in the first instance to understand different types of fragrance carriers such as wax in all its variety, and how various oils perform. All have pros and cons around subjects such as product performance, sustainability, and price. Packaging is becoming a more relevant consideration, with a conflict between the item needing to be well presented and look desirable on shelf versus the need to reduce waste. More and more, brands are looking to make their vessels reusable, so that they can play a key role in a circular economy.

Why should a gift retailer consider stocking home fragrance products? 

A home fragrance product always makes a useful gift; the recipient can find a purpose for the item – unlike some other gift products that end up put away in a drawer or taken to a charity shop.

“The future is strong for this category as it drives repeat purchases once consumers have found a fragrance, brand, and format they love”

For a gift retailer taking their first steps into home fragrance, what would you recommend as a good starting point?  

Definitely consider brands and ranges that carry sentiments on their candles, as these make great add-on items to other presents.

Any tips on the best ways to display items? 

Testers are key. If consumers can’t easily smell the products, they will open stock items to do this. Testers need updating too, to ensure they still give off a scent when unlit, as this will wane over time. Using something like bell jars over your testers looks smart and also helps retain the scent. If people lift the jars, they should be able to smell the scent in the jar rather than needing to lift up the candle itself.

Should gift stores consider using their own ‘signature scent’?

If a shop can scent itself with a fragrance, it’s a good selling tool, as people will immediately smell it when entering the premises and ask about it if the aroma appeals to them. However, it’s something to be careful of, especially ensuring you don’t make it overpowering as many people are allergic and can’t be in confined scented spaces.

What trends will be big this year?

I think the biggest trend will be people buying home fragrance as self-treat products. During a time of financial pressures and negative news, people will look for lower priced purchases that can add something different to their homes and allow them to enjoy a scent while they relax and unwind.

What does the future hold for this category?

The future is strong for this category as it drives repeat purchases once consumers have found a fragrance, brand, and format they love. Home fragrance makes for the perfect gift, especially when a product is designed to uplift and support wellbeing.


Retail100 Consulting will be launching soon with a new website: more details to follow in a future edition. In the meantime, contact hello@retail100consulting.co.uk. 

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