Abercrombie Cologne Makes Shoppers Anxious; Plan To Decrease Spray

Abercrombie Scent May Be Causing You Anxiety
Abercrombie's cologne creates feelings of enclosed spaces and anxiety in their already crowded stores. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Abercrombie & Fitch is the retail chain known for its moose logo, dimly-lit stores, and strong cologne odors that flood the clothes racks — and now the cause of customer anxiety. Researchers from Concordia University’s School of Business have published a new study on how store scents affect customer anxiety levels, and Abercrombie and its sister store Hollister are suggested to scale back by at least 25 percent.

“In terms of Abercrombie & Fitch’s scent, it’s one of their colognes called Fierce and it is a very masculine and strong scent,” Bianca Grohmann, co-author of the study told TIME. “Although we did not particularly test this particular scent, this kind of scent is actually directionally more associated with enclosed spaces.”

Researchers set up a retail-simulated environment within their lab to test how diffused scents affect anxiety level in clustered or open spaces. The researchers invited participants into either crowded or spacious rooms and infused them with the smell of firewood, the seashore, or no scent at all.

“Our study shows that retailers need to carefully consider how they pair shopping space and ambient scent in order to decrease consumers’ anxiety levels and improve their shopping experience,” Grohmann said.

Consumers placed in a crowded room filled with people and merchandise reported feeling least anxious when they smelt the seashore, which evokes wide open space. While consumers in a spacious store were calmed by the smell of firewood, which suggested closed spaces.  In contrast, those who were in spacious stores filled with spacious smells reported feeling uneasy.

“If the scent is associated with enclosed spaces, toning down the intensity might not make the enclosed space feeling go away,” she said.

Abercrombie pumps a musky, masculine smell through their ventilation system, which suggests closed spaces. The smell floods their already crowded stores, which makes it an overwhelming and uneasy experience for the typical shopper.

"If you perceive some level of anxiety, you start to feel uncomfortable in the retail environment," Grohmann said. "You don't really want to stick around, you don't want to spend time in the store and you don't want to look at merchandise."

Since Abercrombie is already having a hard time keeping its teenage cliental inside their stores, researchers suggest changing their scents around to evoke feelings of ease. The company’s colognes are one of its highest grossing products. According to Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries, their signature cologne, Fierce, generates more than $80 million annually.  

Regardless of the scents’ notable sales, Abercrombie has been faced with losses in recent quarters. This year’s first-quarter sales fell 1.9 percent from $822.4 million to roughly $796.3 million, according to Bloomberg. Abercrombie has been undergoing a makeover since its falls began last year. The chain has already cut Jeffries’ pay, stripped him of his chairman role, and rebranded Hollister with lower prices in order to attract small-budget teens. They’ve turned up the lights, turned the music down, and already reduced fragrance spritz by 25 percent, and possibly have adopted a new scent to save the uneasy claustrophobia consumers may be experiencing.  

"One option, instead of rethinking the intensity, is rethinking what scent you use," Grohmann told The Huffington Post. "A scent reminiscent of wide open spaces could help reduce anxiety for a lot of people."

 

Source: Poon T, Grohmann B. Spatial density and ambient scent: effects on consumer anxiety. American Journal of Business. 2014.

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