For several personal reasons, I've got huge affection for Dior. Ever since I was about 7 years old, many of the firm's perfumes have become synonymous with significant people and moments in my life, which is why I desperately wanted its new Maison De Parfums at Selfridges in London to be an all-out triumph. But having visited it twice, I'm sorry to say that it doesn't quite come up to scratch.
I'm not an expert in shop design, but from what I can see, the main problem is that the new space is just too box-like. The nearby Chanel concession (with which the Dior immediately invites comparison) manages to break up its enclosure and turn it into three distinct areas: there's the 'bar stool' arrangement for Les Exclusifs, the more intimate table and chairs for consultations (partially surrounded by an elegant use of a curved wall) and the more familiar 'till on a counter' set up for ordinary transactions. But the Dior is just a basic, uninspiring series of straight edges... albeit very shiny ones.
Yes, it has a whole section composed of a massive LCD screen playing images which, apparently, are meant to make us think of the inspiration behind the fragrances, but frankly, the idea's rather gimmicky and its execution is a touch too tacky. There's also an alcove in which customers can smell a wide range of individual perfume notes, but the atmosphere it creates is clumsy rather than cosy, probably because the arrangement of its seats does nothing to help the shopper block out the rest of the department store. And finally, there's no sign of the all-important, high-impact visual hook with which to grab a casual passer by. Chanel's counter is awash with eye-catching iconography: the double-C logo, the classic No. 5 bottle, a shelf containing vials of raw materials, a large photo of Jacques Polge, and so on. Dior's is highly polished and neatly ordered, but it needs much sharper punctuation.
Having said all that, there is one aspect of the new set up which deserves high praise: the staff. With unobtrusive efficiency, they answered all my queries and provided first-rate information about their products, whilst managing to convey just the right amount of personal enthusiasm for perfume. I must particularly thank Kayleigh for being exceptionally helpful, patient and good-humoured.
Employees can influence the Powers That Be, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the SAs' clear commitment to providing excellent customer service will lead them to encourage Management to improve the Maison and help it become the memorable, must-see perfume location that it really ought to be. At the moment, it feels like a superficially glitzy concession stand at a clinical airport duty free, which simply isn't good enough for the house that's given us Diorissimo, Poison, J'Adore L'Absolu, Dior Homme and now, Leather Oud.
[The Maison De Parfums at Selfridges, London, stocks all the 'mainstream' Dior perfumes, as well as the new Collection Privée (currently available only in three cities in the world). It offers a wide range of complimentary, no-obligation-to-purchase
And speaking of people influencing the Powers That Be, voting is now open in the public categories of the USA's 2011 FiFi Awards, so please click on this link and get involved.