I’m pleased to add another name to my growing roster of Wonderful Sales Assistants In London Perfumeries. Today it’s Eric, the Parisian employee at London’s sole, standalone branch of Annick Goutal.
I realise it may be as calculated a sales strategy as any other, but I genuinely appreciate it when an SA is unafraid to express opinions not just about his/her wares, but about my own tastes and preferences. In other words, I love it when the person waving blotters under my nose is willing to engage in that rarest of things: a conversation. At a time when there are fewer and fewer reasons to shop in a bricks-and-mortar establishment, ‘non-virtual’ retailers would do well to cultivate and encourage the sorts of experiences that an online shop is not yet able to offer: ie a warm welcome, genuine human contact and a chat. And if they don’t know how to provide such courtesies, they could take a tip or two from Eric.
With what appeared to be heartfelt enthusiasm for the scents under his care, he took me through some of his favourites in the range, placing particular emphasis on Tubereuse (which certainly came across as richly buttery on paper) and Le Jasmin (far less indolic than I’d expected and more akin to the sensation of breezing past a handful of jasmine blossoms at the start of an evening).
He reckoned that I’d enjoy Encens Flamboyant, but his jaw nearly hit the floor when I told him that I’ve tried it and find it too clean.
“Too clean??” he said, “but… you’re wild!”… to which the only way I could possibly respond was by letting him smell what I happened to be wearing on that day: Dior’s truly sauvage Leather Oud.
He smelt it and smiled. “Okay. This is not clean.”
In the end, I decided that perhaps Musc Nomade was more my style, although I didn’t care for its sweetness. But that’s besides the point. I’d gone into a shop to do nothing more than re-familiarise myself with a few old names, but I left with the sense that I’d been allowed to share another individual’s passion for all things scented and perfumed.
So, as the son of someone who’s worked in perfume retail for several decades, I’d like to end this post by giving a shout out to all the SAs who make perfume fragrance hunting enjoyable and by leaving you with a question: when was the last time you went shopping and received an excellent service from someone who did more than just accost you with the latest fruity floral?