C\o7 har Bomboy, a "fragrance consultant" at Bullock's in South Coast Plaza, has been selling perfume for nearly three decades, and she's seen many changes over the years. One is that vendors aren't barricaded behind a counter--"We call it 'the Fort' "--anymore: "We stand on the other side so we can do more one-on-one with customers."
Other changes are that more men are into cologne; U.S. products are making their presence felt around the world, and less money is being spent launching new products: "There's a lot less wining and dining and romancing now," Bomboy says.
We get visitors from all over the world at South Coast Plaza. We see so many different people that it's never dull.
The days of squirting people (are) gone, thank goodness. Years ago at Bloomingdale's in New York, customers complained about being attacked by the people selling fragrances, and they said they couldn't breathe in the store--the air was too heavy with Giorgio.
We greet them. We always ask, "Would you like to try this?" and we never do anything without their OK. Also, we hand out creams and lotions, instead of sprays. I don't set myself up for rejection. People are in a hurry, but they love to take samples home to try. The samples are something to remember the store by.
Standing out in the open as I do, I'm constantly asked directions or store hours. I'm a great concierge; if I ever write a book about my life, it will be titled, "I Know Where the Bathroom Is."
The reason we have a full floor of fragrance counters is that sales warrant it. Fragrances are profitable for department stores. The business is growing; there are always new fragrances, and there's an excitement because of that.
Before, American woman only used one perfume, a spray or splash, but now they want accessories, like the body and bath items. And they want a fragrance wardrobe to match all their moods. Enjoying a fragrance is a very feminine, uplifting feeling.
About one out of 10 of our customers is a man. Ten years ago, men would go three blocks out of their way to avoid us, but now they are more knowledgeable and aware of their woman's taste. Some are quite adventuresome.
Men also buy fragrances for themselves, and balms, shave foams and deodorants.
About 30% of men's fragrances are purchased by women to wear. They like the way they react to their body chemistry, and they stay on longer. Calvin Klein's new fragrance is presented as one for men and women. It's fun to see a couple buy it, because it will be different on both of them.
I think you have to love the business and appreciate what goes into a bottle. It's not just a bottle on the counter or a pretty picture in an ad. So much expertise goes into that fragrance. And tradition--some perfumes are 150 years old.