- The next time you feel a little more at peace with yourself
during a shopping trip, thank Enhanced Air Technologies.
- Tapping consumers' noses to open their wallets may sound
like an odd marketing strategy, but the Vancouver-based biotech company
thinks its new product will be a hit among retailers looking to beat sluggish
- Yesterday, the company unveiled its Commercaire pheromone,
a synthetic compound that mimics the maternal sense of comfort piped to
children when they're crying or otherwise unhappy.
- Filtered into a store through air ducts or a small fan
under the cashier's desk, for example, the odourless substance is meant
to relax customers so they stay longer, and buy more.
- However, Nigel Malkin, the upstart firm's director of
development, is quick to note that the pheromone will only put customers
at ease, not force them to do anything against their will.
- "It doesn't put people into a buying frenzy or anything
like that," he said. "This will just make them feel more relaxed
and give them a fond memory of the environment they've been exposed to.
That can breed customer loyalty." The firm has been working toward
a commercial launch for about year with pilot projects conducted at a Las
Vegas casino and several Canadian retailers.
- Mr. Malkin won't name those using the product, but revealed
that three are U.S.-based companies with operations in Canada .
- Yesterday, Wal-Mart Canada, Sears Canada, Home Depot
and Hudson's Bay Co. all denied using pheromones -- or any other olfactory
lures -- to keep customers.
- "Our focus is on affordability," chuckled Andrew
Pelletier, a Wal-Mart spokesman. "We're concerned with providing everyday
low prices to our customers."
- Still, the idea could be a sales booster if Enhanced
Air's numbers are correct: Retailers can expect revenue growth of between
9% and 20% by using the product, the firm claims.
- Hailed as key to attracting the opposite sex by some
perfume and cologne makers, pheromones are naturally produced in most insects,
animals and humans. The odourless "scent" is detected by an organ
within the nose that sends a signal to the hypothalamus, the brain's emotion
centre, triggering different responses, depending on the desired effect.
- Mr. Malkin said he has been using the product -- which
sells for between US$300 to US$450 with US$96 refillable cartridges --
at home. The results, he said, have been relaxing.
- While Mr. Malkin thinks the company is "sitting
on a gold mine," he conceded that some potential clients balked over
fears of a customer backlash. "They're concerned about perception
and customers feeling manipulated."
- While Enhanced Air's sales-stimulating pheromone may
be a first, there is a long history of retailers using fake sawdust or
fresh bread smells to foster favourable emotions in patrons.
- "It's a known fact that the longer people spend
in a store the more they spend," said Len Kubas, a Toronto retail
consultant. "I wish them all the luck in the world, but these guys
face a difficult marketing challenge. It's not like saying we've got better
lighting or cooler air conditioning. It's hard to sell something by saying,
'We've got a magic mist that is being pumped into customers' sinuses.'"
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