Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

I don’t know why stores keep changing floor plans or re-arrange goods on the shelves. I know that there are numerous studies on the psychology of a shopper, on focal points of layouts and foot paths of the people flow. But, provided that the first (or second, or third) time around the store did follow all the best recommendations in their floor plan design, are there people who actually buy more as a result of these subsequent revamps? For me it’s always a hassle to find to where a brand or a type of items I’m looking for has been moved: when I know what I want/need to buy, I prefer to go directly to where that “what” is; and when I’m in the explorative mode, I’ll go around just checking out everything without being forced into doing that while looking for the item, for which I came.

Order of the Addends

Recently one of our local Neiman Marcus stores, after “being open during the construction,” finally reopened completely reworked beauty & fragrance section. After the renovation they’ve introduced several brands previously not available at that location – Byredo, Armani Prive and MFK, which is good. But it seems I cannot find some of the previously available brands, and since the layout changed, I’m not sure if they stopped carrying those, or if I just don’t see them. Since all I want is to sniff new offerings and I doubt I’ll be buying anything there, I’m reluctant to ask – so a couple of times I just left feeling slightly annoyed.

When I visited the store after the renovation, one section just jumped at me: Hermès. I think they always had that brand just scattered among others (I vaguely remember seeing some of the perfumes in the store before), but now it’s a big designated counter with all non-boutique perfumes (I had a hope that they might carry Hermessence line – but no). On that counter – for the first time at a retail store – I saw Rocabar. The bottle was different from the one I knew (it’s now a part of the latest repackaged set of perfumes with ugly plastic caps), but it was there on the counter! I immediately sprayed it on a paper strip … and didn’t recognize the perfume. “Reformulated! They’ve changed it!!!” – I announced with dismay… to my vSO and proceeded with getting a sample to properly test it at home.

***

For the first time I approached Hermès perfumes probably about 15 years ago. At that point I didn’t know much about that house in general, be that their perfumes or anything else. I am not sure if I even knew there was anything else: the brand didn’t make it behind the iron curtain while I was growing up and then, when I moved to the U.S., for a while luxury brands weren’t much on my radar.

I don’t remember which perfumes I tried then, but I assume those were whatever big department stores carried at the time. 24 Faubourg? Caleche? Rouge Hermes? I’m not sure but I didn’t like any of those and decided that this brand wasn’t for me.

Hermes Rocabar

I smelled Rocabar while visiting friends in Germany. Either my friend wore it, or it was a sample that his wife got with some other purchase, but I liked the perfume and returned home with that sample. Rocabar was so much better than all other perfumes my vSO was wearing at the time that it was a very short path from a sample to a full bottle. For several years Rocabar was my vSO’s “dress-up” perfume, and I loved it on him. Later it took a back seat to other great perfumes “we” added to his perfume wardrobe, so the remains of the last bottle stayed hidden in the drawer unused – until I got it to run an impostor shaming parallel test.

***

The conclusion? After years of wearing and testing great perfumes, I am not in love with Rocabar any longer, but I like it enough to still want to smell it on my vSO from time to time. But with two perfumes on my wrists – old and new – I couldn’t tell the difference… Well, not exactly… These two are slightly different but, for my uneducated nose, the difference is not such that I couldn’t explain it by the age of the original bottle. And, frankly, I can’t say that I like one of them more or less than the other. So it must have been that cheap plastic top of the new bottle that suggested the reformulation to my untrained nose.

Rusty and Hermes RocabarIf you haven’t read before about the meaning of the name and are curious why Hermes chose this unusual packaging approach, which Rusty liked so much, read Kevin’s (NST) review here.

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19 thoughts on “Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

  1. Loved the phrase ‘impostor shaming parallel test’ and ‘we added to his perfume wardrobe’, haha. I find store revamps annoying too, and they wouldn’t make me buy more, but as you say potentially cause a person to abort their browsing.

    I must admit to never having smelt Rocabar in any formulation! Was interested to hear that it is possible an offputting top that made you assume a reformulation had occurred. I am sure that could influence me too.

    • Thank you, Vanessa.

      Well, there is absolutely no way they haven’t reformulated this perfume (you don’t think IFRA was slacking in the last 15 years, do you? ;) ), but whatever they’ve done didn’t affect it much – at least for my nose. But from Lucas’ comment below, I’m not the only one who finds that new top not fitting the luxury line’s perfumes.

  2. Yes, they change the lay-out to force you to look at different products. Very annoying.

    I knew nothing about Rocabar so enjoyed reading about your history with it and Kevin’s review.

    • Thank you, Tara!

      I noticed that it wasn’t the most popular perfume in Blogosphere. Most likely, it’s too masculine for the predominant female blogs author- and readership. I wouldn’t be wearing this perfume myself.

  3. Thank you Donatella for I am not the only one who thinks that Hermes plastic cap looks, cheap, tacky, meh and completely not matching the bottle and style of the house.
    This could be a reason why I don’t have Eau de Neroli Dore yet, because of that plastic black bulb-cap…

    • :))
      I’m glad somebody feels even more passionately about it than I! Out of all the brands, in my opinion, Hermes cannot afford to cheapen their products: most of what they sell is so overpriced that they have to stay of a very high quality because if we’re not talking about the quality and tradition, why to buy something from them and not from the newest trending hip brand du jour?

      • Hermes fragrances are definitely not cheap so it would be appreciated if those cheap looking plastik caps were gone and replaced by something better.

  4. Hello Undina, You made me smile as I’m an ardent admirer of Hermes fragrances. Until a few years ago I only thought of scarves and leather when I heard the Hermes name. Now I’ve found that many of their scents really work well for me, and many of them I love dearly. Today I’m walking about in a cloud of Jour d’Hermes. I feel and smell “radiant.” Several of my favorite Hermes fragrances came to me via the perfume phenomenon who goes by the name hajusuuri. Perhaps you’ve heard of her? ;) I joke, as I believe I first saw the name hajusuuri here on your blog, maybe it was in a post titled Make Way for Hajusuuri. And now you’ve inspired me to add Rocabar to my Must Try List. Thank you for the link to Kevin’s review. I enjoyed reading his thoughts as much as those you’ve shared here.

    • Thank you, tiffanie. I’m glad you liked it.

      It’s interesting: I characterize Jour d’Hermes by exactly the same word – “radiant.” I like it though not enough to wear. But I think it’s really nice. Over years I discovered that I preferred their masculine line (on my vSO). Terre d’Hermes was one of my favorites for years. And I still like it.

  5. Fun post Undina, and it’s true Rocabar is not a perfume one hears a lot about. I think Tara is right about the revamps, it’s to make you look at new products and consequently buy more. That’s understandable, but I think you touch on the point with regards to the cheap-looking plastic lid, I think the same goes for those cheap-looking revamps. Everything is chipboards and quick fixes, which is a let down. Wouldn’t some people spend more time and buy more, if the atmosphere was that of more sincere luxury?
    Hermes will never be my brand, I do believe their fan base is brand-loyal, and so they probably don’t need to worry about prices too much:-) The only Hermes i do own and love is Hiris.

    • Well… That loyal fan base is getting older so I wouldn’t be all that confident. I mean, their prices are fine for their customers, but I think they have to maintain the quality – otherwise there’s no point in buying luxury that doesn’t look like such.

      I like Hiris. I do wear Rose Ikebana from time to time. But a couple more that I thought I liked do not get any skin time in a long while.

  6. I agree with your opening statement. My grocery store “reorganized” over a year ago and I still can’t find anything. Grrrr, life is complicated enough without that!

  7. Neimans definitely plays “musical perfumes”. You had to poke about to find Chanels or Guerlains at Short Hills, and as for anything else, the turnover was very fast. I once walked in on a sale where they were dumping all the Serge Lutens at ridiculous prices. “No one understands them” the SAs said, but buyers might have gotten Serge slightly better if the bottles had not been shelved in a dark corner behind the counter. Just sayin’…

    Rusty looks very attractive next to the Rocabar packaging-it suits him.

    • Thank you, Blacknall! With nobody noticing my cat in comments to this post, I was worried he and I are loosing our touch ;)

      I’ve NEVER seen a single perfume sale at a B&M store in the U.S.! I heard that Barney’s has them from time to time when they are getting rid of the brand but I’m yet to see any with my own eyes.

  8. Way back when “data mining”‘was still newish, the classic example used to explain it was product arrangement in convenience stores where beer and diapers were placed within easy reach of each other. Now with Big Data (I think this term is now overused), I’m not surprised about the more frequent product placement tweaks, which I, like you, don’t care for. I don’t recall when I became conscious of the Hermes brand but I remembered when the salesperson would wear gloves to present bags for viewing and no touching – I don’t see them doing this anymore but then again I haven’t been in the market for an Hermes bag (except for an occasional hankering for a Constance handbag, probably never to be fulfilled). I will be on the lookout for Rocabar which I must have dismissed previously for being too masculine.

    Hugs to Rusty!

    • Oh, yeah, diapers and beer is still used as an example in explaining recommender systems. Just “big data” isn’t hip any longer. Now it’s “Big Data Analytics” ;)

      Hermes is clearly not my brand: I’m not sure I’d want to own that bag even if it fell from the sky (well, I wouldn’t probably through it away but it’s way too small for me to actually use it even if I got it :) ). As for the “not touching” part… Really?! I find it ridiculous. It’s not an article of art, it’s just a bag! It is supposed to withstand a regular use, which includes touching. Oh, well…

      Rocabar is masculine, so I do not see you wearing it. But if you’re in the store, just give it a sniff.

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