A conversational piece

Fine fragrance brand Ampersand Managing Director, David Walker, discusses the genderless, environmentally-friendly scents that are making waves in the market

five fragrances on a black stand When did you start up and why? Our Fine Fragrance concept was launched in 2021 – it was really started out of pure frustration towards a very backwards and outdated industry. We've been involved in Fine Fragrance for 15 or so years, and nothing has been done in that time to help consider recycling or to reduce waste – in fact it's pretty much gone the opposite direction. All the fancy bottles cannot be recycled, the coated boxes and cellophane wraps are just landfill, endless vials end up in oceans – and all those things just amount to a larger price tag to the consumer.

What prompted you to launch the business? We actually produced a conversational piece that wasn't really meant for market. We asked "What would fine fragrance look like it was environmentally conscious, genderless and without the ever inflating price points." A number of larger retailers saw it and wanted to stock it – and so, it was born.

What challenges have you overcome since the company's launch? Honestly, demand. We've been on the back foot since day one, always playing catch up. We really want to make sure we stay true to our values and the actual concept, so growth takes time to ensure all things are considered fully. Staying environmentally thoughtful whilst under demand is actually pretty tricky.

Tell us about your product offering. We're lucky enough to have worked with some of the world's leading perfumers over the years, so a few phone calls meant we have a stunning range of Eau De Parfums, all vegan, cruelty free and with carefully sourced ingredients. Our idea is to offer a totally genderless fragrance experience which is purely scent led – for us, there is no right or wrong with fragrance and why should it still be pushed as 'for him' or 'for her'. We have 15 totally different fragrances, which encompass rich woods to light florals and everything in between. Our price point of £59 for a 50ml EDP offers our customers exceptional value for a product comparable with something three times its price.

What are your most popular products? California & Iconic are our two best sellers. California is a beautiful light floral with hints of apple and lemon top notes – very wearable and Iconic is a deep, complex smoky woods – there are hints of cinnamon and oud which make it stunning – it's what people would imagine the inside of a Whiskey barrel to smell like.

Have any styles taken you by surprise with their popularity? Some of the fragrances which would have perhaps typically been pigeon holed as a 'feminine scent.' When you strip it back to the scent only, it's amazing to see people make up their own minds. You should wear what you like and not be led by a market team.

five fragrances lined up in a row How do you keep your designs fresh and current? Do you follow trends? Honestly, we're more about less design and distraction – which I guess gives us quite a modern look. We always keep our nose ready for fragrance trends – but we're about giving our customers fragrances they love over internet trends!

What sets you apart from your competitors? Retailers. We love to work and partner with retailers of all sizes. If they're proud of their business, keep fresh and engage with their customers, the chances are we'd love to work with them. Most fragrance brands have a snobbery about them, we're the very opposite – as larger brands pull from independent department stores, we're expending that customer base – and smaller boutiques and lifestyle stores often share our core values, so they become really amazing people to work with.

How are you finding the current climate in the UK? Is it affecting business? Because we've always considered price from the outset, it's actually worked a little in our favour. The feedback we're getting from retailers is that people are bored of paying £120 for an average bottle of fragrance – and when they discover us, our concept and price point, they're often sold. We're trying to make fine fragrance accessible to everyone.

How do you view the future of independent retail? I think it's faced significant challenges over the past few years for sure, but I honestly believe for those people willing to think a little more outside the box and engage with their customers, the future is really bright. You can never underestimate how great customer service sticks in your mind – engagement that can't be replicated online. By offering more unique products in different environments and combining it with great personalities, I think it's a really exciting space.

Are you active on social media? How is this important for the business? No, it's not something that really works with fragrance, it's an interactive product which means our retailers are far more important to us. We don't utilise it as a tool that most businesses use it for. We believe in face-to-face interaction and organic growth. We'll only use it actively in order to promote our retailers, not pay our way into success.

Do you have any advice for new businesses starting out in the world of gifts? I think be fluid. I love to attend events, retail shows and ask questions, which help us really refine our offering. It's really easy to just blindly go in one direction – I think as long as you're always standing back and taking a look at yourself and your business, you'll go far.

What can we expect in the future from the company? We really want to concentrate on the UK market for the next year or two and really find out feet with our growing list of retailers. We're trying different ranges with different stores and getting feedback from what works what doesn't. Our aim is to of course grow, but in as controlled a way as we can manage!

T: +44 (0)207 993 8165 | www.ampersandfragrances.com

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