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Olfaction and the retail environment: examining the influence of ambient scent


  • Philippa Ward


  • Barry Davies


  • Dion Kooijman



This article concerns the ability of smell to assist the development and communication of retail brand image. It presents a number of propositions regarding ambient smell and the retail environment derived from the literature—including the potential for novel ambient aromas to act as a distinctive element in a retailer’s marketing mix. Empirical testing is achieved through a ‘natural experiment’ in a large electrical store using fragranced and unfragranced conditions. An environmental psychology base was used to develop an in-store questionnaire, supported by direct measurement of customer dwell times and subsequent interviews. In total, 329 questionnaires were returned and 429 customer groups were timed in the two departments where the experiment occurred. Significant differences in consumer perceptions of the store’s environmental attributes were identified, despite the fact that less than 10% of respondents questioned were aware of the use of in-store fragrances. The qualitative interviews provided some initial confirmation for the more complex propositions concerning the memory of scents. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2007

Suggested Citation

  • Philippa Ward & Barry Davies & Dion Kooijman, 2007. "Olfaction and the retail environment: examining the influence of ambient scent," Service Business, Springer;Pan-Pacific Business Association, vol. 1(4), pages 295-316, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:svcbiz:v:1:y:2007:i:4:p:295-316
    DOI: 10.1007/s11628-006-0018-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    2. Turley, L. W. & Milliman, Ronald E., 2000. "Atmospheric Effects on Shopping Behavior: A Review of the Experimental Evidence," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 193-211, August.
    3. Belk, Russell W, 1975. " Situational Variables and Consumer Behavior," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(3), pages 157-164, December.
    4. Chebat, Jean-Charles & Chebat, Claire Gelinas & Vaillant, Dominique, 2001. "Environmental background music and in-store selling," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 115-123, November.
    5. Dube, Laurette & Morin, Sylvie, 2001. "Background music pleasure and store evaluation: intensity effects and psychological mechanisms," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 107-113, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bogicevic, Vanja & Yang, Wan & Cobanoglu, Cihan & Bilgihan, Anil & Bujisic, Milos, 2016. "Traveler anxiety and enjoyment: The effect of airport environment on traveler's emotions," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 122-129.
    2. W. To & Joyce Tam & Millissa Cheung, 2013. "Explore how Chinese consumers evaluate retail service quality and satisfaction," Service Business, Springer;Pan-Pacific Business Association, vol. 7(1), pages 121-142, March.
    3. José Verissimo & Rui Alves Pereira, 2013. "The Effect Of Ambient Scent On Moviegoers’ Behavior," Portuguese Journal of Management Studies, ISEG, Universidade de Lisboa, vol. 0(2), pages 67-80.


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