By Craig Patterson
Upscale fragrance brand Atelier Cologne is expanding further into Canada this spring with its first standalone retail space that is set to be unveiled at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre on Saturday, April 14. It’s a major score for the Toronto mall, considering that the retailer only has 14 stores globally, and only three of them in North America. More locations are in the works, however, as parent company L’Oreal embarks on an aggressive international expansion for the unique fragrance brand.
Atelier Cologne was founded in Paris in 2009 by husband-wife team Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter, who met in New York City in 2006 and turned their true love story into a business. The company is considered to be the first fragrance house entirely dedicated to cologne. According to the company, it has “been reinventing the world of perfume with Cologne Absolue, an entirely new olfactive family of natural, unprecedentedly long-wearing scents”. The fragrances are “one hundred percent handcrafted in France with the highest quality raw materials from around the world,” with the website going on to say, “each pure perfume focuses on a hero ingredient that invites you to unbottle your story”.
The brand has 14 boutiques globally — three of them are in Paris, two are in London, two are in Hong Kong, three are in China (two in Shanghai and one in Cheng Du) one is in Seoul, and three are in the United States. In the US, Atelier Cologne has two boutiques in New York City (one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn) as well as in San Francisco. Yorkdale will be the brand’s first mall-based store in North America.
“This first Canadian Atelier Cologne boutique marks a new chapter in the international expansion of the French Maison de Parfum and sets the tone for a true success story in Canada. We are very proud and excited to have this one-of-a-kind concept boutique for the first time in Canada to showcase and convey a unique brand experience to customers”, said Carl D Morisset, General Manager for L’Oréal Designer Brands, Canada.
The 625 square foot Yorkdale boutique will be located in the mall’s Nordstrom-anchored wing, across from Uniqlo and Muji stores. Atelier Cologne will feature more than 140 products including a focus on the Maison de Parfum’s best-selling fragrances, including the recently launched Iris Rebelle. Shoppers will have the opportunity to choose among 32 Colognes Absolues as well as the company’s line of soaps, body & hair shower gels, moisturizing body lotions, hand creams and a Home Collection of candles – all of which are produced with traditional French craftsmanship, according to the company.
Mr. Morisset explained that the store will have a variety of price points, ranging from about $34 for a rollerball to $295 for a larger bottle of fragrance. The store will also include candles (priced at about $95) as well as hand cream, shower gels and other products.
Customers will be encouraged to try and buy several fragrances -- Mr. Morisset explained how the company encourages a “fragrance wardrobe” depending on one’s mood and activity.
Personalization with a customer-centric vision will be key to the new store location. Atelier Cologne Perfume Artists will provide fragrance consultations, and leather cases in 17 colours can then be personalized with a name, initials or a specific message by an engraving machine available on site. Atelier Cologne candles also include leather tags that can be customized, and the store will also feature a gift wrapping station.
The Yorkdale boutique’s Venetian blue storefront will catch the eye of passers-by, and its interior will feature ample use of wood as well as industrial furniture, vintage lamps and stools discovered by the founders during their travels around the world. As well, small orange tree plants will be found throughout — the orange trees reference the citrus base of some of Atelier Cologne’s fragrances, which have proven to be popular.
Mr. Morisset explained that Yorkdale was chosen as Canada’s first because of its exceptional productivity as well as its base of wealthy shoppers. Yorkdale is Canada’s most productive mall in terms of sales per square foot according to a Retail Council of Canada study and as well, the centre continues to add luxury retailers — that clustering has resulted in Yorkdale becoming a destination for affluent shoppers.
Yorkdale will be the first of several locations for Atelier Cologne in Canada, according to Mr. Morisset. Vancouver is a target for at least one store, he said, and Toronto could see a second boutique. Potential storefronts could be on street-fronts, in malls, and even airports in various markets — travel retail is increasingly becoming more important to retailers, with airports featuring some of the most productive retail spaces in the country. It’s too soon to tell just how many boutiques will open in Canada, and Yorkdale will act as an initial test market prior to a wider expansion.
Atelier Cologne locations are generally intimate in size — its largest store spans about 1,000 square feet over two levels at Covent Garden in London, while one of its two Hong Kong boutiques is about 250 square feet.
One of the reasons Atelier Cologne is rolling out standalone stores is so that the company can showcase its entire collection, in an environment that also reflects its branding and customer service expectations. The company will also remain in its numerous partners in Canada that include Sephora and Nordstrom, with the idea that standalone stores will also help enhance brand awareness at the company’s wholesale accounts.
The Yorkdale Atelier Cologne boutique opens at 10:00 am on Saturday, April 14th, and the first 50 people in line will receive a complimentary 30 ml Citron d’Érable fragrance (worth $90) and a passport gift card worth from $10 to $500. As well, every customer will be entered into a contest to win Atelier Cologne’s ultimate basket with 10 of the Maison's most iconic products.
The opening will also signal the launch of The Atelier Cologne Journal, a 100% Canadian magazine created to discover “all things fragrance and a few of the Maison’s favourite things”. This luxurious print journal will offer information pertaining to the inspiration behind the house's scents, tips on how best to build one’s fragrance wardrobe, and related photographs and illustrations.