Sens Unique opens a 'one-way' door into a perfumed wonderland

2022 . 11 . 24 | written by Laurence Arrigo Klove

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Renata's resolve is strong when adventuring into the world of unknown perfume brands. She demonstrates an impeccable expertise with a warm and personable welcome.

Laurence: Paris has plenty of perfumes on offer, so can you explain what was your idea when you opened ‘Sens Unique’?

Renata: The boutique opening took place in 2011 and at that time, Paris was dominated by mass market perfume shops. They were only two other niche perfumeries so there was room for a new and distinct perfume experience. Sens Unique intent was to take unknown brands, to offer an unexpected and surprising experience to our clients.

Our clients are not after soft perfumes but odd ones

Laurence: Do you imply that your clients enjoy rare perfumes to the point of being bizarre?

Renata: Absolutely! They come to us for a specific experience, away from too well-known, and over distributed perfumes. They want and dare to be different, and for example enjoy perfumes of Neandertal, Beaufort London, Nasomatto, Eris…Naturally, some niche brands we had selected have evolved over the years and grown so much that they are no longer niche. Those we have dropped and selected new ones.

Perfumes brands inside the shop

Laurence: tell us about the brands that you refer to as ‘Parfums de Créateurs’

Renata: Sens Unique started with a selection of ten brands that has grown over time and is now made of thirty selected ‘parfums de créateurs.’ Given the twenty-five square meters of our boutique, we cannot expand further as we want to give appropriate space to each brand to fully and beautifully express oneself. Some of them have wide collections such as Pierre Guillaume, Laborattorio Olfattivo, Jules & Mad, MDCI, Pure Distance, so we adapt the presentation accordingly with our Sens Unique way.

Laurence: Can you describe the ‘Sens Unique’ way? What is behind such a name?

Renata: Well, when I was looking for a name for the boutique, a friend of mine came up with the idea. Perfumes play with our sense of smell and ‘sens’ in French also means ‘sense.’ Our road, rue du Roi de Sicile, is a one-way street which translates into ‘sens unique.’ Last but not least, once one has experienced our special and rare perfumes, one cannot go back to usual.

‘Before’ is gone and now there is ‘One-Way’ only

The sens unique road sign

Laurence: So, Sens Unique is in the Marais, what was behind the choice of such location?

Renata: When the boutique opened, I used to live five minutes away from it. I simply loved the area and I still do. It is trendy, edgy, artistic, full of Parisian style…exactly what I wanted for the boutique. Our clients are predominantly ‘Parisiens’, from Paris, as they make up for more than half of our customer base. The rest is made of a wide mix of foreigners visiting the Marais, Europeans, North Americans, Asians, Latin Americans, …

'Sens Unique is 'un je ne sais quoi de Paris'

The street of Sens unique in Paris

Laurence: What is the style of your boutique?

Renata: The idea is to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere, to give this feeling of being at home to our clients. Our colours are subdued, gold, beige and we have plenty of wood. There is a soft comfortable chair for people to relax and take their time. I usually say that choosing one perfume can take anything from fifteen minutes up to six months. (laugh). Really, we are used to taking the time with our clients, one hour is common.

Sens Unique interior style

Laurence: this is the perfect moment for me to ask you about your sales approach

Renata: Our ambition is to give to our clients the highest level of service and to us this means expertise delivered in a friendly and personalised way. We always have bubbles in the fridge just in case - no water, I guess this is very French – to be ready to celebrate our client’s special event such as an anniversary or a honeymoon. Gifting is part of the Sens Unique experience, and we have home and body scents complementing perfumes.

Our clients come and visit us at their own pace

Laurence: So, what do you have in place to push for more sales?

Renata: We simply do not. We let our clients decide when they wish to experience or buy. The only time we solicit them is when we invite clients to our evening events.

Evening client events
Evening client events

Laurence: Am I correct to say that you do not like mornings as the shop does not open before 12h00?

Renata: You are right! Actually, in the Marais it is quite the norm for shops to be closed in the mornings. I personally think that in the afternoon one is a better condition to smell perfumes and I also wanted to offer our clients the possibility to come to us after work in the evenings. So, the boutique is open till 20h00 when typically shops in Paris close one hour before.

Our world is for afternoon and evening lovers

Laurence: What digital services do you offer to your customers?

Renata: Our most popular service is the Sens Unique subscription box. It works as a monthly subscription of a selection of six perfumes under a specific theme. We ship all over the world so our international clients can stay connected with our novelties while others can offer the box as a gift. We introduced the box on our shop online way before covid, back in 2016.

Sens Unique subscription box
Sens Unique subscription box

Laurence: So how important are the digital sales post covid?

Renata: Naturally, digital has significantly expanded and continues to grow. Today, it represents between 30% and 40% of our sales. Our clients do mix and match physical with digital. We have noticed a peak in our shop visits before major holidays and at the beginning of a new season.

The change of seasons brings a new perfume wish

Laurence: Let us play a game, if Sens Unique were a book, a music, a colour, a drink…

Renata: Without hesitation, Alice in Wonderland for the book, with some jazz music improvisation, and gold like the colour of champagne, of course!

Laurence: How do you see the future of niche perfumery?

Renata: I am confident that the niche perfume industry will evolve positively under the influence of unique brands, interesting, beautiful and bizarre.

Alice in Wonderland original book cover

Renata in Sens Unique is a reinvention of Alice in Wonderland.

Renata is full of self-confidence and not scared to jump into the unknown. The journey she invites us to take is rich in surprises and weird, unexpected perfume encounters. But contrary to Alice in Wonderland, she is patient, and her world is real, not fantasy. With Sens Unique, the experience is also completely enjoyable, in the caring hands of knowledgeable and welcoming perfume wizards. How do you know it is true? Well, when you exit their world, you will have in your hands a beautiful perfume bottle. But if you wish, you are free to dream about a new adventure.