Friday, 22 August 2014

Scent Shopping In Knutsford At Pulse Of Perfumery & The Discovery Of Lubin

This week I had the joy of spending some time with fume retailer Peter Murray at Pulse Of Perfumery, an independent scent shop in Knutsford. For my International readers I must explain that Britain is sadly lacking in independent scent shops, having just a small handful outside of London and (I think) only three very much spread out over the North of England.
Knutsford is a great example of ‘ye olde England’, a teeny historic town in the heart of Cheshire, dripping with wealth, yummie mummies and day trippers. An ideal spot to launch a shop that sells luxury items. This seams to be a commonality as the other two are in Lytham St Annes and York, both towns of a similar nature.

Pulse Of Perfumery has been a great success, launched during Britain’s financial recession, it could have easily been boarded up six months into it’s life. A quirky shop in a small town is a dangerous investment these days. There are several reasons why I think it thrived.

Firstly, range. The lines are a mix of the classic (such as Chanel, Acqua di Parma, Hermes), the contemporary designers (Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo, Narciso Rodrigues and the like) and Niche (Bois 1920, Serge Lutens, Lubin, Grossmith and Atkinsons). Breadth has allowed for a wide spectrum of tastes and aspirations to be catered for.

I arrived purposefully early to get some time with Peter before the lunchtime rush. With just a few early morning customers, I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on some sales. The first was what could only be described as a ‘hit and run’. As we were chatting over some smelling strips, a lady hurried in, muttering the words Chanel No. 5. Nothing else, no hello and certainly no stolen glances at the marvellous wares on display. Peter wrapped, bagged and swiped at record speed and the woman was gone. The entire purchase took about 60 seconds. I’ve never seen a bigger contrast in shopping style to my own, I can only imagine she was parked on double yellow lines.

It’s a shame she hurried because she missed out on reason number two that the shop thrives – Peter. The man is a true scent lover who believes in the value of lingering with testers and handing out samples. Shopper number two had called in previously to buy a fragrance (I think it was for her daughter or niece). Instead of hammering a sale, he’d sent her away with samples to be tested, allowing the purchase to be of choice rather than a quick buck for his till. This lady returned to buy the chosen one, a contemporary designer brand, and then came to join me in my ‘Lubin swoon area’ where the three of us had a thoroughly lovely time sniffing from the decadently opulent bottles. I could tell in that instance that she’d be back to buy something spectacular for herself.

Personality and passion is crucial in scent retail, I’m sure we’ve all endured the bored type Sales Assistant bereft of any real passion.  Peter reminded me of the wonderful ladies at Manchester’s House of Fraser, who instead of employing teenagers, chose to staff their perfumery with Assistants old enough to have experienced a few decades of great perfumery. My favourite Assistant is an uber glamourous blonde with scarlet lips who personally wears Estee Lauder’s classic leather chypre – Azuree. I can tell her in a meagre few words what atmosphere or concept I’m hoping to write about and she’ll find exactly the right scent for me to sample. She knows and she cares.

Peter also ‘knows’. Whilst playing with the bottles he gave me a whiff of a very popular niche perfume that I won’t name, then followed it with a vastly superior scent that shared some similarities allowing me to compare. I was wowed at the complexity of the second, the recent release by Van Cleef and Arpels – Collection Extraordinaire Precious Oud. Now you know I don’t really ‘do’ oud but this one used it’s precious wood with subtlety, allowing it to dress a composition of incense and white floral notes. Somehow I was smelling an olfactory utopia that was rich with oud and tuberose that didn’t made me gag, in fact it made me sigh wistfully.

Double swoon..

The grandest discovery of my morning lay in the introduction to the scents of the historic French brand, Lubin. I’m going to cover a couple of these in a future article so I won’t babble on about them here, but with limited shelf space in the tiny shop, I can see exactly why he selected this brand for his niche chosen few.

Peter's prized vintage possession, brought down from the mysterious 'upstairs'.

Amongst the online community, we tend to be bargain hunters who rarely pay ‘shop price’ for our scents. Rather cheekily, we tend to browse the shops to gain our sniff and then wait for a discount online or a slightly used Ebay bargain. We are different from the average shopper in that our collections are often incongruent to our personal wealth. Average folk with millionaire scent cupboards. However, I think there is still worth in spending some time (and moolah) in an independent real world shop. If only for the fact that the small stock selection has been ‘curated’ by somebody who actually cares about what he’s selling. And if it costs you full price at least you’ll walk away with a pretty bag stuffed full of samples!

Readers, where in the world are your favourite scent shops? Do you have a fabulous dusty rummager full of discontinued gems, or a palace of contemporary creation? Do share your stories in the comments section or over at:

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Contact details for POP: 25 Princess Street • Knutsford • Cheshire • WA16 6BW • 01565 755650


  1. What a gem! I am not sure I have been to Knutsford since perfume mania set in, so I will be sure to make a detour next time I am heading that way. Loved the story of the lady dashing in to get Chanel No 5 - it is such a sadly kneejerk purchase even now. Peter sounds like a great bloke with total commitment and passion for fragrance as you say. And I can picture a very mature lady SA at Harvey Nicks in Manchester now you mention it - or maybe it was House of Fraser, I can't be sure now. But she had seen a few decades of perfumery all right. ;) So much better for business...

    Oh, there is a perfume store in Chester called Royal Perfumery, and also one in Lichfield I may feature at some point called House of Minster. Well, the perfume bit is in a section of the store, but it has a lot of niche stuff.

    1. The hit and run Chanel purchase was quite spectacular, how can you buy perfume without at least stopping for one sniff!?
      Sadly, the Chester Royal Perfumery has gone. I found this out whilst in Chester, hoping to find it. Bugger. I had fun in Penhaligon's though and launched my mission to buy the perfume pendant.
      Was the shop in Lichfield the place with the vintage Guerlains that you wrote about? That looked wonderful.

    2. Sarah, thanks for the 'heads down' on Royal Perfumery - I might easily have gone to Chester on a false quest! The shop in Lichfield I haven't written about yet - there was a pop up shop in Stafford with Guerlain parfums that has sadly popped down again. They do struggle in the provinces it would seem. ;( But Knutsford is in that footballers' wives swathe so should be fine.

  2. Now I'm really looking forward to my visit. Happy to tell you about the Scent Room in Corbridge too.

  3. It sounds like a really nice place to shop for perfume in that part of the World. Do you mind adding an address in the end of the post? I'll add it to the Perfume Shopping Around the World page on my site and its mirrors on a couple blogs.

    I smiled at Chanel No5 purchase escapade but I can completely imagine myself doing that: from time to time I buy perfumes as gifts when I know exactly what I need so I can stop by the counter on my way to the birthday party - so I just wouldn't have any time to spend on anything else.

    Most of the perfumes I buy these days do not go on sale in the U.S. so I usually choose carefully where I buy them to either maintain relationships with friendly SAs or get enough samples with purchase.

    1. Great idea Undina, I've updated it with the contact details. We need some sort of fragrant tardis for International scent hunting. I'd love to enter one today and be transported to a branch of Lucky Scent to sample the US indie scene..