Scent-sampling subscription puts expensive designer perfumes within reach

SimpleScents is an affordable way for consumers to get their hands on a perfume they want to try out without paying for a full bottle, says founder Niall Brennan

The rising cost of living may have made consumers more money conscious, but they still want to enjoy the little pleasures in life such as good coffee and a nice perfume. That said, a 100ml bottle of a designer scent could set you back more than €200 and very often the bottles never get finished. This prompted 24-year-old Kerry man Niall Brennan to set up SimpleScents, a subscription-based service for designer fragrances.

Brennan already has competition in this market niche from another Irish perfume subscription company, but there is a key difference between them. Brennan’s SimpleScents is focused on letting people try out small amounts of perfume from high-street brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Armani and Ariana Grande, whereas Handsome Scent has its own range of fragrances.

“Recent studies indicate that people are moving away from the idea of having a single signature scent and would prefer to have a variety of fragrances for different occasions. You wouldn’t wear the same clothes every day, so why wear the same perfume?” says Brennan, who adds that, with SimpleScents, subscribers can build up a collection of designer fragrances without breaking the bank.

Brennan studied business at Munster Technological University in Cork and already had the idea for SimpleScents in his head when he graduated. “As soon as I finished my last exam, I applied to the Student Inc start-up programme,” he says. “I was accepted, and over the summer I carried out market and product research to validate the idea.”


Brennan subsequently joined University College Cork’s Ignite start-up accelerator which gives participants a year to get their idea as close to market-ready as they can. SimpleScents soft-launched in March last year and its beta website followed in August.

The business, which is now fully up and running, had a bootstrapped start on about €20,000 with support from Kerry Local Enterprise Office, Student Inc and Ignite. Brennan is now looking to raise €160,000 to build his team and go aggressively after sales in the Irish market, with the UK to follow.

Customers start the subscription process by doing a quiz to get recommendations on what to choose from the company’s range. They can also browse by season, occasion and notes to create a queue of perfumes to receive each month.

A standard monthly subscription of €16.20 buys one 8ml bottle (which comes in a shatterproof travel container) from a choice of 50-plus brands and more than 100 fragrances for men and women. It’s possible to mix male and female choices and also to buy a fragrance on a once-off basis at a slightly higher cost.

There is an option to upgrade to a premium subscription package which gives subscribers access to some of the pricier perfumes on the market. SimpleScents sources its fragrances wholesale from approved vendors.

“There are over 1,000 new fragrances launched on the market every year, yet there is barely any means of sampling them. Perfume is an expensive indulgence and consumers often play it safe by sticking to familiar scents. This motivated me to build a solution that felt more fun and personal than the traditional retail experience, while also making the luxury fragrance market accessible and convenient for consumers,” says Brennan, who adds that gift subscriptions have been performing strongly for the company with a good conversion rate from gift recipient to subscriber.

SimpleScents is aimed at the millennial cohort because they are big online spenders with busy social lives, and perfume is part and parcel of getting ready for a night out.

However, Brennan acknowledges that cracking the subscription model is not easy and that the rising cost of living has made people more cautious about making monthly commitments. That said, he says that SimpleScents is an affordable way for consumers to get their hands on a perfume they want to try out without paying for a full bottle.