Fragrances of Ireland opens first Inis shop in US

Sea-inspired perfume brand begins fresh California push in Pacific surf resort

A computer-generated image of the Inis shop in Huntington Beach, California, which the Wicklow company will open later this year. Image: RetailREHAB

A computer-generated image of the Inis shop in Huntington Beach, California, which the Wicklow company will open later this year. Image: RetailREHAB

 

Wicklow-based perfumery Fragrances of Ireland is bound for the beaches of California. The export business behind the sea-inspired Inis brand is opening its first US shop in the Pacific surf resort Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles.

The expansion into its own physical store, which will be named Inis, follows years of growing sales in the US – its main market – through about 3,000 retail outlets located across all 50 states.

Inis, billed as “the energy of the sea”, has traditionally sold well in coastal towns but performed better on the east than west coast, according to Fragrances of Ireland chief executive David Cox, who now hopes the 1,200 sq ft store by the Pacific Highway will be the start of a sales push for the company in California when it opens in the autumn.

“America, it’s a cliche, but it’s so big, and they’re just so damned good at business,” said Mr Cox, who is yet to visit Huntington Beach and is overseeing the process of opening the store remotely as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“We all chat on Zoom or Teams and it inches forward every week,” he said, attributing the choice of location to the local knowledge of the company’s US marketing director Karen Wilkinson. One consequence of the pandemic for business owners is that “you trust people more”, he added.

Inis, a unisex fragrance that aims to “capture the feeling of a perfect sunny day by the sea”, started off as a perfume – which remains its best-seller – and is now an extensive range that includes body butters, hand creams, shower gels, room sprays and other products.

Small outlets

Mr Cox said Fragrances of Ireland, which has increased its turnover to about €10 million, had yielded the benefits of doing business “in a more complicated way” by dealing directly with small US stockists rather than selling through large distributors or chains.

The Inis brand is often sold in gift shops and surf shops rather than cosmetic stores, he said. “Very often we could be the only perfume in the store, which is nice for us.”

Mr Cox said he was “grateful” that the company – which originally focused on tourists visiting Ireland – had a buoyant export market in light of the pandemic. While Covid-19 “cooled our jets a bit” in the second quarter of 2020, US sales had returned to normal by last summer as the shutters went up once more.