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Sweet smell of succession

The oldest family-owned perfumer in the world, Floris has come a long way since founder Juan Famenias Floris set sail for England nearly 300 years ago. Now in its ninth generation, the royal warrant holder has succeeded where many family businesses have failed. What has enabled Floris to stand the test of time?

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“Smell can stop you in your tracks and transport you to another moment in time,” says Edward Bodenham, Perfumery Director and ninth-generation family member. Bodenham, who spends much of his time in the family’s rich mahogany and glass-panelled store on London’s Jermyn Street, has often seen how customers have been brought to tears upon smelling a fragrance that reawakened long-forgotten memories. “The right fragrance can bring tremendous joy to a customer by triggering a particular emotion. We seek out experiences that inspire us to create fragrances full of character, depth, and personality.”

Being fully family-owned gives us complete ownership over our decisions and how we direct our efforts.

Edward Bodenham, Perfumery Director, Floris

Bodenham and his family view themselves as custodians of the 290-year-old Floris brand. While such a long-standing legacy might weigh heavily on the shoulders of some, Bodenham is driven by an immense pride in a business that has stood the test of time. “I grew up in the business and have many fond childhood memories of helping my grandfather develop fragrances at 89 Jermyn Street, the original birthplace of the brand that remains the hub of our business today. Floris has always been a great source of comfort to me and our customers alike. There’s something reassuring about a steadfast brand in a busy world.”

It is broadly acknowledged that as family businesses pass from one generation to the next, their chances of survival decrease, so with nine generations under its belt Floris is something of an anomaly. “Being fully family-owned gives us complete ownership over our decisions and how we direct our efforts,” explains Bodenham. “We are often approached by investors, but it has never felt like the right move; we’d lose an essential part of our DNA. However, having an outside perspective has become a necessity in today’s competitive environment. That is why we’ve hired a number of external professionals to complement our own expertise in recent years, for example a CEO, Head of Sales, and Head of Marketing.”

Family values
According to PwC’s Global Family Business Survey 2018, 75 per cent of respondents felt that having a clear set of values creates a competitive advantage. Tradition and strong family values are at the core of Floris’s vision and business approach, but the perfumery house is also surprisingly innovative. “Online is one of our fastest-growing channels,” says Bodenham. “We invest heavily in our brand and we’re always looking for more sustainable and ethical suppliers, for example those with a strong recycling culture or who can supply more local produce.”

Of course, they continue to create new scents too and Bodenham, commonly referred to as the ‘Floris nose’, is always on the hunt for inspiration. Recently he retraced the steps of his ancestor Robert Floris’s travels through France, Italy, and Spain in the 1800s – a trip that led him to rediscover the potential of neroli oil, an extract of bitter orange trees.

It’s an industry you simply fall in love with.

Edward Bodenham, Perfumery Director, Floris

Just like the development of a new perfume, business succession here is a considered but organic process. Like many family businesses, there is no formal handover plan from one generation to the next. While this approach may not work for some, a combination of strong lines of communication between family members and a dedication to staying true to the brand and its customers has kept Floris on track. The next generation’s involvement in the business is gradual but constant, so when the time comes for one generation to step back, the transfer to the next is as smooth as possible. 

Passion and talent among younger family members are allowed to develop at their own pace and are carefully nurtured; at the age of just ten, Bodenham’s daughter developed her first perfume, ‘Petals From My Garden’, which was sold in-store. A positive sign for the future. “It’s an industry you simply fall in love with,” says Bodenham as he heads back to the shop floor. While businesses need more than love to sustain them, it is clear that Floris has found the right blend of tradition, dedication, and vision to stand the test of time.

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