Fashion retailers incorporating beauty into their strategies is not entirely new. Online department store Net-a-Porter launched a beauty category way back in 2015, followed closely by a similar initiative from multi-brand retailer Revolve, with the trend then exploding as it began to leak from e-tailers to physical retail.
While luxury and premium brands have led the way in combining fashion and beauty, fast fashion labels and high street retailers have also jumped on this trend to offer customers a more holistic shopping experience. Zara, River Island and Primark are among those that have rapidly expanded their beauty offerings by launching collections with a more complete range of products, from nail polish and eyeshadow to facial cleansers and body creams.
And it’s no surprise that retailers are scrambling to get their hands on a piece of the market. According to a report by Statista, the cosmetics industry will be worth $758.4 billion by 2025.
A spokesperson for consulting firm Deloitte says of fashion retailers’ further rationale for entrenching in the beauty sector: “There are lower costs of doing business with beauty – such as operating concessions or vendors – so there is less inventory risk. There is also a feel it’s more recession-proof, so it could help protect against a drop in spending in apparel or other categories. On the positive side, beauty and related services can improve the shopping experience and boost conversion.”
Who determines the trend?
For many retailers, chasing the beauty segment isn’t just about financial gain. Brands have often found that this has also given them access to a new consumer group. Meanwhile, the typical fashion consumer has his own values, so when confronted with beauty products in a fashion-focused environment, he is likely to behave differently than a beauty-focused consumer. This factor is noted by Frederica Levato, a senior partner at Bain & Company, a consulting firm that counts retail among its service industries.
Speaking to FashionUnited, Levato explains that fashion customers – an industry initially led by millennials – are now evolving rapidly with the consumption of Gen Z, a group she says is actively seeking a 360-degree customer experience in stores. Levato notes that retailers are responding to this shift, stating, “Fashion brands are changing the experiences they offer through this 360 approach, where the role of a store becomes more of an experience center and meeting place, rather than just a transaction.”
She adds that beauty is one of the most experiential categories that can be offered, involving customers in a wide variety of ways, and that it is a category that can also help to take the cake from potential customers and the company itself. by giving retailers something they may be missing through fashion.
One brand that optimizes this mindset of offering a more collective experience is British brand Flannels. In June, the brand, which is owned by the Frasers Group, unveiled a “social media first” at its newly opened store in Liverpool, along with cosmetics brand Esho. At this location, shoppers have access to a laser suite, injection-free lip products, and hydrafacial services. The addition builds on Flannels’ already established presence in the beauty sector, following the launch of Flannels Beauty in 2021, which also saw the introduction of a Beauty Bar and Beauty Changing Rooms.
British doctor Tijion Esho, founder of the Esho brand, which also recently signed a deal with Asos, says Flannels had approached the brand when it started focusing on its own expansion strategy. He continues: “When Flannels explained their vision of redefining luxury and the shopping experience, it quickly made sense to be a part of it. I have always wanted to lead the way for change and by launching the first social media platform alongside our products. ready to create ‘tweakment’ space. I think we succeeded – judging by the reaction of both the press and the public.”
Bridey Lipscombe, CSO of Esho, tells FashionUnited about the benefits a beauty company can gain from partnering with a fashion retailer: “It’s the ability to access a ready-made consumer group that is already aligned with the same wants and needs of our current fan base. The beauty and fashion shoppers share many important needs that both our products and our clinic meet.”
How is beauty implemented?
Partnering with an already established and trusted beauty brand is just one way retailers have integrated beauty into their business model. Lipscombe notes that adding a brand like Esho to their offerings can meet the needs of the ever-growing educated consumer. She adds: “They want clinically formulated products that are backed by science and that deliver real results, both in the short and long term.”
This element is also emphasized by Bain’s Levato, who says that if a fashion store wants to be credible in the field of beauty, it must develop the category together with specialists. While many brands have taken on licenses to enter the industry, this strategy does not allow them to fully embed beauty in their retail environment. Levato continues, “Companies are instead developing new capabilities and business models to be credible and serve in this category.”
To achieve this, there are many factors that fashion retailers must consider, Levato added, as she goes on to say: “Beauty is also one of the most advanced industries in terms of sustainability and the values it conveys to consumers. Often the customer is more conscious than in fashion, not only with regard to the environment but also to the involvement of animals.”
Retailers have apparently taken note of this factor, with recent launches from the likes of Boohoo and Primark dedicated to the debut of “eco-friendly”, “ethical” beauty products under their own label. While Boohoo released a “vegan” product line alongside its own brand line, Primark teamed up with Fairtrade to release a collection of cosmetics aimed at providing a cleaner image to its customers. The launches build on both retailers’ efforts to introduce more “sustainable” practices into their fast fashion models, extending their eco-conscious strategies to beauty products as shoppers become more aware of what they buy.
Primark is one of those retailers for whom beauty is not entirely new. In 2014, Primark introduced cosmetics and make-up to its stores for the first time. Over time, the British retailer has expanded its range in line with consumer trends and beauty essentials, which Paul Baldwin, trading director, home, lifestyle, health and beauty, says had gone from “strength to strength”. This included the introduction of in-store nail concessions and the addition of beauty studios co-developed with Rawr Express.
Baldwin added: “We have invested in our expanded beauty department, which is now located in a separate area in our stores and offers our customers a wide range of beauty products at affordable prices. We see our beauty department as an important part of our customer offering. “
The brand’s current focus on beauty stems from a “really strong response” from customers to its beauty ranges, Baldwin said, with the director also saying he believes the category is a perfect complement to its fashion offerings.
What other strategies can be followed?
Dedicated stores have also become increasingly popular with fashion retailers, launching the beauty category under a separate banner in a new environment that often still reflects the retailer’s own identity. Brands like H&M, which opened an H&M Beauty flagship in Copenhagen last year, have started to explore this strategy as an alternative way to explore the sector.
Harrods also expanded its presence in the industry in this way, opening stand-alone beauty destinations under H Beauty. Although the first concept launched in 2020, the luxury retailer wanted to further expand its experiential shopping experience, and now has five H Beauty stores across the UK. The locations house a curated portfolio of brands and products aimed at local customers.
Speaking of the concept, Mia Collins, Head of Beauty at Harrods, tells FashionUnited: “The ethos of H beauty stores encourages customers to play, experiment and celebrate their identity through beauty.” To build on this idea, the luxury department store further introduced a sunglasses, grooming and fragrances area for men at its Knightsbridge store, once again attempting to become a “one-stop shopping experience”. Adds Collins, “The vision behind this new space was to bring together an easily accessible, highly curated selection of the best grooming, fragrance and eyewear products on the market, all in one place.”
How can retailers still enter this segment and where will it go in the future?
For retailers already getting into beauty, the category is proving to be an important part of their continued growth strategies. This is true for Primark, which Baldwin says the brand’s beauty products have experienced “significant growth” in recent years, leading to exciting future expansion plans.
He continues: “This is due to our understanding of the beauty needs and wants of our customers, from our young customers who shop the latest cosmetic trends and buy fake eyelashes and nails, to the more mature customers who are looking for to skincare products. As a company, we are constantly investing in our in-store experience, which means, among other things, that we will make shopping in Primark even easier for our customers in the future.”
Harrods also wants to expand its beauty presence by engaging consumers and encouraging customers to buy products. Through the retailer’s new MyBeauty program, which is linked to the Harrods Rewards initiative, customers can access a range of members-only benefits, such as first access to launches, events and promotions. Collins of Harrods said of the programme: “The launch of MyBeauty allows us to engage with our passionate beauty community on a more engaged level; offering experiences and benefits uniquely tailored to their interest in beauty and wellness. .”
Although beauty is a heavily saturated industry, it is still an area where fashion retailers are trying to gain a foothold. Bain & Company’s Levato says brands should start considering opportunities that are close to their DNA and the core of their business. She adds, “Start with products that can be resold to customers and use the category to grow your consumer base. Really focus on a strategy that is both consistent with the DNA of the brand and the customer base.”
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited UK. Translation and editing into Dutch by Caitlyn Terra.
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