Brand Strategy Health and Beauty Retail

Retail therapy: The health & beauty brands delivering the best in-store experiences


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

May 28, 2024 | 6 min read

Continuing The Drum’s Retail Focus, we ask marketing experts to tell us which health and beauty brands are delivering the best retail experience in their brick-and-mortar stores and what they are doing right to attract modern consumers.


Lush keeps it simple on the High Street

Physical retailers have faced immense challenges in recent years as shoppers have taken their purchases online, Covid closed shop doors for months and the global cost of living crisis has forced a decline in footfall and, as a result, sales.

This means that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers now have to fight harder and think more creatively than ever before to deliver seamless customer experiences in their stores. So, which brands are doing it the best in the eyes of marketers?

We continue the Retail Therapy series by looking at health and beauty retailers.

Daniel Todaro, group CEO, Gekko: “Without a doubt Lush, started in 1994 and still rocking it on the High Street. It’s not about tech or gimmicks; it’s about knowing and staying true to who it is, what its customers want and how to deliver it. And the fact that it doesn’t sell online means it has constantly evolved and prioritized its physical environment. The smell of a Lush store teases the senses and invites you in. Once in, it’s a playground of discovery for all ages, full of affordable products accessible to everyone’s pocket. Greeted by friendly staff who encourage you to play immediately, testing products in sinks and enabling you to try before you buy, or not, but still immersing you into the brand and its ethical range of products. Clever at retail and culturally on-point, the Saltburn bath bomb was genius reactive marketing. Bravo Lush.”

Charlotte Tilbury store

Clare Cryer, EMEA vice-president of growth, Outform: “Shoppers flock to Charlotte Tilbury, the luxury beauty brand, for newness, bestsellers and incredible advice. Its phenomenal success has led to growth across the makeup segment at its parent company, Puig. CT concessions have made the beauty counter a place to ‘play’ and feel part of a community getting better and repeatable experiences. They are a destination. The human element is paramount. Products are showcased with clear navigation and messaging. In-store ‘zones of learning’ inform, inspire and drive sales brilliantly, explaining complex product features and formulations in terms of how to use and product benefits, all brought to life by authentic content and reviews.”

Sara Parrish, experience strategy director, Imagination: “It’s clear retail experiences are changing. The Korean eyeglass brand Gentle Monster offers an escapist atmosphere akin to a surreal avant-garde gallery, while House of Vans in London has successfully created an entertainment space that features a skate park along with rotating art, music, and cinematic installations. Experiential retail stores serve as a powerful tool for building understanding around a brand’s products. Dyson understood its technology was innovative in its category, so it took a leap and created the Dyson Demo Store. These pop-ups offer customers space to learn, demo and use their technology. This blend of educational and aesthetic elements creates an immersive space for consumers to interact in a meaningful way and increases the likelihood of customer retention, building loyalty through experience.”

Lee LeFeuvre, chief commercial officer, SMG: “Boots has revamped 170 beauty halls and launched its first beauty-only store in Battersea, creating a ‘beauty destination’ with over 250 brands. Offering services from LED light treatments to Dyson hair styling stations, the digital-first store features over 10 screens for an engaging experience, including a trending pillar for influencer and TikTok content. Boots regularly hosts free experiential events, like the Braun IPL launch with Frankie Bridge and a gamified campaign with Fenty, giving customers a chance to spin to win. This immersive approach leaves customers informed, entertained and more knowledgeable about their beauty regimes, offering a unique experience that online shopping can’t match.”

Space NK store

James Barnes, co-founder, Backlash: “Beauty is a hyper-competitive retail sector. It probably has the greatest number of new products and new brand launches of any category to contend with. The multi-brand beauty retailer Space NK appreciates that social hype and experiences excite beauty audiences. As a result, it has built a regular program of in-store and out-of-store beauty experiences with immersive, experiential pop-ups. These experiences generate anticipation for consumers, encouraging them to engage with the brand to find out when the latest launches and pop experiences are happening. In addition, the in-store experience is exciting and ever-changing, with areas dedicated to pop-ups and exclusive promotional offers from the brand. In the past 12 months, we have created an immersive, 4D-sensorial Japanese Zen Garden experience in Covent Garden for Space NK X Tatcha and highly themed, in-store pop-ups for Ilia Beauty and Caudalie, with many more brands activating on an almost weekly basis.”

Vic Drabicky, CEO and founder, January Digital: “We have found the best retail store experiences combine elements of curation, community and ease. One of the best examples is Kendra Scott. It has an incredibly well-curated assortment, each store is tied into the local community, and the shopping experience is virtually frictionless. While there are many retailers who nail one or potentially two of these elements, executing all three greatly accelerates the retail experience and sales.”

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