Beauty boxes hitting the streets in Europe: do they have a future?

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Beauty boxes hitting the streets in Europe: do they have a future?
In a sign that the subscription beauty box model may have life in it yet, major player Birchbox has opened its second store in France.

Adding to its bricks and mortar presence in Europe, the beauty box company’s new store is set to open its doors this spring in Paris.

The move to expand its offline retail channel suggests that Birchbox believes a greater physical presence in Europe is a route to growth, with an ‘omnichannel’ retail and marketing approach now considered a must for beauty brands, regardless of model.

The beauty box subscription model​ has waxed and waned in popularity since it first emerged in the industry several years ago, and indeed, Birchbox went through two rounds of layoffs last year while also raising a significant USD 15m in funding from its current roster of investors.

Boxes to bricks

While the brand also has a physical store in Soho, New York, France is reportedly Birchbox’s biggest market in Europe.

Pushing forward its presence in the dominant market could be the first step in a wider push on its physical store portfolio. Late last year, the company’s CEO and co-founder, Katia Beauchamp, reportedly told Retail Drive that building its physical presence is a priority for the company.

“It’s a really big opportunity for Birchbox to pursue brick and mortar, so that’s something we are really looking into,”​ she said.

Subscription box opportunities

Despite a somewhat rocky road for beauty boxes as a model, Birchbox remains a leader of the pack, and its move to invest in Europe with bricks and mortar indicates the company is confident in the market and the omnichannel approach.

Omnichannel is becoming a big focus in the industry: Imogen Matthews, a beauty industry expert, recently suggested that though beauty is lagging when it comes to making the most of omnichannel’s potential, brands need now to catch up.

The beauty industry has some catching up to do in the area of omnichannel, not least in understanding that every part of a brand’s business needs to be connected. Consumers expect to move seamlessly between different channels and will abandon brands that don’t offer that experience​,” she asserted.

When it comes to the opportunities ahead for beauty boxes, industry commentators have noted that the model could be an ideal way to tap into rising consumer demand for customisation and personalisation - targeting high-potential consumer groups (beauty boxes for people of colour, for example, have been making headlines).

Mintel analyst Charlotte Libby has suggested new trends, such as the impact of Danish ‘hygge’ on beauty, could offer the model new avenues too.

“The subscription box market presents an opportunity to send hygge to consumers. Combining candles and BPC products, such as comforting creams, with food and drink items, subscription boxes can deliver regular hygge moments,”​ she explains.

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