Like many high street businesses worldwide, Lush closed its doors as lockdowns and quarantine measures took hold during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And a of today, 793 of Lush’s 935 global store count remain closed.
At the beginning of April, in a very different move from the rest of the beauty world, Lush also ceased online operations, essentially grinding European business to a halt entirely in what was described a “difficult decision”.
Lush’s entire online network, bar Panama, was now back in full operation following the implementation of extra safety measures such as staff distancing in production facilities, shift alterations and staggered breaks. Safety equipment had also been distributed to all manufacturing and fulfilment teams.
Hilary Jones, ethics director at Lush, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe physical and online closures had, of course, been tough for business, but the company had survived. "The help from governments, local councils and landlords has been vital to our survival. Retail was going through very tough times anyway, so this pandemic came at a terrible time and is a threat to survival of even the strongest businesses," Jones said.
Phased store reopening underway in Germany and Austria
Two weeks ago, Lush kick-started a phased reopening plan of its high street and shopping mall stores across Europe, starting with Germany and Austria.
Store openings had been staggered throughout Austria, with shopping mall stores set to open from May 2. By the end of this week, all 41 Lush stores in Germany would have reopened, six weeks after initial closures; the first store reopened on April 20.
Germany remained an important and central hub for Lush and the European market company co-founder and managing director Mark Constantine OBE said was where all the inspiration started. In November last year, Lush opened a mega store in Munich, marking the cosmetic firm’s largest European retail investment and creating the second-largest store in the region. The 689-square metre, three-storey Munich site featured a range of exclusive product offerings, alongside a permanent florist, fair trade coffee kiosk and community space.
Around the same time, Lush opened concept stores in Paris and Florence, following on from the success of its packaging-free ‘Naked’ stores in Berlin, Manchester and Hong Kong. The Munich, Paris and Florence store openings represented a clear nod to bricks and mortar expansion in Europe, a strategy Lush’s global property director Paul Wheatley previously told CosmeticsDesign-Europe would continue.
More openings to come, UK decision ‘still to be confirmed’ with interim trials
This week, Lush also commenced phased reopening of stores in UAE, Russia, South Africa, Netherlands and Greece. Shops in Spain would be reopened from May 11, dependent on local government guidelines being confirmed, and across Italy starting May 18, following a trial-phase in five shops next week.
Official opening dates for stores across the UK, which had been closed since March 22, was “still to be confirmed”, Lush said. However, the company was currently considering alternative business options for the interim, including kiosk-style purchasing at the door, email or phone order and collect services, and local deliveries. The latter was currently being trialled at Lush’s flagship London Oxford Street store.
“Even with considerable help from governments, local councils and landlords, so many businesses are not making it through. I am grateful to be here reopening our shops again and feel unbelievably lucky that we had help,” Mark Constantine said.
Claire Constantine, retail director at Lush, added: “We are so pleased to be welcoming everyone back into our shops (…) We hope [customers] will bear with us as we find new ways to serve them during these unusual, socially distanced times.”
Creating the Lush experience – an ‘interesting challenge’
Lush said some of its reopened stores has started offering an order and collect service, so consumers didn’t have to spend too much time in-store. But for those consumers looking to shop in-store, it had implemented various measures.
All reopened stores would adhere to local government guidelines, it said, such as observing advised social distancing rules, not offering hands-on demonstrations and ensuring there was a safe queuing system for customers to enter. Additional staff safety measures were also being introduced, including lower staff levels to begin with; a continuous cleaning rota; inviting consumers to wash hands on entering with their own piece of soap; and ensuring no product testers were displayed.
Lush, a company that heavily relied on its hands-on testing model and carried lots of zero packaging products, said the customer in-store experience would inevitably feel different.
“Finding new ways to provide such a personal service to customers is an interesting challenge and the brand anticipates a change in customer experience whilst virus control measures remain in place,” Lush said.
The company said it was now operating in a “new shopping reality”.
Expert consultant Oliver Wright, managing director and global lead on consumer goods and services at Accenture, said the beauty world was certainly entering a very different landscape to before the coronavirus pandemic, with consumer trends set to be very different for some ten years to come.