Last week, Lush unveiled its third modernised UK store in Leicester that had been doubled in size and designed to offer easier-to-navigate consumer journeys. The move formed part of a European store upgrade plan where Lush planned to invest upwards of $5.9m (£5m) in refits across the UK, Ireland, France and Germany over the next 12 months.
‘Return to the high street’ must be inspirational
Paul Wheatley, global property director at Lush, said the company was heavily committed to investing in European high streets and ramping up in-store engagement post-COVID.
“We believe there’s a responsibility for retailers and shopping centres owners and landlords to provide a reason for shoppers to return to the high street,” Wheatley told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
However, he said: “Being experimental is not enough, you have to be inspirational.”
“…Our goal is to keep things exciting for the customer with a flexible dynamic of retail and digital,” he said.
Lush was often described by its customers as an “oasis of kindness on the high street”, he said, and was typically considered a space for local communities to get together – aspects it would strive to maintain as it upgraded stores. “Our retailers and shop staff are involved in their local communities and we believe that high streets have the opportunity to become community hubs.”
Lush had long championed the high street, opening a mega store in Germany and two concept stores in France at the end of 2019. At the time, Wheatley said the company was “committed to ongoing investment in game-changing store concepts”.
So, what exactly would the 2022 upgrades look like for the consumer?
Gifting, parties, return schemes and consultation space
The stores would offer an array of new retail experiences, Wheatley said, including corporate gifting services, customisable Lush parties and ‘Bring it Back’ return schemes. Lush would also continue to evolve its online presence via its new website and app, launched late last year, and encourage a blur of store and digital for its staff and shoppers. It would also continue to offer its subscription box services.
“Retail has always been important to us, as it enables us to provide our customers with exceptional, award-winning service. The conversations we have with our customers allow us to determine the product they require to meet any particular need, making sure they go away with the right items,” he said.
Richie Fennell, shop and space construction project manager at Lush, said the overall goal of the store refits was to “refresh and simplify” the customer experience.
Fennell said each store would have clearly “defined zones”, including fresh hair care and skin care; bathing; and gifting, for example, with extra space for product consultations and hosting private parties.
The ‘fresh skin care and haircare’ zone, for example, offered space for consumers to sit down for efficient, personal consultations and product demonstrations and the gifting section offered an array of pre-packed gifts but also space for consumers to select their own products and choose alternative packaging options. From this year, the revamped Lush stores would also offer in-store corporate gifting services to enable businesses to treat clients and employees.
Sustainability ‘at the forefront of design and construction’
And across the entire store upgrade project, Fennell said sustainability would be central to decision-making and design planning, with plenty achieved via repurposing and sourcing ethically.
“Lush continues to take responsibility and put sustainability at the forefront of design and construction with the aim to pave the way in setting industry standards,” he said. “…When fitting our shops, we utilise the same values we do when sourcing ingredients for our products.”
Some of the stores, for example, featured countertops made using post-consumer waste materials from yoghurt pots and plastic packaging, he said, offering a step towards circular beauty goals.
“We are also trying to have a community-focused approach whenever we can. The former shop furniture of our Lincoln [UK] shop has been refurbished by a local carpentry company based in Nottingham and we collaborated with a local sign writer in Leicester to design the shop window to celebrate the important message of self-celebration to the community,” he said.
The changing face of retail post-COVID
Many retail experts suggest the face of beauty retail had to be revamped in the wake of COVID, to blur digital and real-life but also add value to the shopper experience. Simon Hathaway, EMEA MD of retail strategy agency Outform, for example, said the future had to involve unified commerce, data connectivity and the metaverse.
One thing that all the experts aligned on was leading with experience. And CosmeticsDesign-Europe highlighted Experience First as one of the Top Five EMEA Beauty Trends to Watch in 2022 as consumer expectations morphed, with many wanting to fully feel, play and absorb a brand and its ethos either in-store or online.