There’s a new thing going on in the beauty retail world. Imagine a place you can go for all your beauty needs. From floor to ceiling—every product in the establishment—curated for your beauty needs. A knowledgeable staff plays host, ready to assist you in whatever your particular requests may be: from hair to skin to points in between. You’re probably saying “That sounds like Sephora,” or some similar beauty emporium, and yeah, that already exists and it’s mainly for women. What about men?
Believe it or not, this concept, as simple as it may sound, has remained a relatively elusive one in the wide world of beauty and grooming—even throughout this men’s grooming boom everyone’s been talking about for the last few years. Elusive, that is, except for one primary example. Just last year two enterprising gentlemen decided to put together what’s seemingly the first fully curated men’s beauty shop (their preferred term), offering guys everything they need for a full regimen toward groomed perfection, and they called it BEAST. Officially launched in winter of 2016 in London’s Seven Dials neighborhood, BEAST is that new thing, and it immediately had us all wondering why hasn’t anyone done this before. It just makes perfect sense.
To dig into that question a bit, I spoke with the BEAST team about their genesis. “The concept of the brand,” BEAST’s PR rep Lottie Mott tells me, “was born after the two owners, Steve Banks and Spencer Wallace, just couldn’t find all-male beauty products all in one place.” Banks and Wallace took that frustration and applied it to create a new-fashioned reality.
Banks and Wallace both come from the creative agency world—they met while working at London-based Nirvana Creative Production House, where Wallace is owner and managing director. Banks brings some previous experience from the retail world and running a clothing label—but neither were veterans of the beauty and grooming world when they decided to unleash the BEAST. They were just two guys who cared about how they look and feel, wanted a shopping experience to satisfy that, and figured a lot of other men did too.
And from the way that BEAST was laid out and executed, you can see how they brought their design focus to bear. The shop is purposeful in every way. “Eighty brands from all over the world,” Mott points out. “The way that they’ve laid the store out is super, super simple and—physically and digitally—it’s exactly the same: shave, face, body, hair. Exactly the same on the website. It’s super easy to navigate.”
In addition, BEAST boasts things like bike racks, special gift wrapping, a downstairs space dedicated to special pop-ups and gatherings—basically all the accoutrements that make the place something more like a community gathering. Something a little bit more than just a beauty shop. And something entirely different than a barber shop, where men go for grooming services, not necessarily products.
And back to the mystery concerning why no one has done this kind of thing before … There’s no denying that the men’s category in beauty and grooming is in growth mode—growing to be a $50 billion slice of the beauty pie by 2020. And it’s been on that path for a few years now—plenty of time for a similar physical experience to start in a place like London, or New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Paris, and spread around the world just like it’s women-centric counterparts have for decades.
It’s not that men don’t like to shop, despite what lazy stand-up comics want you to believe. It’s just that men shop differently. Most men’s stores dedicated to providing a wide selection of grooming brands are found online. And when it comes to brick-an- mortar shops, it’s predominantly single-brand offerings, aka Kiehl’s The Art of Shaving, etc. If you’re not beholden to any one particular brand, you’re left with shopping a few measly aisles within a drugstore, cosmetics emporium, or department store. Not ideal places for most men to shop, arguably. And let’s not forget the fact that this category is a tough one to market. Traditional means like word of mouth, and even newer forms like social media are still tough when it comes to men’s grooming products. As Racked analyzed the space, “That leaves brands with one place: the good ol’ shelf …. And it explains why branding and packaging is so important for men’s grooming products.”
In short, there’s a space for a shop like BEAST in the world of men’s grooming, and whether or not you’re surprised that this concept took so long to be realized, it’s here now and seems to be thriving.
And, if so, there’s a few lessons to be learned from Banks and Wallace’s success bringing BEAST to fruition. Some things that one might need to make sure to do, should a copycat business hope to pop up elsewhere. For one thing, like BEAST, don’t organize the shopping experience around the brand names. If the men who shop there are anything like me, that means very little. Put the products in an organic arrangement based around my physical being—face, hair, body, etc.—that makes a hell of a lot of sense, and I guarantee you I’m going to at least browse those products because they mean something to me.
For another, make sure your employees know their stuff. We’re going to have a lot of questions, and need to know that we can trust your staff to guide us to the best products for our needs—and a lot of us might not know the nitty-gritty. We haven’t spent years of our lives reading magazines that teach us about beauty regimes, so education is key to bringing more men into this consumer experience. As beauty analyst Charlotte Libby noted in the Business of Fashion, “It’s about how you can help them understand and help them explore it in a way that is not intimidating and not condescending or overwhelming.” A retail space is ideal for this relationship.
But if you do want to be a BEAST copycat, you should do it quickly. According to Mott, expansion is definitely on the horizon for BEAST, including other store locations, and building up their online business, and more. “They’d like to be in airports and railway stations. The U.S. is definitely a market they want to engage with,” says Mott.
Maybe BEAST hadn’t happened up to now because many in business just didn’t think men wanted something like BEAST. Based on market research, perhaps, the idea of a brick-and-mortar shop for our grooming needs seemed too much a stretch. Men prefer to shop online, they might have thought, where no one can see us challenging our masculinity. Our wives or partners will just grab stuff for us when they go to Sephora (or Walmart), they may have presumed. Expectations, perhaps, were just too low. Well, BEAST should be a lesson to us all—something well-executed can and will transcend even the most meager of expectations.
Photo credit: BEAST