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Can Browns' Beauty Rebranding Reignite Boutique Retail?

May 10, 2022
May 10, 2022

Boutique beauty retail hasn’t been easy in recent years: from Barneys folding, to pandemic-induced shutdowns, luring shoppers from the comfort of e-commerce into stores is no easy feat in the era of ultra convenience.

In an attempt to bring back its clientele, Selfridges has offered experiential antidotes in the form of its Superfutures installations, but now another high-end UK retailer is looking to proliferate its beauty retail strategy. Opening its Mayfair boutique in 1970, Browns is responsible for launching iconic fashion designers such as Calvin Klein and Comme des Garçons in the UK. Can its pioneering model be replicated in the beauty space? Farfetch certainly hopes so. The e-commerce platform acquired the house back in May 2015, but only recently debuted its beauty offerings. 

As the former Dazed Beauty Editor In Chief and current brand consultant (working for the likes of Byredo Beauty), Nellie Eden has been brought on board to direct Browns’ editorial content as Creative Beauty Editor in Residence, launching the Big Little Rituals campaign. The project is described as celebrating community, “joining forces with the newly-established Browns Beauty Community—an eclectic, creative beauty network comprising talent from across the beauty industry and beyond—to test-drive product, share recommendations, collaborate on events, and create inspiring content, engaging product testimonials, and much, much more.” 

Community-led experiences of beauty are undoubtedly a smart go-to, in a time where shoppers are more likely to refer to Reddit forums or TikTok for product recommendations rather than following print publications. The edit includes brands like sustainable luxury lipstick brand La Bouche Rouge, clean and makeup artist-founded beauty line Westman Atelier, cosmeceutical wunderkind Augustinus Bader, and French fragrance house BDK Parfums. 

Reflecting on the initiative, Eden comments: “Together with the Browns team, we’ve created a curation that reflects a thoroughly modern take on beauty—channelling these values into an offering that celebrates beauty as it exists today … I’m especially honoured to have been a part of bringing Browns’ beauty offering to life, and for having the chance to create something so special.”

The Browns East branch, located in hipster-hangout-turned-upscale-creative-neighborhood Shoreditch, is looking to elevate the in-store retail experience as well, thanks to the Beauty Pod and Beauty Studio installations. The former will offer a curated selection of products in accordance with a quarterly theme, while the latter incorporates a shopping, treatment, and community gathering experience. Browns emphasizes a fusion of established and upcoming brands, rather than the traditional model of merchandising according to brands. Curation in the age of overabundance is a clever strategy: the overwhelmingly stocked stores of yesteryear, with pushy sales efforts or unsolicited fragrance sample strips, have been replaced with more organic (and pre-researched) visits. 

’We see fashion and beauty as inextricably entwined. As Browns continues our journey to constantly inspire and excite our customer, adding this category was the natural next step. The beauty space, like fashion, is a category that offers infinite room for playfulness, self-expression, and joy!” proclaims Buying Director Ida Petersson. 

Consumers could certainly use a bit of delight in their purchasing excursions, moving from the flat interface of online shopping to the tactile, interactive, community-building experiences Browns is looking to offer. Will it be enough to usher in a new romance with boutique shopping? Only time will tell.


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