Hudson—widely known in the US for its convenience stores and Hudson News units at airports and transport hubs—is engaging with beauty brands to bring them into a new store concept that launches at the end of August.
The company, owned by global travel retailer Dufry, has experience operating boutiques at airports for high-end brands such as Bally, Coach, Kiehl’s, MAC, and Victoria’s Secret. But taking on beauty, personal care, and wellness at its own stores is a new ballgame.
Hudson's new retail concept, called Evolve, is a step into a one-stop shopping environment where specialty brands are blended with travel essentials. One of the aims of the store—the first of which will appear at Nashville Airport—is to drive higher spends per head. It will do that by pulling in customers with the convenience offer, and then let the more premium shop-in-shop brands inside do their magic and encourage impulse spending, but also ensure up-selling and cross-selling through store staff.
Brainstorming the Evolve concept, Hudson concluded that beauty needed to be there. It is one of seven product categories featured—the others are sunglasses; electronics and entertainment; luggage and writing instruments; accessories and apparel; local goods and souvenirs; and travel essentials and snacks. Among the brands in these categories are some big names including Apple, Bang & Olufsen, Briggs & Riley, Herschel, Oakley, Ray-Ban, Samsung, Sony, and Tumi.
Hudson told BeautyMatter that the average area of each store would be about 2,500 square feet, big enough to give brands their own identifiable spots. The biggest store planned so far is slated for Chicago Midway Airport at 6,700 square feet, one of up to 20 expected to open by the end of 2022. After the Nashville debut will come locations at Dallas Love Field and Las Vegas McCarran International airports.
The beauty component in the initial stores will be a mixed bag, from both a positioning and pricing viewpoint. There will be health and wellness devices from HoMedics, Hyperice, and others; beauty and skincare products from Burt’s Bees and The Art Of Shaving; and cosmetics from L’Oréal, and brands like Sally Hansen and CoverGirl, both a focus of investment from parent Coty.
CEO of Procter & Gamble-owned The Art of Shaving Falguni Desai commented, “Personal health and hygiene are more important now than ever and we know grooming plays a critical role in this self-care. Pent-up demand for travel will be unleashed in the coming months.”
US travel is picking up pretty well according to Transportation Security Administration daily statistics, though numbers are still off 2019 levels when Hudson had a turnover of $1.8 billion. Responding to the rising TSA numbers, the retailer has reopened about 70% of its roughly 1,000 stores in 37 states.
From transactional to experiential
Hudson believes the way travelers shop has changed post-pandemic, and that one-stop, integrated shopping could be the future, especially for smaller airports looking for a one-operator retail fix. Jordi Martin-Consuegra, Hudson’s new CEO since July 1, told us in his first media interview: “This is a huge culture shift in the convenience game because we are focusing our in-store teams to be brand ambassadors, not till operators, and bring excitement to the experience.”
Beauty—for at least two decades the biggest category at airports globally—is a key to that excitement, particularly at the higher end. Hudson veteran Brian Quinn, promoted to Deputy CEO, also on July 1, added: “We have never had the beauty presence we are developing now. As a convenience brand we tended towards the discount end. Evolve is an opportunity to move upscale.”
If portfolio brand owners like Coty, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal like the concept and come onboard, as they have started to, Hudson will be happy. Through its parent Dufry, the biggest airport retailer in the world, the US operator has access to all the major beauty players.
“Prestige is a missed opportunity, because we already carry beauty in other parts of our business like duty-free and specialty branded stores like MAC,” explained Martin-Consuegra. “Now, with the elevation of the convenience experience, and coupled with trends like organic beauty and well-being products, it’s time to explore beauty on a case by case basis.”
The timing makes sense. The US market has seen some major positioning shifts taking place, for example, the partnership between Target and Ulta Beauty, or the more recent partnership between Kohl’s and Sephora.
Despite the pandemic, travel retail retains its position as one of the most important and influential channels for prestige beauty. Hudson would argue that its Evolve concept is taking convenience retailing upscale rather than bringing beauty brands into a downscale environment. Time will tell how well it can get that message across.
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