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The British Beauty Retail Battle Continues

Published September 5, 2023
Published September 5, 2023

The UK beauty retail scene has been amplified in the past couple of years with the relaunch of Sephora and the opening of the Battersea Power Station shopping destination. Inevitably, this has left big names, including Space NK, battling to become the British consumer's first choice, seeking ways to evolve into the best version of themselves. Back in June, Boots announced the closure of over 300 of its doors across the UK as part of a transformation plan that would "rejuvenate" the brand, with the "ambition of consistently delivering an excellent and reliable service in a fresh and up-to-date environment." Now, in its first opening since the closures, Boots has announced its debut beauty-only store, which will be located at Battersea Power Station.

The beauty playground will spread across 11,200 sq ft and is set to be stocked with over 250 cosmetic, skincare, and haircare brands, including several new UK-exclusive brands and ranges from "diverse and female-owned brands," of which names are set to be announced through behind-the-scenes content in the retailer's newsletter. These new name brands will be available online from the day of the store opening (which is not yet confirmed), with shoppers across the UK able to access them through next-day delivery and Click and Collect services at over 1,600 stores.

Boots Beauty will join Space NK, L'Occitane, Rituals, The Body Shop, Aesop, Le Labo, Jo Malone, Kiehl's, and MAC Cosmetics, who have been up and successfully running at Battersea Power Station since its opening back in the latter end of 2022. The Power Station revamp has been hailed by both consumers and retail experts alike, having already welcomed over six million visitors through its doors, as well as being awarded the Prestigious Developer of the Year award at the 2023 Property Awards for its stunning museum-like scenery and commitment to making almost every acre available to the public.

The opening employs an entirely new team of Boots Beauty Specialists (replacing a small portion of the 52,000 jobs cut during the previous store closures) who will be on hand to offer free consultations with personalized, brand-neutral beauty and skincare advice to customers. Brand-specific specialists will also be available to advise the new store shoppers, and virtual consultations from these experts will be available through the retailer's online store.

"Our new Beauty showcase solidifies Boots' position as the UK's number one beauty destination and marks the latest innovation under our ongoing beauty reinvention program," says Paul Niezawitowski, Beauty Director at Boots. Boots continues to invest in providing a market-leading beauty shopping experience, and this new beauty-only concept not only allows customers to be the very first to try new brands and products but also provides a platform to launch new services that we know our customers will love."

"UK consumers are highly motivated by newness, always looking for the latest trend, meaning that there is a constant competitiveness over the execution of product and brand launches."
By Stirling Murray, founder + Managing Director, The Red Tree

The news of the new store follows the revamp of over 170 Boots Beauty Halls in the UK and Ireland, which has recently seen stores in St Albans, White City, Kilbride, Grantham, and Stratford-upon-Avon undergoing redevelopment. These locations are the first to stock Boots' new assortment of trending brands from the 4,000 names added to its roster this year, including Grown Alchemist, Sol de Janeiro, and Function of Beauty.

Boots' store revamps and beauty-only debut come after its 2023 Q1 reports of sales jumping by 13.4% in the three months before the end of May, compared to the same period last year, driven by a surge in online shoppers and own-brand label sales as customers looked to save money. According to the brand, beauty delivered sales growth of 18% year on year for the period, with the biggest week for the category outside of Christmas recorded in May and up 45% on the same period in 2021. The choice to close Boots stores located in close proximity to each other and focus on creating desirable shopping destinations is sure to amplify these sales further as the year continues.

As stated by Stirling Murray, founder and Managing Director at business development company The Red Tree, British consumers are "educated and discerning in how they shop," leaving them savvy when it comes to knowing where to find the best brands, quality, and price. While many Boots consumers typically turn to the retailer for reliability and convenience, the reframing to become more of an experience-based and desirable shopping destination as well as its stocking of celebrity and luxe brands, including Fenty Beauty, can only surely create further popularity for Boots,  lessening the view of the brand as a drugstore when compared to other desirable beauty destinations such as Sephora and Space NK.

"UK consumers are highly motivated by newness, always looking for the latest trend, meaning that there is a constant competitiveness over the execution of product and brand launches. Loyalty and retention are constantly being chased by brands and retailers with exclusive products, with brands and offers increasingly being used to entice this frivolous consumer," continues Murray.

As a retailer not afraid to step on anyone's toes, having opened its rejuvenated Beauty Hall in Westfield White City on the same day Sephora opened its doors just one floor above, Boots is sure to continue to push through the noise and make its effective mark on both British beauty and retail with its new Battersea Power Station presence. As the UK beauty scene evolves each day, Boots Beauty, regardless of whateverr plans the retailer holds for the future, will keep beauty experts and consumers on their toes waiting for the next revamp in beauty retail to reveal itself.


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