Future Trends: Beauty space, services need a makeover
Americans are spending more than $60 billion on beauty annually. To survive as a meaningful competitor in this evolving beauty arena, drug stores must start to burnish their image.
Mass market retailers once dominated the landscape with an almost 60% market share. Now, they face fierce competition from specialty competitors as Sephora and Ulta Beauty erode that share. Recently, department stores have upped the ante, too, with Impulse Beauty departments at Macy’s stomping on mass turf and adding more reasonably priced lines, such as NYX. Compounding the situation are bold moves by off-pricers to add beauty to their shoppers’ baskets.
And there’s no ignoring the drain to online, even for a category once thought to need hands-on testing before purchase. Research from Kline, shared by senior analyst Kelly Alexandre, revealed that online sales posted a 20.8% increase from 2011 to 2016, while brick-and-mortar was held to a 2.5% increase. Physical store market share declined 3% while e-commerce market share increased 3.8%.
So, what’s a drug store to do? Drug Store News consulted with Jeanine Recckio of Mirror Mirror Imagination Group, a self-described beauty futurologist, to gaze into her crystal ball.
Consider a name change
“It just sounds like a buzz kill,” Recchio said of the term “drug store.” “We need to stop calling them drug stores; we need to reinvent the DNA. ‘Drug’ sounds like we’re in a back alley,” she joked. “They’ve done a repositioning of themselves; …they are a health, beauty, wellness and lifestyle store.”
Redesign the layout
Redesign the layout: “Are we rats in a maze?” she asked. “Stores have endless aisles, and it becomes a job and laborious [to shop]. We’re not helping them to navigate; we’re asking the consumer to do all the work.”
She encouraged brands to sit down with retailers to collaborate on how to go beyond the “hook and hang” mentality. Too often, the mass market world is too much about “don’t touch, don’t open,” Recckio said, adding that many packages in cosmetics aisles ruin her manicure just opening them. “We need to let her pick and play, or we’re not going to produce.” How space and real estate are used must be revamped to add a dash of entertainment.
Magnify the products
No matter the age of the shopper, eyes are getting strained from computer use. Packages are packed with more ingredient information than ever, and consumers want to know what ingredients they are putting on their skin. One clever solution Recckio has seen is hanging magnifiers that could be positioned in the beauty aisles. That also will help with shade recognition, which is one of the biggest issues at mass when shoppers are trying to zero in on the right color for them.
Sampling and testing
Acknowledging the challenges of handing out samples or keeping testers fresh, Recckio said it is time to tackle the issue. “If we’ve learned nothing [else] from the success of Birchbox or Glossy Box, it is that people will pay for a sample,” she said. People will pay to sample, test and try, she added. That insight can be translated into drug stores, where there could be a kiosk or machine where people could pay a small fee for a trial. “The whole world of sampling needs to be reinvented verses the coupon game,” she said.
Install a sink
Shoppers can be reluctant to try certain products, such as a new body wash or lipstick, if there is no place to wash off the product. It might be hard for an existing store, but that’s not so with new construction. “We’re expecting someone to buy a new body scrub, but you can’t even wash your hands. It is a simple thing, but it is where you can get intimate and work on the consumer experience. If every brand put in $100 dollars, it could pay for the sink,” she said. “No one is thinking strategic alliances — you could even put in Bounty paper towels!”
Upon landing in Las Vegas recently, Recckio was met by a virtual greeter. With human staffing costly, a virtual greeter is an option that could welcome customers and answer programmed FAQs. “Consumers are looking for navigation, and embracing some of this technology could be fun,” she said. Add to that in-store partnering with the growing cadre of augmented reality apps to help the shopper experience.
Recckio currently is working with a company that puts codes on products, allowing people to use cellphones to get information about products they are researching and hear the package explain the product. “You could even put the phone up to your face and it would tell you what shade to get,” she said. The technology also can help retailers track counterfeit beauty goods.
Shopping cart upgrade
“I am passionate about the shopping cart,” Recckio said. “They are so dirty, and they have these pick holes. If you pull a lipstick out of the gravity feed display and throw it in the basket, it is ending up on the floor. I don’t get it, and I don’t understand why someone hasn’t reinvented the shopping cart, especially for beauty.”
Go back to the industry’s roots
Some competitors have beat the industry at its own game. Such specialty stores as Bluemercury have mimicked the heritage of the apothecary. “We have to get back to the authenticity — the experience. We can’t just hook and hang and hope for the best.”
Recckio suggested a coalition between brands and retailers to spruce up the presentation, which includes getting products out of traditional packaging. She also takes drug stores to task for a dearth of mirrors, “We’re selling beauty, but you can’t find a mirror in a store. I might see I look washed-out and decide I need blush.”
New lighting options
Some of the lighting in drug stores today actually damages the color of makeup, Recckio said. With some shoppers digging through packages and opening them to see hues, the shades themselves can be negatively altered by the store’s lights. She forecasted a future in which chains install an entirely different type of illumination.
Lewis hones broad product strategy
How does Lewis Drug thrive in a crowded and super-competitive marketplace? The company’s success formula is no big secret, said Bob Meyer, SVP of merchandise and marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to replicate. “[We try] to find niches in the marketplace where we feel we can do better than our competition,” Meyer explained.
Longevity and deep roots within the communities Lewis serves also help cement long-term customer loyalty. “Consumers look at Lewis as a convenient and reliable retailer that’s been there now for 75 years,” Meyer said.
To that end, Lewis’ top merchant said, “We try to portray in our marketing, ‘We live in the same community you do, so we experience the same challenges you do. And we’re going to react to what your needs are. If you tell us you want something, we’re going to try to fill that need for you.’ That’s part of the reason we’re successful. We can react to things very quickly, compared to some of our competition. … That’s a big advantage for us.”
To help it get an even better read on customer preferences and behavior, Lewis will soon introduce a new mobile app designed to make shopping easier and more convenient. “That’s going to help us track even more information on consumer shopping patterns,” Meyer said. The new app will give participating customers access to exclusive promotions and product giveaways. Meyer added, “We’ll be able to monitor everything they purchase, and when.”
‘Our offerings are wide’
Meyer, who joined Lewis in 1977, has been a key architect of the company’s two-pronged approach to retailing, encompassing both large-scale stores serving a broad range of needs in its more urban and suburban locations, and a network of much smaller and more traditionally merchandised drug stores serving smaller towns and rural areas.
“People look at Lewis as a big convenience stop because of our multiple locations and convenient locations in a lot of different markets, so we sell a lot of everyday consumable items,” Meyer added.
“In the larger-format stores, our offerings are wide,” agreed Scott Cross, EVP and CFO. “We’ve attempted to do some of those things in the rural communities, but where we’re most successful in those communities is just being a complete healthcare store for them. The focus there is prescriptions, OTC medications, vitamins and health aids. … We’re really first and foremost a healthcare store for those communities.”
One of Lewis’ most distinguishing characteristics in its larger stores is a massive seasonal selection of lawn and garden plants and supplies. “That’s one of our largest categories, volume-wise, next to pharmacy … in our larger store markets,” Meyer said.
Lewis Drug president and CEO Mark Griffin added, “Our garden centers are bigger than Walmart’s. It’s our second-biggest division outside of pharmacy.” Lewis’ lawn and garden departments, which extend into the parking lots of its larger stores during the three-month selling season, drive high margins and fast turns.
Also gaining traction is a rapidly expanding pet supply department, “especially in the larger-format stores,” said Meyer, where Lewis has added more high-end brands “to become that complete pet stop.” The bet is paying off. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in that area in the last 18 months,” Meyer added. “Our volume has more than doubled. And we expect double-digit increases over the next few months, because we feel that there’s a real niche.”
A more efficient shopping space
In spite of expanding front-end categories and its broad-based approach to merchandising, Lewis’ merchants are finding they can condense the product mix in larger stores and reduce the store footprint from as much as 50,000 ft. — the current size of its largest units in the Sioux Falls market — to a new retail format half that size. Reducing the square footage in newer Lewis Drug stores will allow for a far more efficient use of space, lower operating costs, better turns and easier access and shopping for customers, executives said. The first two of these new, smaller stores are now under construction in Sioux Falls.
“We think 25,000 sq. ft. could be our sweet spot,” Cross said. “We think we’re going to be able to maintain a large majority of our sales and still offer the same [categories and products],” he added. “And the first one to open [in 2018] … will give us a much better location, where it’s easier to get in and out of our parking lot, and a more accessible drive-up window — all of those things that will make us more convenient for our customers.”
Lewis also is developing a new, 7,000-sq.-ft. store in downtown Sioux Falls. That store, set to open on Phillips Avenue some time in 2018, “will be an entirely different animal,” corporate VP Nikki Griffin said. “It will be a boutique assortment of product, and will cater to that new clientele who either live or work — or both — in downtown Sioux Falls.”
Strategic Solutions International intros multi-channel beauty analytics platform (K)NOW!
CHICAGO — Category management firm Strategic Solutions International is bringing a new insights platform to beauty brands and retailers with its (K)NOW! Strategic Data Solutions. The web-based portal, which made its debut last month at CosmoProf USA in Las Vegas, can offer multi-channel beauty insights exclusively to its subscribers.
Among the data that the (K)NOW! Portal gathers is hair color unit scans across channels. The company shared that while hair color represents 22% of unit scans in beauty supply stores, it only makes up 6% of black hair care unit volume in retail chain stores. This is as black-owned companies makeup 33% of total hair care sales, up from 14% in 2009.
The (K)NOW! portal pairs big data management with insights from consumer usage to create a consumer-centric platform, the company said, noting that to do so it has partnered with omnichannel global leaders in information technology to create a user-friendly information gathering experience.
Features include allowing users to run custom queries and create reports based on immediate needs, interactive data visualization, desktop and mobile functionality and trended metrics across data types.
“The (K)NOW! Strategic Data Solutions portal represents the first-ever opportunity for retailers, manufacturers and beauty executives to access quick and exclusive beauty insights, on their time — which is priceless,” portal creator and Strategic Solutions International CEO Romina Brown said. “This introduction initiates SSI’s revolutionary effort to create multi-channel insights based on consumer product usage.”