Charles Kessler Interview – How Beauty can Make Online Work with the High Street


“The beauty industry in many ways is leading the UK high street,” believes Charles Kessler, Chairman of Kesslers International. His optimism about the opportunities facing retail is borne out by recent growth within the premium beauty sector.

According to The Premium Market Report 2013, beauty sales grew by 5% in 2012, slipping back from +11% the year before. “Other markets would kill for these figures!” says Charles. “Beauty has shaken off many of the troubles that the economic crisis has brought on so many other markets."

So if beauty is in a good place, where are the changes coming and how could it be made better?

Charles explains: “Online is clearly the biggest change. Digital is the fastest growing part of the marketing mix. Starting from a zero base the only way was up, and it continues to have enormous momentum and sentiment in its favour.“

But ‘Out of Home Marketing’ is the second fastest growing part of marketing mix, and this includes display, and retail marketing. In other words, consumers are continuing to look for and be reassured by a strong presence of the brands in store. And this applies across premium, masstige and mass.

“Every successful retailer of course looks to build on their internet offering and quite rightly so. That’s where the growth is coming.“

But it is also underpinned by continuing presence for the consumer to pick up and play with the product; be persuaded, pampered and indeed presented with the product in store.

“With the huge number of launches in fragrance in particular every year – over 1200 in 2012 alone! – how does the retailer know where to pick the winner? The answer is to be thoroughly professional in researching a brand in its launch. Then add a touch of instinct and belief – let consumer reaction as well as your own first thoughts guide the brands to be supported.“

Professionalism comes from looking at the entire package:

  • background support

  • market positioning

  • the professionalism of the distribution

  • supply chain

“But there is always room for instinct, and trust in sensing an opportunity in the market, being ready for a new launch and name.“

The key to success is backing those instincts with real support in store.

Make the product standout with display matched to the launch/promotion

Good principles – well stocked and well laid out product.

Highlight the key sellers – don’t hide behind volume of smaller lines when it’s the key SKU’s that matter.

Ensure that the message is clear – less is more; consumers working through the internet have learnt to block out unneeded information. Make sure the claim and the message is instantly and easily read.”

Charles concludes: “The beauty industry in many ways is leading the way in the UK High Street. We should be pleased and making the most of this success.

”Charles Kessler is Chairman of Kesslers International Ltd, the UK’s leading Display Company. They have recently received three nominations for European Outstanding Merchandising Awards – and as in past years, the most for any UK based firm.