M&S Beauty - The Inside Story

“There’s a great opportunity to present a new point of view on the high street,"

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne on M&S Beauty

Everyone’s talking about the brand new beauty retail concept that M&S has created on the high street. I caught up with Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, Corporate Director, Strategy Implementation and New Business Development, to find out why he believes that M&S can make it big in beauty.

What is the thinking behind M&S creating a brand new beauty retail concept?

PB-C: M&S has offered beauty in one form or another for many years in the form of private label only, but it is not an area it has focused on strategically. When considering the extensive customer research which has been done internally on potential new product categories where M&S would have complete legitimacy, the consumers were saying that Beauty is something they would like to see from M&S.

We agreed and felt there is a great opportunity to really extend the beauty offer and present a new point of view on the high street. It was essential to approach it in a different way. We want to stand out and do something different that really captures our “Your M&S” position.

Consider that M&S get 21 million customers through our doors every week and currently only a very small percentage shop beauty. If you add the fact that we have almost a 30% lingerie market share, then it seems logical to fully exploit the synergies that exist between a leadership position in lingerie and the aspirations of beauty customers. Both are intimate products where women look for trust, authority and integrity when they shop, plus both offer something that will make them look, and most importantly, feel better.

It’s a bold move at a time when retailing overall has been difficult over the past 4 years, so what would you say M&S is bringing to beauty that is missing?

It is when retail is challenging that you have to be bold and capture the consumer’s attention with new and compelling concepts. The beauty arena is extremely crowded and consumers’ product decisions aren’t often easy to make because of the great number of options available.

M&S’ point of view is to offer an amazing, tightly edited choice of brands from around the globe, selected against strict criteria of the best of nature and science that will deliver real results for our customers. Our range is unique and ownable; the brands have been handpicked because of their unique stories. The great majority are not available in other high street beauty departments.

Most importantly, our team of trained Beauty advisors offers impartial, tailored, individual advice with no commission based on incentive to sell. Their primary focus is on the needs of the consumer.

What are your plans in terms of store openings for Beauty in 2013?

PB-C: Based on the very favourable response from our customers and the success of the first “Your Beauty” stores opened this Autumn, we now have 49 stores already opened and are trading very successfully online. We want to continue building this momentum of Beauty within M&S throughout 2013.

We could potentially be at 100 plus doors by the end of next year with several new brand entries that will be announced in the Spring.

What do you see as the key beauty trends for 2013?

PB-C: We think the market overall will continue to remain challenging with consumers searching for value across all product categories, including beauty. However, Beauty has an amazing capacity at bringing new product innovation and driving consumers to stores which remain the ultimate place for a personalised service, be it for a make-over or a skin analysis.

Make-up will continue to be a hot category because of the immediate fun, fast fashion and self gratification the category provides, whilst in skincare the brands with solid integrity, natural positioning and proven performance will outperform the rest of the class.