LONDON — Biscuits, bras, baby clothes — and now beauty.
Marks & Spencer, the British public’s go-to retailer for merchandise ranging from food to fashion to everyday items for the family, will unveil its first major, multibrand beauty offer this week in-store and online.
The new retail concept, Your Beauty: The Best of Nature & Science, will make its debut on Tuesday at the M&S store on London’s Kensington High Street and on the retailer’s Web site.
M&S will continue to roll out the concept this year and next. Some 57 retail spaces are expected to open by the end of this year, and 126 will be open by October 2013.
Frances Russell, the store’s trading director for beauty and lingerie, said M&S is also looking at an international rollout, most likely in the late summer or early fall, in tandem with its existing franchise partners. The first ones will open at the M&S flagship in Czech Republic and Poland.
In an exclusive interview with WWD, she said the store is aiming “to offer the very best of nature and science,” across all the major beauty categories, as well as “foreign brands not widely available in the U.K.”
“We want to help women reveal their natural glamour, and to earn their trust with our honesty and expertise. We want to be a new face in beauty,” she said, adding that the focus for the concept would be service, product and the environment.
The store, which worked with consultants including Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, former group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., said it plans to hire some 500 to 600 “beauty advisers” who will undergo four weeks of in-house training, and who will not work on commission.
“We think we’ve found a sweet spot in the market with this kind of service. We want them to be trusted advisers and friends to our customers,” she said.
Starting next week, M&S will offer some 14 own-brand products such as Pure Skincare, an eco-friendly body care range; Limited and Autograph Collection makeup, and Natures Extracts, an everyday range of bath and body products.
The company has also collaborated with Lyn Harris on six fragrances for men and women and with Cowley Manor, the English country hotel, for a collection of spa products.
The store plans to stock 25 to 30 independent brands — many of them exclusives — from outside the U.K., including Perlier and I Coloniali from Italy; Skyn Iceland; Nuxe, Roger & Gallet and Fragonard from France; and Dr. Murad and Pür Minerals from the U.S.
At launch, the company plans to have nearly 1,000 stockkeeping units ranging in price from 2.50 pounds, or $3.98, for a bottle of Limited Collection nail polish, to 70 pounds, or $111.30, for a premium skin care product such as Filorga, which offers antiaging fillers, meso-therapy and face peels. The Lyn Harris fragrances cost 25 pounds, or $40.
All figures have been calculated at current exchange.
“We are a very democratic store selling everything from knickers to cashmere dressing gowns,” Russell said, adding that the same philosophy would apply to the beauty offer.
M&S plans to carve out spaces ranging from 750 square feet to 3,000 square feet across its 300 department stores in the U.K.
The average size will be 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, and most of the new beauty spaces will be adjacent to the stores’ lingerie areas. The smaller stores will carry the M&S in-house products only.
The shop fit, an M&S spokeswoman said, would be “bright and clean, inspiring and calm,” with natural wood, illuminated display panels and interactive materials meant to enhance the shopping experience.
Russell pointed out that M&S boasts 27 percent of the lingerie market in the U.K., and while she declined to give any investment figures or projections for the nascent beauty business, she said the store has high hopes of building serious market share in beauty.
“The beauty market is worth billions, and we can find our own place in it,” she said, adding that the competition for M&S will range from Boots to Selfridges. “We have 21 million customers coming through our doors every week and nine million unique visitors to the Web site every year.”
Each new space will be divided into the three beauty “universes” of well-being, performance and lifestyle. There will be screens where customers can upload photos of themselves in order to test out makeup virtually, and about 30 how-to videos on makeup and skin care.
There will also be special makeover, skin care and nail sessions at the stores, although Russell specified that M&S had no plans to enter the spa and beauty treatment business.
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