The number-one health and beauty brand in Britain continues its invasion of the U.S., moving into two top mass merchants — CVS and Target. Boots also is expanding its presence in Canada's Shoppers Drug Mart.
Starting this month, Boots will be available in more than 1,500 Target stores, including 260 units that will feature Boots-trained beauty consultants — a first for the self-service Target beauty department.
Next month, Boots will roll out to more than 500 CVS stores, mostly concentrated in southern California and the Southwest. "We are very pleased to bring this leading U.K. brand to our customers," said Janice Jacobs, who oversees proprietary brands at CVS, among the most aggressive drug chains in offering exclusives. "The line is part of our differentiated offering and each range is uniquely positioned to attract new customers to our beauty departments
Boots first marched into the U.S. in 2004 with a test in 18 stores in Colorado. The next year, No7 and Botanics were added to several other markets. "We have three years of planning and we've learned what shoppers like and we've gained our confidence to make sure it is the right time to expand," said Martin Waters, chief executive officer of Boots Retail USA. He added that it is a large number of stores with many stockkeeping units and Boots wants to do it right, especially with products that must be shipped from abroad.
Perhaps the biggest initiative is placing beauty advisers in Target stores. There are two models being rolled out — a 24-foot department with a Boots-trained adviser in Boots' uniform and on Boots' payroll. "This is a first in the industry," said Waters of the serviced department in Target. The other, a Target store-designed self-service area consisting of 12 feet devoted to Boots items. In both formats, all Boots items are merchandised together, rather than with respective categories, such as antiaging, with other like products.
CVS is using its larger southern California stores it acquired from Albertsons to show off its Boots selection. The stores have recently been remodeled and skew high in beauty sales. According to Jacobs, CVS will offer four ranges of Boots items — No7, Botanics, Time Dimensions and Mediterranean. No7 and Botanics were among the major lines first tested at CVS, she said, and Time is an antiaging skin care system while Mediterranean is a bath and body care line.Target has those same lines plus a new range of supplements and vitamins designed to cleanse, purify and revive the body, called Feel the Difference. Although Waters admitted dietary supplements had been tried with mixed success by other brands, he feels the timing is right for the line in the U.S. now.
Waters said Boots has experimented with myriad displays with the conclusion that premium brands need to be presented in an upscale fashion, which, in this case, included illumination, educational materials and testers.
For the time being, Waters plans to stick with Target and CVS, along with Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada. "These are obviously the best mass merchants in the U.S. We do not anticipate any further relationships at this time," he said. He added that, with powerful partners such as CVS and Target, he did not see the need for freestanding Boots units.
Boots isn't the only European brand courting U.S. consumers, but Waters doesn't think shoppers buy a line just because of its lineage. "Boots is a British institution with 150 years of experience. We have something you don't acquire overnight. The brand is number one in both color and skin care in the U.K. Consumers want results and quality products," he said.
He also thinks Boots is attracting shoppers in both CVS and Target who may be frequenting the chains for other needs and not stopping in beauty. "Our number-one objective is to bring new consumers into the category. I'd be lying if I said we won't take from existing brands, but we are likely to attract a shopper who has been buying beauty items elsewhere. And, shoppers these days are more willing to switch channels."
The Boots name is well known, especially by consumers who have traveled through Europe. But even those who don't know it, he added, will be impressed with the products once they try them. Slight changes have been made to European products for the U.S. market, such as the inclusion of sun protection factors. "There is also greater diversity of skin tones in the U.S.," Waters said.
Waters expects a long and healthy life in America for Boots. There are more than 5,000 items in the stable and 100 scientists working on new items. "We've spent a long time looking at this market and we're going to do it right."
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