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WWD Beauty Forum: Harrods’ Annalise Quest on Building Brands

The general merchandise manager of beauty for Harrods has three major points of criteria before she takes any brand on.

With 26,000 square feet devoted to beauty and store retail sales topping $1.6 billion yearly, Harrods is a sought-after destination for beauty brands big and small.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

First, however, the brands are subject to the intense scrutiny of Annalise Quest, general merchandise manager of beauty for Harrods. She has three major points of criteria before she takes any brand on: innovation, a point of difference or wow factor and partnership. “As a merchant, we recognize that a lot of our brands are available globally,” said Quest. “Exclusivity is our favorite word.”

Once a brand has been selected, Quest’s launch strategy includes nurturing the brand if it needs guidance and working with the brand to develop a comprehensive launch strategy. “For instance, Nubo came to us with a very technologically advanced skin care line, but the packaging wasn’t great. It didn’t showcase the attributes,” she said. “We worked together to bring the right positioning to the market,” and it became one of the retailer’s most successful launches.

Once a brand is established, Quest and her team work to ensure long-term success by cultivating an open working relationship with lots of communication and developing a long-term brand strategy. “Launching is often the easy part,” said Quest. “A strategy to keep the brand relevant is critical.”

On July 11, the retailer will unveil a revamped Beauty Apothecary hall in a different area of the floor from where it is now located; the department will stock unique and niche brands, said Quest. “The offer will remain very similar, but all of a sudden it will take on a new life because the fixtures, fittings and aesthetic will be very luxury but very cool, very simple but very, very approachable and shoppable,” she said. The Apothecary will link into a new 4,456-square-foot “color emporium,” which will be unveiled in the second half of 2011 in what is currently the store’s Lifestyle Beauty hall.

The retailer’s White Hall carries skin care and color cosmetics, while the Black Hall is devoted to fragrances.

Quest said she thinks color cosmetics are currently the greatest area of opportunity for Harrods’ beauty business. “We are not where I feel we should be with color, and we will be launching the makeup room to drive the category forward,” said Quest. “My future goal is to have skin care, fragrances and color cosmetics each have one-third of the overall beauty business.”