PARIS — From Qiriness to Prescription Lab and État Pur, a crop of small European direct-to-consumer beauty brands are launching experiential pop-up shops here as the channel proliferates and broadens in scope, and provides a valuable testbed for online players eyeing freestanding stores.
“We are growing quite fast in the French and export markets, [so] we need a flagship for the brand image,” explained Mi-Ryung Beilvert, founder and president of Qiriness, an at-home spa line kicked off in 2004 in the digital realm. She said the idea with the brand’s first pop-up, running from Oct. 5 to Feb. 24, is also to try out the market for a stand-alone shop, while acting as a communication tool in social and traditional media, as well as a brand ambassador.
Challenges abound for indie beauty brands trying to expand their reach here. “There aren’t very many distribution opportunities in France,” said Nancy Flavin, vice president, international sales at Strivectin. “There are only really well-established chains and department stores. They all take a very similar assortment, and they’re well-established brands.”
Once more, entering such retailers can be expensive for indies, so some are turning to pop-ups instead.
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“One of the reasons they remain advantageous is even if you say for a small brand one of these executions is going to be 70,000 euros, it’s a budgetable, reliable 70,000 euros,” said Nicholas Russell, founder of real estate technology company Project X. “It’s like an ad campaign. A lot of the evidence coming out suggests that even if the store doesn’t do necessarily well…online sales [for a pop-up] generally increase while the store is open, because there is p.r. around it, there’s social media push.”
“We live in an ephemeral economy. People crave for experiences and serendipity — happy surprises,” continued Leïla Rochet Podvin, founder and chief executive officer of trends and consulting agency Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation.
Qiriness’ 555-square-foot boutique in Paris’ Marais district is divided into various areas: one where people can try products, another for coaching and a section where people may sit and have a personalized skin diagnosis plus a 12-minute, mini facial. “So you can experience and discover the brand in three different ways,” said Beilvert.
Prescription Lab, which began in late 2016 using a beauty-box model, also operated its first ephemeral boutique in the Upper Marais district, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. Its program included ateliers for yoga, plant-based cosmetics creations, a beauty master class and talks given by women. On the Saturday, there were classes on flash makeup and hairstyling, while on the Sunday the boutique held an atelier for manicures using natural polish. A gift bar carried Prescription Lab’s eponymous natural brand, holiday kits, collectors’ boxes and accessories.
Liquides Cooler — a spin-off of the five-year-old Liquides Bar à Parfums boutique — on rue Bréguet, was another pop-up in the neighborhood, dedicated to perfume, skin care and fragranced accessories, which were giftable. Running from Nov. 7 to Dec. 31, it carried brands including Anya Hindmarch Smells, 19-69, L:A Bruket, Odin New York and P.F. Candle Co.
In tandem with Paris’ Japonismes 2018 cultural program, Shiseido hosted a pop-up in the Marais, on rue de Turenne, between Nov. 22 and Dec. 2. Called Shiseido Japanese Beauty Station, it served as a celebration of the company’s 140-year history and showcased products old, such as Modern Color Face Powder from 1932 and Shiseido Sun Oil from 1965, and new, which could be purchased, like Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate and items from the Waso collection.
Online skin-care brand État Pur had chosen the Marais for its first pop-up last year, but opened its second in the Gare Saint-Lazare train station on Oct. 16. The 245-square-foot shop is operational seven days per week through Jan. 30, and from Monday to Friday it opens early, at 7:30 a.m.
“Benefiting from this first pop-up experience and a very positive result — as much for the brand experience for our clients as the visibility — we wanted to renew the experience in a heavily frequented area, the mall of Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris,” said Astrid Desmond, director of État Pur.
It’s a test that could lead to a boutique in a neighborhood with high traffic, years after the brand launched and opened a first brick-and-mortar location on Paris’ Left Bank in late 2011, which subsequently shuttered.
With the pop-up, it’s key to let people live the ultimate brand experience thanks to personalized service, according to Desmond. As such, État Pur’s pop-up’s central area focuses on quick skin diagnosis and trying out the Pure Actives meant for application directly on skin and Biomimetic-patented cosmetics for everyday use, such as cleansers or moisturizers. Visitors also learn about the skin’s functions here.
Tablets are available, so people may scan products to learn about their clean ingredients. And for the pop-up, État Pur conceived discovery kits containing three items, which start at 23.50 euros.
“It’s a true first meeting with our consumers,” said Desmond. “After, they know they can buy online through the site etatpur.com.”
South Korean skin-care brand Dr. Jart also popped up a 445-square-foot ephemeral shop in Saint-Lazare, on Nov. 7, which has a Ceramidin theme, since the line’s formula and packaging were upgraded. Other such pop-ups are sprouting around the world, too.
“Why the Saint-Lazare station? It’s very simple — this is the perfect location to meet many Parisians,” said Dennis SungSue Yang, deputy general manager of Dr. Jart’s international business division. He said the spot is also in keeping with the “Dr. Jart meets art” bent, since artists such as Claude Monet and Gustave Caillebotte made paintings of the station, and it plays a key role in Émile Zola’s novel “La Bête Humaine.”
Pop-ups can have an artistic bent like Dr. Jart’s Filter Space, the brand’s flagship in Seoul where there are frequently collaborations with local artists. “We do not have our own space like Filter Space here,” the executive continued. “So a pop-up store can be an alternative way to deliver a similar project.”
Speaking before the Saint-Lazare boutique’s closure on Nov. 13, Yang said: “The pop-up is built to make consumers live the Ceramidin experience. People will be able to try the new products, take funny pictures and get special offers to use in the nearest Sephora.”
That happened to be nearby in the train station. But in the pop-up, people can order the brand’s products via digital devices connected to sephora.fr, as well.
Maison Cartier crafted an artistic, multisensorial experience in the form of a monthlong pop-up in the Marais, called Mille Facettes (or A Thousand Facets). Open from Oct. 12 to Nov. 4, it paid homage to the house’s new fragrance Cartier Carat that’s meant to be an olfactive interpretation of a diamond’s brilliance, full of moving, diffracted light and color, for which in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent transposed light’s seven fundamental colors into a juice with an equal number of corresponding floral notes.
For the pop-up, the Bureau of Extraordinary Affairs art and design studio conceived an immersive installation full of prisms, where one visitor at a time could experience a light show reminiscent of a diamond’s luster set to sound.
“It is putting this scent in motion and in image,” said Léa Vignal Kenedi, managing director of fragrance at Cartier.
People could try out Carat and the brand’s other perfumes, plus have their Cartier perfume bottles engraved or portraits created in the colors of the rainbow during ateliers held over the weekends.
“Today, we have to to meet our clients, and the meeting is not made around a transaction,” continued Vignal Kenedi. “Brands need to orchestrate this.”