Beauty retail is headed the way of dining during the coronavirus pandemic: outdoors.
Brands are focusing on bringing experiential retail outside of the storefront and, in some cases, to portable formats in an effort to ease anxious shoppers’ minds.
“We’re allowed to open our store, but it’s so touch-and-go, and it’s boarded up,” said David Moltz, cofounder of fragrance brand D. S. & Durga, which closed its Lower East Side flagship and halted the opening of its second store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, earlier this year. Last month, the brand unveiled Fumetruck, an ice cream truck-like pop-up, which rotates between locations in New York City, including the Union Square Greenmarket and Williamsburg. Moltz added that the truck would carry exclusive scents.
The brand’s fragrance sales dipped slightly during the pandemic, Moltz said, but the decrease was compensated by an increase in hand soap, home fragrance and hand sanitizer sales. A selection of candles and soaps will be sold on the truck, as well.
Fumetruck is operated by associates from the brand’s brick-and-mortar locations. “When you’re small, you can pivot as much as you need,” Moltz said. “If the truck is successful, we can do another in another city.”
On the West Coast, clean beauty brand Beautycounter has also brought its offerings outdoors, starting with a pop-up wall on Abbot Kinney in Venice, Calif. Opened last month, the wall exclusively features one of its hero products, All Bright C Serum, which was introduced in May.
“We launched [the serum] with a lot of trepidation — we didn’t know how people were going to respond to the happy, bright campaign,” said Blair Lawson, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Beautycounter. “It was our biggest launch of all time at Beautycounter, and people responded well to the campaign.”
Beautycounter wanted to diversify retail offerings, while adhering to store closure mandates. “We try to not take a monolithic strategy, and like trying to test and learn in different formats. All of our pop-ups are about brand awareness,” Lawson said. “We want to reach out to customers everywhere they are, and communicate with them how they want to be communicated with.” Lawson also said the pop-up’s consistency with product messaging is part of Beautycounter’s efforts to help clients understand products in a tester-less, post-coronavirus environment.
The brand’s concept for the pop-up wall evolved from an interactive billboard into a wall outside of Beautycounter’s store in Venice. The pop-up’s final iteration included a physical beauty counter, with masked associates tending to consumers. “The people walking by are very engaging, and I think the counter concept feels safer than a store environment right now,” Lawson said.
The thought process behind D.S. & Durga’s Fumetruck was similar. “We decided to do a truck because people want to feel safe to shop, even me,” Moltz said. “When you’re outside, you feel safer. Inside, it gets tense, and nobody wants a tense shopping experience.”
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