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Department Stores Buff Up

The U.K.'s prestige beauty sellers are upping their theater quotient to keep a spot in the limelight.

With High-Street drugstore chains, such as Boots the Chemists and Superdrug, offering sizeable discounts on fragrance and cosmetics,...

The U.K.’s prestige beauty sellers are upping their theater quotient to keep a spot in the limelight.

With High-Street drugstore chains, such as Boots the Chemists and Superdrug, offering sizeable discounts on fragrance and cosmetics, department stores are responding by unveiling revamped beauty departments and quirky services.

“It adds a fun point of difference for shoppers over the likes of value-led environments,” said George Wallace, a London-based analyst at Management Horizons Europe. “Because of the higher cost [of the goods they’re selling], retailers like department stores have to do something different.”

And this strategy seems to be working well.

In 2005 in the U.K., premium skin care sales were up 8% to £262.9 million (?380.3 million/$471.2 million) year-onyear; the prestige fragrance business grew 5% to £582.7 million, and makeup turnover rose 3% to £303.6 million, according to London-based tracking firm Euromonitor.

See following some recent novelties helping to put department stores in the spotlight.


This month, Harrods will unveil Lifestyle Beauty, a 5,000-sq.-ft. shopping area offering a handful of treatment and makeup brands.

“We decided to create the new space because all our other ground-floor beauty areas were generic and specific to a category,” said Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Harrods.

“The new Lifestyle Beauty hall gave us an opportunity to create a new beauty play area for today’s theater-seeking consumer—color, skin care, wellbeing and lifestyle, all in one exquisite room,”she added.

Decorated with mother-of-pearl columns, pelmets and brass Art Deco accents, the space is to house counters by brands including MAC, Origins, Kiehl’s, Benefit and La Mer, as well as a concession with sunglasses.

“It adds to the Harrods beauty experience by expanding the current offer and creating mini-branded boutiques in their latest aesthetic designs,” said McKee. “[It’s] in keeping with the development and trend for lifestyle, beauty and fashion.”


Selfridges department store kicked off Spring Beauty, a month-long in-store event, on April 22.

Held in the boutique’s 2,915-sq.-ft. Ultralounge, the space was designed to host a plethora of personal appearances by the likes of makeup artist Jemma Kid and skin care specialist Dr. Sebagh, as well as product demonstrations by companies including Clarins, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown and Decléor.

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“With Spring Beauty, we can give customers the opportunity to get a richer, deeper experience of specific products, brands and services,” said Stephanie Thomas, marketing and development manager responsible for beauty at the store. “With this space, we are reaching a new audience for our niche brands as well as captivating the imaginations of our regular consumers.”

The area is decorated with an astroturf carpet, white picket fencing and potted flowers. The event will run through May 20.


Liberty department store cut the ribbon on its revamped beauty department in March. The beauty offer was relocated in its landmark mock-Tudor building following the closure of an adjacent boutique, which formerly housed a selection of cosmetics products.

“The brief was for a unisex, comfortable environment, which promotes the pleasure of shopping,” said the store’s perfumery buyer Angela Creasy. “People come here for an experience and for the beautiful building. After all, shopping is supposed to be a pleasure, not hard work.”

The floor comprises Beauty, a 2,000-sq.-ft. section housing treatment and color cosmetics; Fragrance, a 500-sq.-ft. space carrying a selection of niche and well-known scents, and Body and Soul, a 650- sq.-ft. apothecary-like area for bath and body products.

Creasy noted the new layout encourages easy flow from one space to the other.

“One thing people did before and still do is shop across all categories,” she said. “That’s something we love to see.”

The department was designed to accentuate the building’s original character and boasts period features, including a dome painted with a nighttime scene and a jewelry vault.

This article appeared in WWD Beauty Report International, a special publication to WWD.