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Reinventing Beauty Retail in France

Three new concepts are helping to shake up the industry.

PARIS – A plethora of organic and vegan products. Facial masks from around the globe. Miniatures. Sex toys.

Such items lining some beauty retailers’ shelves, plus the newfangled ways they’re being sold, are shaking up the industry here today — thanks to Le Drugstore Parisien, Monoprix’s restaged beauty department and Sephora’s Gare Saint-Lazare location.

“The biggest shift is that we are moving from selling a product to creating real customer experience,” said Leïla Rochet Podvin, founder and chief executive officer of Paris-based trends and consulting agency Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation. “And this translates into disruptive concepts like the Drugstore Parisien. In our digital age, where savvy consumers can buy a product and get it overnight, brick-and-mortar stores need to revise their models to survive.”

Numbers reflect the stark reality. Store-based retailing of beauty and personal products still generates the largest share of beauty sales in France, but those are growing far slower than online revenues. Brick-and-mortar shops selling such goods made sales of 11.87 billion euros, down 1.3 percent in 2017 versus 2016, while the channel’s revenues declined 1.8 percent in the prior-year period, according to market research provider Euromonitor International.

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By comparison, e-commerce sales of beauty and personal care products rose 12.9 percent to 777.4 million euros in 2017, and in 2016, they gained 13.4 percent.

Rochet Podvin noted Le Drugstore Parisien, which opened two locations — a 4,220-square-foot boutique at 66 rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and a 2,000-square-foot shop at 122 rue du Bac — in Paris in late June. It is the brainchild of mass retailer Groupe Casino and L’Oréal France, which supports the project.

The idea was “to propose to urban people a new way to feel good in the city and facilitate life [there] with a beauty offer,” said Delphine Bresson, marketing director for Le Drugstore Parisien. That includes accessories, with 5,000 stockkeeping units in all.

“We want to address it in a very modern, a very different way,” which fills a white space between mass and class, she said. “Borders between different outlets are disappearing, and that’s why with this new concept we reinvent distribution with different categories associated together that aren’t already sold under the same roof in other concepts.”

From big, see-through dispensers near the entry, for instance, consumers can scoop up mini Ahava products or condoms.

As its name suggests, Le Drugstore Parisien’s format takes a cue from drugstores — with a twist.

“While drugstores exist in other countries, it is a totally new concept in France, where accessible beauty products are mostly sold in supermarkets and hypermarkets with limited customer [in-store] experience and little brand storytelling,” said Céline Brucker, general manager of L’Oréal’s Consumer Products Division France.

“Le Drugstore Parisien is for cosmopolitans of all types — young people, the not-so-young, night owls, busy city dwellers, the trendy, the less connected, tourists and children,” she continued. “The product and service offer is large and very accessible, as 55 percent of the products are sold at under 10 euros. Le Drugstore Parisien wants to make beauty and well-being accessible for everyone.”

There is makeup, skin care — with many vegan and organic options, beauty accessories, parapharmacy products, natural scents, plus drinks and snacks, with some 15 perfume and cosmetics brands exclusive to the French market. These include Pure Green, Dwtn Paris, Horace, Le Parfum Citoyen, Humble Brush and Waam.

Fun, and practicality, are of the essence. At the Chaussée d’Antin location, it’s possible to buy school supplies (a seasonal selection), drop keys off, use the dry-cleaning service, find daily newspapers or wrap gifts. Packages can be sent and tourists might go for the Paris souvenirs. Juicing up an iPhone or purchasing high-tech accessories are possibilities, too.

The store’s private-label line has 150 sku’s, including a “Survival T-shirt” and undergarments.

Beauty services include flash makeup and a nail bar during the weekend. By the “fiesta” section, with false eyelashes and fluorescent accessories, is the sex toy area. Other dedicated sections have items for men, teens and children, as well, with some areas brand- and others need-specific.

The beauty offer is sprawling, both upstairs and downstairs, with a supersize choice for certain categories, such as masks (with 100 options), lipstick, toothpaste and soaps.

Inside Le Drugstore Parisien
Inside Le Drugstore Parisien. Courtesy Photo

L’Oréal products are plentiful, representing about 40 percent of the beauty selection, coming from the likes of L’Oréal Paris, Sanoflore, Garnier, Maybelline, Essie, NYX Professional Makeup, La Provençale Bio — L’Oréal’s new, mass-market organic line — and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc. Each product range is focused on a certain segment.

“We can test a lot of different services around the brands. It’s plug and play,” said a L’Oréal spokeswoman.

Le Drugstore Parisien is open from 10 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Four hundred sku’s from Le Drugstore Parisien are sold online through Glovo, with a delivery time in the French capital of one hour.

The two store locations are considered works in progress, but executives expect an ambitious rollout for Paris and other big cities in France, and abroad could be instigated soon.

Another retailer recently inspired by drugstores is Monoprix, the diversified French chain owned by Groupe Casino, as well. It has more than 700 domestic doors and makes 5 billion euros in sales.

Monoprix’s new beauty layout debuted in mid-April in its store at 164 rue du Temple. “We really wanted to create a new customer journey that’s much more fluid by linking the different universes — makeup, parapharmacy, the whole beauty section with skin care, body care, hair care and also the hygiene part,” explained Sandrine Williamson, beauty director in charge of offer, purchase and new concept at Monoprix.

She homed in on how the drugstore spirit, stemming from Anglo-Saxon countries, tends to involve grouping various product worlds together, whereas in France they’ve traditionally been kept apart.

In Monoprix’s new beauty department, which measures about 2,780 square feet, each category is delineated by different yet complementary color codes and eco-friendly merchandising units. For makeup, there is black metal and wood accents; hygiene-beauty has a greater emphasis on white and wood, and the parapharmacy area features wood, white, green ceramic and plant details.

An increased experiential quotient, especially through digital, was important to lure younger clients. Screens are peppered throughout the beauty department to help discover products. Shoppers can use the photo booth to share their new looks on social media, too.

Inside Monoprix
Inside Monoprix. Courtesy Photo

A gondola — serving to link the makeup and parapharmacy sections — is dedicated entirely to organic products. “It’s really in the DNA of the store to speak of the latest trends,” said Williamson, who explained signage elsewhere points to what’s organic, natural or vegan.

Also to facilitate shopping, some areas can be perused by brand or need.

Alongside the multinational labels, Monoprix has introduced a vast niche selection. In this store there’s a smattering of natural scents, including one created with the brand 100Bon. “Today we really try to work much more in collaboration,” said the executive.

The parapharmacy section offers hair and skin diagnosis, and has an aromatherapy segment.

Among recent brands for Monoprix — with several exclusives among them in France’s mass channel — include Erborian, Garancia and Taaj. Product samples are suggested for people following a discussion with pharmacists at the checkout counter.

Other recent brands introduced include Studiomakeup, Maui Moisture, Revolution and Big Moustache. “We love this mix between national and international. Today we no longer live in France, we live in a world and [want] that our assortment also represents this diversity,” said Williamson.

Mini products, private label and K-beauty are carried as well.

The location near Place de la République was chosen to launch the new concept for Monoprix, which has about 100 parapharmacies and 300 doors selling beauty products in France, as it is easy to access and in central Paris.

Thanks to the new layout, beauty sales in the store have risen by double digits. The concept is to be introduced in some other Monoprix stores before year end.

Paris served as the site for the “New Sephora Experience” concept launched early this year in the Saint-Lazare train station. In addition to including a wide array of physical and virtual services found in other Sephora doors, there are newfangled offerings in the 9,330-square-foot space. Here, there is the possibility for consumers to create their own kits from a selection of mini products, with a minimum spend of 20 euros, for instance.

“Super ingredients” are highlighted in products from brands such as Fresh, Boscia, Youth To The People and Origins.

At Sephora's Gare Saint-Lazare location
At Sephora’s Gare Saint-Lazare location. Courtesy Photo

Elsewhere, eight brands — including Patchology, Mr. Blanc Teeth and Pixi Beauty — that were first sold on Sephora’s web site were brought into the store for its the #wantedatsephora section.

It’s possible to use a facial mask with the help of a beauty adviser who can then give a flash makeup service. And an Amika hairstyling station is available free of charge.

Sephora kicked off its first Experience concept in France in 2017.