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Shoppers Stop Steps Up Beauty Offering, Turns Distributor

Brands like Maison Margiela, Atelier Cologne and Viktor & Rolf will launch in India for the first time.

In a flip forward for the Indian beauty market, Indian department store chain Shoppers Stop, which is just shy of the 100-store mark across the country and a premium beauty destination for global brands, is revamping its fragrance category.

The retailer is also launching into the beauty distribution space for the first time, debuting brands like Maison Margiela, Atelier Cologne and Viktor & Rolf in India, with a new vertical — wholly owned subsidiary Global SS Beauty. 

Other brands being launched this week as part of the new vertical are Prada, Valentino and Mugler, Ralph Lauren and Azzaro, at three Shoppers Stop locations across India — two in New Delhi and one in Mumbai.

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These brands are being launched in India by the L’Oréal International Division, as it has been growing the fragrance offering in different countries over the last three years. 

“Our collaboration with L’Oréal International Division is in line with our commitment to provide Indian customers with the best brands the world has to offer,” Venu Nair, managing director and customer care associate at Shoppers Stop, told WWD.

“[It] will allow us to create a premium experience for Indian consumers and also serve the rapidly growing market in India. The distribution business for Shoppers Stop is a different vertical and will be at an arm’s length from the retail. The main purpose is to bring in global brands into India, to have brands leverage the retail reach.”

While this means redefining the fragrance luxe concept for India at a time when analysts note that Indian beauty consumers are more sophisticated and ready to step up their beauty buying, it also comes with the step-up of retail by Shoppers Stop itself, with it planning to open between 12 and 15 department stores per year. 

“These continue to provide some of the best spaces for beauty brands in India, and is a part of our continuing transformation into an omni-channel retailer,” said Nair, adding that beauty now makes up approximately 17 percent of the total retail business for Shoppers Stop. 

“We believe that now the market is at a turning point between retail partners willing to move from a historical background and mindset,” Biju Kassim, chief of beauty at Shoppers Stop, observed. “I think brands are looking beyond the existing distribution network to be able to accelerate the growth — which we see is moving forward progressively.” 

Fragrance continues to be a moving force with the retailer. “It is a huge opportunity, because India has traditionally been a fragrance market — the entire evolution of the market started with fragrance. While earlier it was skewed toward more sales of male fragrances, it has evened up recently, closer to 55 percent male and 45 percent female. We are seeing a transformation in the prestige and lifestyle categories are fast growing, and expect luxury and niche to have strong opportunities in the next three to five years,” Kassim said.

The retailer has also stepped up this category dramatically over the last year with the launch of beauty standalone stores — SS beauty — with nine stores already open across India. 

Two flagship stores are due to open in the coming months — a 3,200-square-foot store at Terminal 2, Bengaluru airport, and an 8,800 square feet exclusive beauty zone in Quest mall, Kolkata. 

“We plan to open 15 to 20 doors a year of the newly launched SS beauty concept,” Kassim said. 

The competition is becoming intense with the growth of online beauty retailer Nykaa, which has also been opening physical stores, and the expected entry of Reliance Retail, one of the fastest growing retailers in the market into this space, as well as e-commerce site Tata Cliq, owned by the Tata Ltd. conglomerate. Perfumery chains include LVMH-owned Sephora, which is in India through a partnership with Bengaluru-based Arvind Brands and homegrown perfumery chain Parcos owned by beauty distributor Baccarose. 

The Indian beauty market is expected to grow in high double digits in the coming years, although the growth in 2021, with the post-COVID-19 impact was an estimated 9 percent over 2020, according to Euromonitor International. 

The beauty and personal care market is estimated at approximately $16 billion in 2021. 

Shoppers Stop also has a partnership with The Estée Lauder Cos., and operates 130 specialty beauty stores of MAC, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Smashbox, Jo Malone and Arcelia and 23 Airport doors, occupying an area of 4.5 million square feet.

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Although the fast growth of the beauty industry is causing fine lines of division between players — brick-and-mortar, e-commerce players, distributors, are all switching lines, wearing more than one hat — many more brands are being launched in India. Biju Kassim observed that the opportunities and challenges in India “are equally strong” and brands, retailers and distributors would be able to work through with better coordination. 

“The quality of retail is evolving, even though it still has a long way to go,” Kassim said. “The quality of vendors and vendor management, the quality of manpower — it is a learning phase and going forward I am sure it will be much better. The other important challenge is consumption, which is continuing to evolve. The Indian story is growing fast and we expect many more brands to come in with more investments.

“Beauty is poised to witness a growth across formats and categories, as consumers are becoming more demanding; apart from the traditional metro cities, smaller cities are also eliciting a lot of interest in beauty, and this will add up to the growth story, across all beauty segments,” he added. “Change is coming, swiftly.”