Concept store Story might be the first retail space to sell Cover Girl, Sally Hansen, Byredo and Diptyque under the same roof.
“We’re not organizing by price point, demographic or category but how people live. It’s about how can we mirror consumer behavior in a digital world in a physical world. To me, what’s exciting isn’t the single item or single experience; it’s the interconnectedness of all of it,” Story founder Rachel Shechtman said of her space’s 35th installation and first “Beauty Story,” a partnership with Coty Inc. that runs through Oct. 15.
Shechtman likened her retail media business model to that of a magazine, which instead of containing articles, editorials and advertising pages is supported by merchandising, curation and events, where sponsors command prime real estate for the duration of the installation. A typical sponsorship at Story costs $500,000 and holiday concepts cost $1 million, according to Shechtman, who works with small businesses to companies such as PepsiCo.
Beauty Story is comprised of four parts, including a series of Coty-centric experiences pegged to four of the company’s mass market brands — Cover Girl, Rimmel London, Sally Hansen and Clairol, as well as a Coty augmented reality mirror powered by YouCam. This will live alongside three “editorial” sections of this store: a prestige beauty destination conceptualized by Nicky Kinnaird, the “NK” and founder of Space NK; a satellite Heyday facial shop that offers complimentary skin consultations, and a host of beauty products divided by category, curated by Story. A handful of events will also take place throughout the five weeks, including a Clairol Braid Bar on Sept. 8, makeup touchups with Rimmel on Sept. 9 and a Business of Beauty Panel hosted by Kinnaird on Sept. 27.
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“It’s not how traditional beauty selling works, but it’s how the customer generally will buy. Everyone does a combination of high and low in their bathrooms and makeup bags. The joy of the place is that there something for everyone here,” Kinnaird said. Her selections are a combination of products carried at Space NK, including new launches, cult classics and bestsellers cross category, with an emphasis on skin care, hair care and body care.
“Everyone will make a discovery — whether it’s a high-end or a low-end one. You have the complete extreme there,” Kinnaird continued.
The entire concept is driven by an overarching theme of self-expression, Shechtman explained, where each of the Coty experiences contain an element of social currency that require a call to action. For instance, a consumer could obtain polish from Sally Hansen’s No Appointment Necessary DIY nail bar only after painting their nails at the station and sharing a photo on social media. The Rimmel experience, powered by Vengo, a maker of smart vending machines, asks guests to take a selfie in front of in-store street art created by “Elle Street Art.” Once they tweet the photo, the vending machine will dispense a Rimmel product.
She pointed out that products from Coty are only obtainable through social currency, while the rest of the offerings — from about 80 brands hailing from Diptyque to Dr. Colbert to direct-to-consumer fragrance start-up Phlur — are for sale.
“With all these moments throughout store, the whole thing is ‘My Beauty Says’…There is ‘Nicky Says’, ‘Heyday Says’ and ‘Story Says.’ The entire store is about getting consumers to participate in a conversation around self-expression and what beauty says to them,” Shechtman said. “Clairol, Rimmel, Cover Girl and Sally Hansen are kind of the alphabet and tools to that for the Coty side, and then on the other side, Story, Nicky and Heyday are the curators of their things to discover.”
For Coty, this collaboration appears to be an attempt to kick-start sales at a struggling consumer beauty division. The company has recently outlined an upcoming refresh for Cover Girl, as well as updates on other brands, but the consumer division has yet to post growth. While Coty’s Luxury and Professional divisions saw gains for the latest fiscal year, the Consumer segment posted a 10 percent organic sales drop. Those numbers were impacted by weak sales at Cover Girl, Clairol, Wella Retail and Sally Hansen, the company disclosed. Fortunately, such a prominent presence represents not only an opportunity for merchandising alongside prestige players like Byredo and Diptyque, but a chance to put forth innovative, social driven customer experiences.
“In today’s digital age, consumers are demanding to have a more personalized and direct experience with brands. Through our partnership with Story and the unique on-site activations created in support of our key products, we are opening the door to connect with our customers on an even deeper level than before and allowing them to share their own beauty stories,” said Shannon Curtin, senior vice president of consumer beauty at Coty North America.