The U.K. edition of Marie Claire is set to launch a beauty retail venture in partnership with Specialty Stores Ltd., Marie Claire’s publisher Time Inc. U.K. said Tuesday. Specialty Stores is a subsidiary of Ocado Group, the parent company of the online grocery store Ocado.com.
The Marie Claire venture will be a separate stand-alone retailer with Marie Claire branding, which will carry premium beauty and well-being products from a number of brands and operate through its own e-commerce Web site and brick-and-mortar stores.
“Marie Claire is…the number-one beauty brand in the country. It’s got an incredible trust and authority in the beauty space,” Jackie Newcombe, managing director of Time Inc. U.K.’s luxury brands, told WWD Tuesday, discussing the publisher’s decision to launch a retail element of the brand. According to figures from Time Inc. U.K., Marie Claire has more beauty editorial pages than other U.K. fashion titles, such as Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar.
Newcombe added the title “already has a fantastic relationship with beauty companies.” In addition to its beauty coverage in the magazine and online, Marie Claire U.K. publishes three beauty supplements a year and hosts its annual Prix d’Excellence de la Beauté awards, which celebrates what the title calls: “the most innovative and most effective products of the year.”
Newcombe said Time Inc. U.K. had been attracted to partnering with specialty stores on the venture, thanks to “their unrivaled knowledge of the logistical side [of the retail business] — the picking and packing, delivery and crucial customer service,” she said.
Amanda Scott, head of buying for beauty and accessories at John Lewis, will be managing director of the venture, working closely with Justine Southall, Marie Claire U.K.’s publishing director. Newcombe described Scott’s involvement as a “fantastic coup” for Time Inc. U.K., given that Scott had driven the growth in John Lewis’ beauty business over the past few years. The executive oversaw the relaunch of John Lewis’ beauty hall in 2012, when the retailer doubled the size of the beauty department at its Oxford Street flagship.
The publisher will certainly be entering a highly competitive beauty retail market in the U.K. Among the established beauty players in the region are high-end department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, through to drugstore chain Boots — now part of Walgreens Boots Alliance — which offers a mix of mass and premium products. More general retailers, among them Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, also all offer own-brand and third-party beauty products. In 2012, M&S launched its own beauty retail concept called Your Beauty, which carries its own collections and a number of premium lines. Added to that are a number of online beauty retailers who have launched in the country, including feelunique.com, lookfantastic.com and cultbeauty.co.uk.
Newcombe declined to reveal the exact date of the launch, but noted the venture will be a separate destination to Marie Claire’s U.K. editorial Web site, and will have “its own staff.” As to what Marie Claire can bring to premium beauty retail, Newcombe said the venture would “create a unique user experience” through its online and brick-and-mortar presence, building on Marie Claire’s “trusted brand, that women come to for its authority and credibility,” she said.
Marie Claire’s announcement follows fellow Time Inc. U.K. title Wallpaper’s news Monday that it will enter e-commerce. Wallpaper has teamed with The Level Group to create WallpaperStore, which will launch in the spring with items such as lighting, textiles, gifts and home fragrance from international brands and designers.
Newcombe noted the recent change in Time Inc.’s ownership, since the publishing company was spun off from Time Warner last year and began trading as a listed company, meant “there is money to invest and there are so many opportunities.”
“Commerce is something we feel very strongly about,” Newcombe said, noting the publisher is likely to unveil further e-commerce ventures for its brands. “If you’ve got that trust and authority, you know you create demand, and there is the opportunity to leverage that, and find ways of accessing new revenues,” she said.