“We are changing the way men buy beauty,” said Spencer Wallace, cofounder of Beast, who realized a few years ago that no brands or retailers were catering to the men’s market in the same way that beauty halls targeted women. In late 2016, Beast opened its doors in the Seven Dials area of London’s Covent Garden to address the issue.
“Places like Kiehl’s or department stores like Liberty and Selfridges catered brilliantly for fragrances, but they were going through a revolution themselves,” said Wallace, who also runs Nirvana, a creative production house. “They started to make their beauty halls much more shop-in-shop so you couldn’t get the same staff to move from one counter to another counter with you. You didn’t really have a joined-up experience.”
Capitalizing on that disconnect — and a simultaneous increase in annual consumer spend in men’s beauty — the Beast team set about doing their homework. “When we looked at the competition, it was all woman-centric. You know, big department stores with large spaces all had beauty halls but they were allocated mainly for women. They were brilliant for buying gifts for men, but not for men to engage with, in any form,” he added.
The brand’s other cofounder, Amie Witton-Wallace, said the team also tried to simplify the purchasing process, categorizing the offer into body, hair, shave and face. “Essentially, it’s a new way for men to buy beauty,” she said.
Their concept, of grouping products by the job they do rather than by brand, was a tough sell to bigger companies, but Wallace said that his experience of working at Nirvana with brands like Burberry had trained him to push them to embrace new ideas. As a result, products in-store and online are laid out by category, for a variety of reasons. “We wanted the shelves to feel exactly like a web page, making it easier to find a product,” said Witton-Wallace.
Beast focuses on brands that Wallace believes bring something new to the market, and the store deliberately targets a wide age demographic. Service and experience are a big part of Beast’s offering, too, and finding staff to handle that duty of educating a variety of customers was a big challenge.
“It wasn’t easy,” Wallace admitted. “We didn’t want someone straight off a beauty counter, but we wanted that knowledge. So we’ve mixed the team: We have got people who’ve worked in department stores, and people that have just worked for standalone brands.”
There is also a show space beneath the store dedicated to creating experiences for Beast’s customers. The British brand Haeckels has been in residence, and Beast has run partnerships with Globetrotter and American Express Centurion Card. With the latter, an expert talked about men’s experience with scent throughout their lives.
“We’re not just trying to push products into customers’ hands and saying, ‘Buy this!’ We’re creating an experience so that men feel educated, which is a large part of what we’re doing,” said Witton-Wallace.