Three beauty retailers — Sephora, Ulta Beauty and Bath & Body Works — made WSL Strategic Retail’s list of the top 10 feel-good retailers.
But on closer look, the news is not all good for traditional retailing. The list of stores was part of WSL’s How America Shops MegaTrends study, which also said that shifts in American consumer spending habits toward the less complicated and more responsible purchasing are hurting retail store traffic and sales. People don’t want as much stuff as they used to, according to the study.
“We know we’re doing better and we feel more financially secure — that said — we’re not spending the way we used to,” said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive officer of WSL. “We’re spending and we are willing to spend, but not on the same things.”
WSL surveyed 1,700 shoppers and found that for 55 percent of women, the priority is paying off debt, followed by saving (48 percent) and vacations (35 percent). Everyday spending routines are also changing, with 80 percent of survey respondents saying they’re simplifying how they take care of their homes, 70 percent simplifying their beauty routines, about 66 percent staying home more, 60 percent spending less time shopping and 50 percent cutting back on social media.
When they do shop, Americans are more interested in the retailers that make them feel good, according to the report. The top 10 feel-good retailers included Amazon, Publix, Victoria’s Secret, Costco, Sephora, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Ulta Beauty, Aldi and Bath & Body Works.
While there isn’t a direct line between making consumers feel good and shoppers spending more, there is the likelihood that a customer who doesn’t feel good about the store experience won’t return, Liebmann said. “If you don’t make them feel good, they will spend less with you,” she said. “Even if it’s one trip a month, most retailers can’t afford to lose that trip.”
The feel-good aspects were organized into two categories: basics, as in stores that were easy to get to, had the best prices, were a good use of time, were good for getting a lot done and staying within budget, and those that were more emotionally charged, where consumers felt like retailers cared about them, or sent offers tailored to their interests, or made them feel like “smart” shoppers, according to Liebmann.
Stores like Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens fell short on the list, winning only on convenience, according to Liebmann.
Sephora, Ulta Beauty and Bath & Body Works did well because they ranked high in convenience and emotional connection. “These are emotional purchases, but it’s also viewed as a place that if I go to get something, I can usually find what I want.…I think that’s why beauty rises to the top,” Liebmann said.