LONDON — As the epicenter of London’s theater scene, and just a lipstick throw from Somerset House (the headquarters for London Fashion Week), James Street in Covent Garden was a natural choice for MAC Cosmetics’ new Pro store.
Set over five floors on a site that was most recently occupied by True Religion, 1,432 square feet are dedicated to retail space. The ground floor is given over to MAC’s basic product line of more than 1,000 stockkeeping units, while the basement level will sell more than 250 Pro sku’s and feature six specially designed ergonomic stations with professional lighting.
A MAC Lash Bar will have a full selection of lashes on hand, and offer complimentary application for those purchased in the store. There is also a private makeup area and a new service menu, from which consumers can choose from a range of makeup services, from a 30-minute express face of makeup to a 90-minute face for special events or fancy dress parties. “We have a luxurious new makeup room. We want you to want to hang out there,” said MAC global brand president Karen Buglisi. “The walls are covered in beautiful gray silk and we want it to feel like the kind of place you want to spend hours in.”
The store has an industrial vibe, with metal mesh walls and concrete floors. Fluorescent lighting highlights the walls and floor-to-ceiling mirrors add a sense of space.
New navigation panels will feature product information and are intended to be of use to customers who prefer to browse rather than engage with sales staff.
Another floor is a dedicated events space for p.r. and Artists Relations events, while two floors are used as training rooms and staff areas.
The store is staffed by 43 artists (more than twice the amount of staff at the previous Pro store on Neal Street in Covent Garden that is now closed), and 14 languages, including English, are spoken — a bonus in an area that sees a great deal of footfall from tourism.
While Buglisi says that the Pro line accounts for just 2.5 percent of revenue in the U.K., she also attests that “without the Pro customer, this brand probably wouldn’t exist. That’s where it started. The professional customer is very important to us, they’re our influencers. It’s not so much that they use our products — we love that — but it’s that they use them backstage, they use them on set and that means a lot to us so we want to continue to engage them. This year, we’re supporting over 1,000 industry products from theater, editorial, performing arts, stage shows, music festivals.”
There are currently 34 MAC Pro stores globally. Of those, 14 are in North America and 20 are global, with two in London. MAC has more than 6,800 Pro members in the U.K. and 95,000 members globally. And while Buglisi has aggressive expansion plans for the main MAC brand, the Pro line is deliberately growing at a slower pace. “I don’t foresee us having 200 Pro stores in the world. It’s a very special kind of store because we have to go where the Pro consumer is. However, it is being integrated into our e-commerce in the U.K.”
MAC has seen strong growth in the U.K., which is now the second-biggest market for the brand, after the U.S. and before Canada. It has increased four ranks in two years to become the number-four makeup brand, behind Boots, Maybelline and Rimmel. “We’re aggressively opening stores and making the brand a lot more accessible than it is today. For years, pre-2013, we opened one or two stores a year in the U.K. This year we opened five,” quantified Buglisi. “When we talk about our expansion here, we think in 2020 our horizon for stores is 100. Right now we are on 62. In the next seven years we will accelerate our distribution.”
While MAC is actively expanding in Europe, Russia and Brazil, and will enter Georgia in September and Kazakhstan in March 2014, Buglisi is aiming to further penetrate MAC’s current markets by making the brand more accessible and targeting tier-two and tier-three cities. In the U.K., MAC will open in Aberdeen as a freestanding store, in Southampton at John Lewis, and in Clapham and Merry Hill at Debenhams this year.