Betting on Bricks-and-Mortar: Beauty’s in-store success stories

by | May 5, 2023

There’s no denying, post-pandemic beauty consumers are returning to stores in troves. Here, Amanda O’Shaughnessy explores the beauty bricks-and-mortar ventures setting brands apart

2022’s mass consumer return to bricks-and-mortar retail demonstrates continued shopper appetite for the in-store experience [Business Insider]. Mintel states that 78% of UK adults purchased their beauty and personal care in-store in the last 12 months, and data showing US foot traffic rose above pre-pandemic levels for Bath & Body Works, select Sephora locations and Ulta Beauty in 2022 [WWD]. 

However, unlike pre-Covid, consumers now see brick-and-mortar as an extension of a brand’s online identity and offering. 

This has inevitably led to the gap between e-commerce and retail sales growth narrowing, and it will be the forward-facing, innovative beauty brands that ultimately survive – and thrive – on the road ahead. These brands will have to assess and invest in significant omnichannel strategies to deliver their audiences meaningful products, services and experiences. 

Beauty’s bricks-and-mortar success stories

2022 witnessed countless beauty-centric stores launch, with an abundance of pop-ups and standalones, ‘contributing to 100% of the UK’s 2022 market gains coming from the bricks-and-mortar side of the retail sector’, as reported by CEO of The British Beauty Council, Millie Kendall OBE at the recently held Value of Beauty conference. 

Among these launches included British makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench’s inaugural product line. Unveiling with a direct-to-consumer bricks-and-mortar store rather than through a wholesale partner or purely online, it entered the market with a limited-edition product line in summer of last year. 

After kicking off with a three-day pop-up, Ffrench utilised e-commerce and has expanded into Selfridges. Opting for a bricks-and-mortar launch location was key for Ffrench in order to generate buzz in a highly competitive market.

In January, luxury high tech skincare brand, Augustinus Bader opened its first physical store and spa at the Lanserhof clinic in London. A collaboration between the celebrated Lanserhof clinic and Bader, The Skin Lab brings state-of-the-art equipment and methodology, including their exclusive skin analysis system, LED, radio-frequency, and micro-abrasion – all enriched with custom complementary therapies from Lanserhof.

When it comes to the ever-flourishing celebrity beauty market, physical launches were key to the UK launch of Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty which exclusively launched through a standalone pop-up in Space NK. And, Harry Styles’ Pleasing went physical too, embarking on festive holiday-themed pop-ups across London, New York and Los Angeles to cap the year.

At the other end of the retail spectrum, there has – of course – been Sephora’s recent return to the UK this year with the launch of its Westfield London store. Marking the first UK bricks-and-mortar location for Sephora for nearly 20 years, it offers consumers a truly immersive in-store experience.

The new space measuring over 6,000 sq ft houses ‘an exceptional assortment of products and personal services’. At its heart lies an assortment of human technology and touch experiences and its Grand Beauty Hub provides ‘memorable experiences’ for shoppers as they explore skincare, cosmetics, fragrance, haircare, body care and gifts.

Stirling Murray, Founder and Managing Director at The Red Tree told Beauty Matter in the new year: ‘The Westfield Sephora is being rumoured to be the flagship for Europe so I expect boundaries to be pushed with regards to the use of customer service, education, technology (including AR, VR and more) as well as services’.

With more brands realising the unique value of the in-store experience as an awareness-building, experience driven tool for beauty, there’s no doubt that beauty’s return to the highstreet will continue to produce memorable moments. 

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