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Experiential retail: Lush on driving high street footfall through innovation

Experiential retail: Lush on driving high street footfall through innovation

In these challenging times for high street retailers, stepping up the in-store experience is considered key to the success of a bricks and mortar presence. Beauty brand Lush has long understood the importance of captivating customers in its physical shops and, following the launch of its world’s biggest store in Liverpool, tells Move Commercial how it keeps giving shoppers a reason to walk through its doors.

Words by Natasha Young

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

A hub of fragrances and perfumery books

Spread across three floors, the sprawling 1,380 sq m Lush Liverpool shop and spa is not only a symbol of the brand’s commitment to the city but a platform for its creativity.

“The aim is to provide the next level of service, the next level of innovation and the next level of development of Lush for our customers,” Ellen Peters, Lush’s UK and Ireland property manager, tells Move Commercial.

More than a point to purchase the retailer’s famous bath bombs and other handmade cosmetics, the new Church Street store has brought to fruition a range of concepts that are said to have been ideas within the company for years.

A permanent florist greets shoppers, who can also receive hair treatments and cutting services in the destination store’s ‘Hair Lab’, or find exclusive fragrances and perfumery books in the ‘Perfume Library’.

“So many people are investing outside of London into their estates and it’s such a great thing to do.”

“The flower concept has been one of Mark’s [Constantine, co-founder] goals since he first set up Lush because it’s always about the freshness and local sourcing,” explains Peters. “We’ve always used fresh ingredients in our products so it’s just about expanding that concept.

“Mark’s history is in haircare and tri colouring, and this is also our first store with a full-sized ‘Hair Lab’ in it.

“Just like with Lush Spa, which first opened 10 years ago, it uses the products from the store and adds the experience of doing it with the customer there and then.

“We’ve had a Hair Lab experimentally in Poole [where Lush was founded] for a long time to develop the concept to a stage where it could go into a store.”

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

The full-sized Hair Lab

Five times bigger than Liverpool’s previous Lush shop and spa branch on Whitechapel, the retailer’s third incarnation in the city has also made way for a party area, a tea/coffee kiosk and a record shop for visitors to explore.

The unit, which was left vacant by Arcadia Group fashion chains Dorothy Perkins and Burton, is said to have provided the right place at the right time for the brand to progress its growth and innovation plans.

“It’s such a beautiful building and a key location on Church Street, surrounded by some really great innovative retailers in Liverpool,” says Peters.

“So many people are investing outside of London into their estates and it’s such a great thing to do.

“The Hair Lab uses the products from the store and adds the experience of doing it with the customer there and then.”

“The size came at a time when we thought ‘we need to be reaching to that next level – we’ve got the reputation now, we’ve got the ability to take on a unit that’s so large, we have the concepts ready to fill it, we have the amount of products needed, we have the innovation that’s needed for it, we have the best designers to possibly fit it out and we have the best construction teams’.”

Peters believes what has been achieved at the new Lush Liverpool will “help innovation as a whole” for the brand, however it will by no means set the mould for every large-scale Lush branch moving forward.

Whilst the retailer aims for product and service consistency throughout its shops, which in the UK range from just 20 sq m to the mammoth size of the latest opening, stores are tailored to work for their locations.

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

The new store is five times bigger than Lush’s previous Liverpool shop

“We’ve got a large store opening in Japan and a large store planned for Munich, not necessarily on the same scale and they’ll be fitted out differently to Liverpool – we’ll try new things in them,” adds Peters.

“It’s just about not resting on your laurels and saying ‘the customer’s always been happy with this’. Just because they’re happy doesn’t mean they don’t deserve something more.”

Whilst Liverpool is, according to Peters, regarded as a city which has shown “so much passion for Lush as a brand” over the years, it is also valued by the chain for its credentials as a magnet for visitors.

“The high street is so important to our business and you can’t shrink your way to success.”

“For us as a brand Liverpool is such a key location for tourism, especially with it being such a cultural capital with so many people who are tourists every single year and know about Liverpool’s reputation for shopping,” adds Peters. “Hopefully this [new store] enhances our global presence; [tourists] get to come and see something new and then go back to their local stores and engage with us there as well or engage online.

“I can’t see it doing anything but amazing things for the brand.”

Amid ongoing reports of big high street names falling into administration or taking measures to scale back on their costly physical presence, the large-scale expansion of Lush in Liverpool shows a somewhat different, more successful side to the current retail sector.

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

The make-up section

“The high street is so important to our business and you can’t shrink your way to success,” says Peters.

“As much as there is some fear around the economy in general at the moment in retail, I don’t think it’s a bad time to be investing in your brand.

“If anything, it’s more important than ever to show customers right now why they should visit the high street and I think if every single retailer on the high street did that then we would be much stronger for it.”

“It’s more important than ever to show customers right now why they should visit the high street.”

Peters suggests a current rise in online retailers developing a physical presence does bring optimism for the sector, whether they’re trying small or large concepts, pop-ups or more permanent new stores.

“There are other people on the high street who are innovating or giving customers what they want,” she adds.

“It’s a shame to see retailers aren’t performing as well as they were historically but it’s also great to see that loads of the retailers with an online presence are choosing now as the time to enter into bricks and mortar estates, and that new entrance into the high street is really important.”

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

Lush has been looking to introduce a florist for some time

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

A spa is based on the third floor

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

The record shop at Lush Liverpool

Experiential retail - Lush Liverpool

Customer experience is at the heart of the store’s layout and design