GDR’s Innovation Researcher Harriet Cox stepped into high-end CBD retailer The Drug Store’s first brick-and-mortar boutique to see how it merchandises and talks about its “boundary pushing” products.
Back in April Kim Khardashian threw a CBD-themed baby shower and thus introduced the world to the latest buzzword ingredient in beauty and wellness. CBD is getting a lot of hype right now… but its not without its controversy.
Of course CBD products have been available on the market long before Kim K and her clan spent the afternoon in blissful CBD-infused meditation. Found on the shelves of health food stores and ‘alternative’ organic pharmacies, fans of the ‘magic’ ingredient claim it improves sleep and cognition, delivers pain relief and reduces anxiety, while some believe the benefits of CBD have been overstated, billed as the next fad ingredient called upon to sell more product.
Here are the facts; Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prominent of the 113 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, accounting for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds present in the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids) and in the human body (endocannabinoids). THC gets the most press of all the cannabinoids due to it being the only compound linked to the “high” people get from cannabis. THC is a banned substance in the UK. CBD, however, is completely legal in the UK and EU, but does not get people high.
Bringing high-end CBD to London
What is indisputable is that CBD has been the hottest new ingredient this year across a number of different sectors. At GDR we were therefore interested to learn about a new high-end CBD retailer recently opened in London’s Marylebone. The Drug Store, following the success of two pop-ups last year in Chelsea and Notting Hill, is the first permanent brick-and-mortar boutique from the brand.
Stocking more than 15 premium CBD brands targeting different needs, The Drug Store’s aim is to introduce consumers to the world of CBD products and educate them about the perceived benefits of the ingredient. All products sold contain 0.0% THC.
The store itself is presented like an art gallery – appropriate given that it’s located in Damian Hirst’s old art gallery. Visual merchandising is minimal, products are displayed sparsely alongside large art pieces showing abstracted neural systems and synapses, emphasising the sensory nature of the products we’re here to learn about. Upstairs a table made from a cross sectioned tree forms the central focus of the store and white plinths display single products around the edges. One area of the store focuses on bestsellers and new-to-the-store brands, which will change on a regular basis so that customers can discover new product with every visit. Downstairs there are two treatment rooms where the brand will offer a range of CBD spa services. The overall feel is somewhere between clinical and calming.
Staff are on hand to guide customers through the product range but seem wary about making any medical claims surrounding the products themselves and in-store signage reflects this with language carefully-chosen so as not to offer cures or promises. Products are divided into vague categories such as sleep, body, pain and stress and at the end of each explanation is displayed the statement, “It’s up to you!”
The brand was established by Johan Obel and Clemens Böninger, who met at Imperial College London. “The brands and products sold by The Drug Store are all personally handpicked by myself and Clemens,” explains Johan Obel. “We feel passionately about incorporating a careful edit of boundary pushing brands with innovative formulations of the highest quality.”
“The product selection offers effective natural remedies to help relieve skin complaints as well as aches, tensions and other symptoms associated with a stressful, modern life,” adds business partner Clemens Böninger. “And they are available in various application forms including, sprays, oils, capsules and creams so there is something for everyone”.
Ultimately The Drug Store aims to offer its customers a curated selection of wellness brands that celebrate the power of CBD. As it’s a relatively new ingredient to the UK market (currently classified as a food supplement even though it is delivered in a variety of forms), the store feels less transactional and more educational. The gallery-like atmosphere allows for exploration and staff are really engaged. At the moment the store’s concept is a one-off for the UK market but it will be interesting to track the CBD-enhanced wellness trend and see how it develops as more specialist stores and products will no doubt be hot on its heels.