With the beauty and wellness industries booming, UK high-street pharmacist Boots is getting in on the action with its recently opened 28,524 sq ft flagship concept in London’s Covent Garden. Innovation Researcher Harriet Cox went along to check it out.
Last week Boots confirmed it would be closing up to 200 stores over the next 18 months in an effort to refocus the brand, amidst reports that sales fell 2% last year. With this in mind, the promise of a new two-storey flagship destination may seem unexpected. However, the flagship shows its commitment to having fewer, but better retail stores, driven by the brand’s ongoing ‘beauty transformation programme’ – a grand plan to modernise its beauty offer.
With a wider goal of renovating 25 of its existing larger format beauty halls, Boots’ aim is to transform its offer into experience-led, on-trend beauty hubs. And this is very much the first impression on entering the Covent Garden concept.
Easy to navigate, the store is segmented into a ‘beauty zone’, ‘wellness zone’ and ‘hair zone’. The ground floor, dedicated to beauty, was a hive of activity more akin to a department store beauty hall than the few meagre aisles of beauty products we have grown used to from Boots. There are 32 new-to-store brands showcased throughout the space, including much-hyped beauty favourites Fenty and Urban Decay, with brand ambassadors on hand to help customers with product selection and trial.
Digital is embedded into all fixtures, ranging from straightforward brand marketing content to more interactive tech including shade finders and AR mirrors.
Flexible wellness zones
Upstairs the focus shifts to wellness. Throughout the store there are ‘trending zones’ encouraging exploration of product ranges. Current wellness buzzword ingredient CBD has a dedicated fixture and ‘spotlight’ areas highlight seasonal product categories – when we visited on the opening week there was a focus on summer foot health, hay fever and vegan wellness.
These small touches allow the customer to browse product categories by need state, while the brand can make more of its stock selection; creating moments in the customer journey to impart their expert knowledge. Furthermore, the store features live demonstration areas aiming to drive staff interaction and customer education and experimentation.
A tall central table acts as an area for wellness discovery, showcasing health and fitness technology, such as Fitbit and DNA mapping service 23andMe.
The store stocks Boots’ biggest-ever wellness range, taking a holistic ‘good for you, good for the planet approach’. Items include sustainable toiletries and eco-friendly sanitary products while new-to-store eco brand Beauty Kitchen will offer refills for its natural skincare products. Helpful signage punctuating the visual merchandising on the shelf offers useful information to differentiate brands and aid customer choice.
Relax and recover
One nice element is a rehydration station where customers can refill their own water bottle, or opt to purchase one, encouraging the use of reusable bottles. Alongside the water fountain are complementary products such as Berocca, effervescent pain killers (which will no doubt save more than a few local office workers from hangovers come Christmas party season) and water infusion products.
Food is located next to the wellness area where the brand’s popular meal deal has been redesigned to encourage healthier choices, removing high sugar snacks and energy drinks from the deal.
The pharmacy is located away from the general shopping area to offer more privacy but has been designed to be a friendlier space dispensing “advice and medicines”. Private consultation rooms are located nearby and there is also a seating area inviting customers to “Relax. Take a seat”.
“Our new Covent Garden store starts a journey of reinventing Boots for the future. We will learn what people love and want from this shop and this will help us shape a blueprint for our whole 2,500 store estate”, said Seb James, Managing Director, Boots UK.
With lots of nice touches, overall the store certainly feels like a destination. Easy to navigate, there is a good balance between exploration whilst still catering for the ease of making quick, in-out purchases. It will be interesting to see how, as new trends within beauty and wellness arise, Boots continues to adapt and reinvent this new format to keep up.