With new flagship stores in London, Paris and Toronto, Jamie Taylor, retail, property and wholesale director for L’Occitane, tells The Retail Exchange host Ben Bland what lies in-store for shoppers in its new Regent Street store, how the hospitality industry was an inspiration, and how people are crucial in delivering retail transformation.
BB. You've recently opened a new London flagship store on Regent Street. What makes it so different?
JT. We wanted to bring the product to life and the way we've done that is by zoning. There's two floors; the first floor is very experiential so as you come through, on the left-hand side we've got what we call a fragrance garden and that is all of our fragrances together. On the right-hand side we have a handcare experience; we bring our exfoliation products, moisturiser, cleansing products to life and deliver hand and arm massages. And then also we have a gifting area at the back – we are very well known for the gifting area – and we've also got a state-of-the-art engraving machine. The ground floor is about personalisation and customisation, so giving the consumer the heart of what we can do with L’Occitane; whether it’s putting your name against something or wrapping it in a style that’s individual to you. Upstairs is where the full retail range sits and we also have some personal beauty concierge areas where we do a more in-depth skin care consultation bringing our face care to life, but also a café looking over Regent Street which is quite an iconic setting and view. We are looking at ways of really increasing the dwell time.
BB. you’ve just opened flagship stores as well in Toronto and Paris. Do you take that model and think right, it’s worked well here, we are going to do the same in other places, or are they completely different designs that you think, okay, we are going to make it specific to that location?
JT. If I compare the two flagship stores in Paris and London, which opened at very similar times, they are very different. The Champs Elysees flagship store is again a collaboration with Pierre Hermé, but this is more of a food and beverage collaboration rather than a product; the branding of Champs Elysees is called Number 86, it’s not called L’Occitane. It sells L’Occitane, but it leads in on Pierre Hermé food and beverage products. Our boutique is very much led by L’Occitane and bringing the beauty products to life with a small collaboration with Pierre Hermé in terms of its takeaway Macarons and the café. And then you have Toronto, which is again a different and unique concept and is very much bringing the naturality of the brand to life.
BB. Do you plan to open more flagship stores, and if so, where?
JT. L’Occitane is on a journey with its flagship program at the moment; there's nothing specific I can say to you at the moment, nothing is signed, but we are looking at some very exciting opportunities globally at present.
BB. If you had to pinpoint what you think are the main contributing factors to the continued success of L’Occitane, what would you say those were?
JT. I would say our brand values. I think we are very true to those values, not just in the UK but around the world, and whether that be honesty, authenticity, natural sensoriality is the key to the success of the 40 years that L’Occitane have brought, and the ability to own our own value chain from picking the lavender in the field through to test and play with our consumers in our boutiques.
BB. What do you think the greatest commercial challenges are that face physical retailers in the sector at the moment?
JT. I think one of the key challenges that is facing retailers at the moment is the hike in business rates. We are finding, especially in London and especially the West End, the business cases are becoming much more challenging to enter new spaces and that occupancy cost as a percentage has grown considerably which has restricted some retailers in terms of expanding in the West End. Traffic is also a big challenge for us at the moment; we are seeing that footfall is down and I'm feeling from the articles that I'm reading that we are not alone in that respect. And of course, the rise in the digital channels – the whole of the online and digital piece is obviously doing very well and very well for us, but from a physical perspective, it has its challenges.
BB. How do you think social media has had an impact on the behaviour of shoppers within the beauty sector?
JT. It’s had a huge impact and we are passionately embracing social media at the moment; we are seeing social media as a channel now rather than just something that you play with at home. Our direction in how we want to use our marketing budget is going to be very much now looking at influences as the new celebrity. Naomi Smart is a good example, she has one and a half million followers on Instagram; what better way than to have her endorse a product for us to then go out to her followers who will then embrace that and hopefully share that again. It’s instant peer recommendation. It’s the speed – typical marketing ways of doing things in the past, it takes a lot of time and it probably takes months to get an advert on TV or above the line other activity, whereas now, we can instantly respond whether it be a product launch. It’s also the creation of superfans that we are finding as well, and again, we have not just influencers but our own customers who again, have a great following but also a great affiliation to the brand, and we’ll be utilising those a lot more in the future.
IListen to the full interview at www.theretailexchange.co.uk