Earlier this year founder and Chief Executive Officer of WSL Strategic Retail, Wendy Liebmann, went on vacation to Australia and New Zealand, but as always she couldn’t help but notice several retail concepts that made an impression. Here, some of the things Wendy saw on her travels.
1. There is a strong void in differentiation and localization. “I was in both Australia and New Zealand, mainly in Sydney and Auckland, respectively, and what struck me in those two markets as far as beauty is concerned is all the global brands. Companies, especially at the top price level, now seem incredibly global, as well as mid-tier brands. As I walked through Westfield Sydney (an upscale shopping center) it felt like I could be anywhere in the world. That sense of differentiation and localization was missing. It made me think of Canada and how U.S. retailers are thinking of entering there.”
2. Who’s doing beauty right? “There is one local group, Mecca, run by Jo Horgan, that’s still doing a good job at creating a very compelling specialty beauty story. Sephora and Victoria Secret Beauty aren’t there, nor are Blue Mercury and Ulta, so Mecca fills that role. She has some of her own brands and spinoffs for a younger shopper, too. Her concept is gentler, more intimate, less flashy. What she’s done since I was there last year is she has refined the emphasis on skin care; she had a whole initiative going on around Recharge, Reverse and Rebalance in the stores. Last time her stores were much more color focused. She also added the Frederic Malle fragrance pods, which is in Galleries Lafayette. She continues to develop new concepts and is not just sitting on her laurels. In New Zealand I went to the Britomart shopping area in Aukland, an old industrial precinct by the water with a mix of retail and eating areas. Now in this industrial area is a Bobbi Brown freestanding store, which is interesting for the brand. It’s a bit edgy but it felt right there.”
3. More authentic experiences are the future. “Beyond beauty, one thing I saw is what I call transparency, people showing how they make things, which gives a sense of openness and honesty. If I am a beauty company and I am looking for inspiration, I would be looking at food retailers. They are really trying to do different things. Best Ugly Bagel, which is in an edgy part of Aukland, is a tiny store making bagels right in front of you. There’s an odd range of bagels, they come fresh out of the oven, the sense of freshness and newness builds on what I saw in South Africa last year, you feel like there’s a connection. I have seen it in fashion and home—and now food. I really thought about it in the context of beauty. Like in scent, customers should be allowed to experiment with dramming [the technique for transferring a fragrance from a larger container to a smaller one]. That was very experiential and now it seems so packaged; people are looking for more authentic experiences from brands. I know Bite Beauty Lip Lab in downtown Manhattan will customize lipstick but I think there is a bigger opportunity.”