An exploration into how the accelerated growth of the beauty industry is shaping the multi-channel strategy of high street stores.

Image via @bootsuk on Twitter

I write a Bi-weekly newsletter about marketing, strategy and behavioural sciences. Subscribe for insights directly to your inbox.

Beauty brands have refined their digital presence by utilising social media platforms to harness their audiences and form highly engaged brand communities. They have developed a credible strategy by using various tactics, collaborating with prominent voices within the community, innovating their product offering and demonstrating their understanding of the trends and attitudes of today’s forward thinking consumers. The success of this approach is reflected in booming profits, in 2019 alone the beauty industry reached £532bn in global value, and this growth is shaping the retail landscape.

Narcissism imbued by social media has had major contributions to the beauty industry as Instagrammers strive to create the perfect online version of themselves, looking to opinion leaders for guidance. Brands have capitalised off para-social relationships by integrating Youtubers and influencers into their strategy, collaborating on product launches and campaigns with the knowledge that their highly engaged followings regard them as credible sources, and their purchase intentions are likely to be influenced by reciprocity. It is also apparent that celebrity make-up brands have proved to be prosperous, with Rihanna pioneering in the industry by triggering an awareness of diversity, Kylie Jenner profiting off her signature lips and Kat Von D producing unique formula’s that can cover up tattoos.

The beauty industry has become more inclusive to reflect socio-cultural advancements that have demonstrated changing attitudes and increased awareness of diversity. The Fenty effect saw many brands expand their shade range after seeing Rihanna’s success that was attributed to releasing 40 shades that considered the lightest and darkest of skin tones. With some of the biggest Youtube beauty stars identifying as LGBTQ+ beauty brands are portraying a more gender neutral brand image, using both men and women in campaigns and supporting the culture of people within those communities. The industry has also listened to people’s moral concerns, with cult favourites such as Glossier ensuring consumers that their products are cruelty-free and producing cosmetics that mirror dietary preferences e.g. Vegan.

Retails stores communicate with their consumers via the use of space, placing emphasis on the sectors that will drive profit and increase footfall by allocating prime locations within stores to the best performing brands or sectors. The following text will explore how two retail destinations have refurbished their stores to accommodate the growing prominence of the beauty industry.


British high street pharmacy Boots has undergone an almost complete rebrand over the last few years and parallel to refurbishing its retail presence to entertain the thriving business of beauty, Boots also introduced a new logo in 2019 . The retailer initiated the shift by expanding their product offering, going from stocking low cost drugstore brands to the likes of Fenty Beauty, Too Faced and most recently Huda Beauty.

Alongside the product expansion Boots has renovated the interior of many of their larger and flagship stores in order to facilitate the new and improved beauty experience they intend to provide by creating a beauty hall concept. The introduction of the beauty halls came with the employment of specialist staff to educate and inform consumers, as the halls were designed to prompt live demonstrations and encourage a more interactive experience. The Boots beauty experience is now complete with beauty bars, trending zones, pick n mix displays of product miniatures, and the adaptation of a socially relevant brand culture.

With the beauty-centric revamp being aimed at younger shoppers, making their long-established loyalty scheme available digitally was amongst the brands priorities. The Boots ‘advantage card’ has aided the retailer to maintain competitive advantage by rewarding expenditure with points and although a physical card, those who download the boots app are able to add the card to their Apple wallet and pay via smartphone. Users can then load their card with personalised offers, discounts and receive push notifications that alert them of their privileged access to sales and product launches.

Those who choose to shop online or via the app also have the chance to shop exclusive brands such as Morphe, which Boots currently only offer online. Boots is also establishing itself within online beauty communities, hosting a Youtube studio in its Covent Garden store and engaging in influencer events in its intentionally remodelled Instagram worthy retail store.


After spending a year on renovating its beauty space on the quest to host one of the largest beauty hall’s in the world, Harrods opened the doors to its newly refurbished operation last year, boasting a grand emporium with halls dedicated to beauty, skincare and experience. The iconic department store has spent an estimated £200m on renovations, and an integral part of this was increasing the beauty halls by 53% to accommodate the growing demand for niche and luxury beauty products.

The advanced beauty experience is now spread over 5 floors that offer picture perfect immersive experiences, executed with a concept centred around exquisite design that is complete with a grand staircase, digital chandelier, treatment rooms and masterclass spaces. The department store has curated a tech-integrated beauty playground by installing screens into the space for streaming purposes, with an in-store production facility Harrods will have the ability to deliver versatile content on-demand. Harrods has already ventured into the digital world of beauty gurus, with Huda Beauty amassing over ½ a million views on her exclusive ‘Harrods Shuts Down For Me’ Youtube video.

In addition to the new beauty halls Harrods is opening the doors to its first standalone beauty destinations in the coming months, with one situated in Intu Lakeside the store will be faced with competition from the likes of Boots and other neighbouring stores in the newly refurbished shopping centre. H Beauty is essentially a response to the deteriorating presence of department stores, capitalising off the lack of experience and limited product offering demonstrated by rival retailers. H beauty will thus provide consumers with an extensive product range and accommodate a leisure filled adventure complete with a bar and dedicated spaces for hair, makeovers and beauty treatments.

The distinguished Harrods rewards card can also be used in conjunction with purchases at H Beauty stores, meaning that consumers are likely to shop there with intention to build points against other luxury products that can be brought in the Knightsbridge store. H Beauty will ultimately aim to achieve market penetration by targeting shoppers who have the intention to shop prime beauty products but lack the opportunity to do so frequently due to limited access locally.

In the beauty sphere brick-and-mortar stores continue to resist the disruption brought about by online merchants through relentless innovation and adaptation, fortunately their efforts to entice consumers with experiences cannot be completely surpassed by digital means. Although integrating technology into retail strategy is important, humans are social beings and e-commerce shopping cannot replace a social shopping experience with friends, a professional treatment with a beautician or a chance to attend an in-store meet-and-greet with influencers.

The interior design strategy that encourages consumer-generated-content and e-wom is the same strategy that will induce FOMO amongst gen-z and millennial consumers and prompt them with a need to engage in conspicuous leisure in-store to present an enhanced version of themselves to their social media audiences. Beauty product consumption is aspirational and attractive to gen-z and millennial audiences as luxury brands provide consumers with opportunities to buy into the brands at more accessible rates. For example, Dior Forever foundation retails for £37 whereas a Dior Oblique Saddle bag retails at £2,450, allowing a consumer to feel esteemed by luxury consumption for a fraction of the price.

Overall many department stores are pivoting their retail strategy to accommodate beauty consumption, Selfridges was an early adopter forecasting the trend and renovating their beauty space back in 2018, Frasers Group have also announced the rebranding of the House of Fraser department stores and other luxury retailers such as Harvey Nichols and Liberty continue to develop.

The battle of the beauty halls has seen retailers renovate their entire stores, race to obtain the latest releases and undergo complete rebranding in order to leverage ever changing circumstances. Brands must consider the practicality of engaging in a continuous cycle of renovation and rebranding to accommodate wavering trends, but as for now we will continue to wait and see which retailers survive another year on the high street.

Marketing, Behavioural Research & Strategic Insights.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store