In the eye of the beholder

Woolworths beauty barAs most would agree, the idea of heading down to your local Woolworths to buy the week’s household groceries is anything but glamorous, until now.

The supermarket giant has shaken up the local supermarket scene by becoming a bigger player in a sector traditionally dominated by department stores in Australia: the beauty market.

Located in one of the brand’s busiest stores, Woolworths Town Hall in Sydney’s CBD is home to the first ever Woolworth ‘beauty bar’, a full service beauty offering complete with instore beauty consultants.

Situated on the third level of the five-storey inner city centre, Woolworths has extended its product range, with new a product offering that includes Bliss, Essie, Max Factor, L’Oreal Paris, Model Co, St Tropez, and Redken.

Professional beauty consultants from these and other brands provide customers with free treatments, including makeovers, skin consultations, and mini manicures.

Treatments run daily from 12pm to 8pm and customers can view the treatment schedule and make appointments instore.

Sydney-based design firm, Hulsbolch, who partnered with Woolworths more than four years ago when it lead the chain’s national ‘fresh food people’ rebrand, has designed the consignment store.

“It had to be relevant to Woolworths and the Woolworths shopper,” Rick Carlino, account director at Hulsbosch, told Inside Retail Magazine.

“Some people try and stretch the concept so far that it just get ridiculous, but I think within this category, what they are offering is still true to the Woolworths brand,” Carlino said.

With a focus on lighting and natural fittings, Hulsbosch wanted to keep the space relevant to the ‘fresh food people’ brand as well as the supermarket space, despite being modeled on a department store-style fitout.

“[Woolworths] really wanted to make sure that they created an environment, because they are not known for this offer and wanted to attract customers to and merchandise top end products in the category.

“They realised that they needed to create a bespoke area that had all the queues that were relevant to this particular market, because they are offering products that are really new for a supermarket and also for Woolworths,” he said.

Woolworth beauty bar 2

The beauty bar also offers shoppers a digital experience, with LCD screens along walls displaying interactive content.

“On the LCD screens you can interchange messages and tips, which was pretty much a first in this format for Woolworths,” explains Carlino.

“It’s quite interesting the content that they have on those TVs, it’s not just advertising, it’s actually usable and engaging.

“What Woolworths is trying to do is build a level of expertise to provide a service and an offering that their competitors aren’t doing.

“The experts and knowledge is what makes it a little bit different than just putting products on the shelves.”

The beauty market is a relatively untapped sector by supermarket chains in Australia, unlike overseas. In the UK, discount chain, Sainbury’s rolled out an aggressive strategy.

Belinda Hubball, design director at Hulsbosh, says that although the local supermarket sector is still behind compared to its international counterparts in this aspect, other areas of retail in Australia are beginning to shift their focus more towards providing an instore experience.

“You have stores in London on high stree that are purely there for the experience, like the Nike flagship. They don’t expect to sell product, it’s all about getting people in the door to live and breathe the brand, and I think we’re starting to touch on that here,” Hubball said.

Carlino agrees. “The instore experience is really about the tangible expression of the brand rather than just the purchase, and it’s really about feeling, smelling, and touching.”

The beauty bar will remain a permanent fixture at Town Hall, with other Woolworths flagship sites expected to roll out similar beauty models.

“We will take feedback from customers to inform how we can expand this concept into other stores,” says Alex Dower, GM of grocery for Woolworths.

Carlino says the “premium” offering at Town Hall may vary at other flagship sites depending on its reception.

“At this level in terms of absolute premium flagship there may be some other kind of expression of this format rolled out. There are also stores that may have hint of this, rather than the full thing,” says Carlino of the chain’s rollout strategy.

“I think there is going to be a movement towards focusing more on different categories for today’s consumers. Health and well being is becoming one, and I can imagine there will be a focus also towards that.”

And, the beauty bar is not just for the ladies – Woolworths is also targeting its male grocery shoppers.

“The men’s area is specifically designed for men. Most designs within this category are done by women for men, but there’s a movement at the moment where men are actually shopping for the products themselves now,” said Carlino.

This story originally appeared in Inside Retail Magazine. The August/September issue, featuring exclusive coverage of the 2013 Westfield World Retail Study Tour is available now. For more information, click here.

Woolworths beauty bar

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