How did you come up with the concept of the megastore and what was the inspiration behind it?
Mecca’s first flagship truly embodies our vision for the future of beauty and experiential retailing – all our dreams come true in one wonderland destination! Taking over the iconic 1,800sqm Gowings Building was an opportunity for us to innovate, try new things and see how we can really raise the bar with the biggest standalone beauty store in the Southern Hemisphere, on the busiest corner in all of Sydney.
We are passionate about extending retail engagement beyond products and over a third of the flagship store is dedicated to world-class, completely customisable services. For the 10 days, there are 50 types of services that customers can book and experience, including exclusive service partnerships and special brand takeovers alongside Mecca’s range of core services, which customers know and love.
The flagship has three private, closed-door consultation spaces with the most exquisite beds and features to host exclusive, luxurious experiences from industry-leading professionals including cosmetic physician Dr Van Park, naturopath Anthia Koullouros, ear-piercing services and bracelet soldering with jewellery brand Sarah and Sebastian. From early 2021, we will also be partnering with leading lifestyle and wellness retreat Gwinganna, who will be flying in their top therapists to provide services that are exclusive to the flagship.
Injecting even more pure joy and personalisation into Mecca’s retail experience is the business’ own always-on program of edutainment and brand immersion, which includes a new Mecca Manes blow dry bar in partnership with EdwardsAndCo alongside makeup, skin, brow and fragrances services. Additionally, the Virtual Services Hub allows customers to get a taste of the flagship with a click of a button of our website, from anywhere in Australia and New Zealand.
What was it like developing a megastore during a pandemic and did any elements of it change as a result?
Mecca’s flagship is 20 times the size of its very first store on Toorak Road in Melbourne, more than double the size of the business’ next biggest store at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne.
There were numerous Covid-related hoops we had to jump through while developing the store, from the handover being facilitated by Zoom, to delays on fixtures being delivered from overseas, port closures in Sydney and only being able to visit the store in person four days prior to opening. But in true Mecca style, we didn’t let these obstacles get in our way to deliver the store on time.
What began as a ‘lift and load’ Mecca concept pivoted when we decided our mantra for the store was ‘you only do a first flagship once’. This led to over 200 points of innovation throughout the store, including 135 new fixtures, over 100 new decorative lights, a radically reformed operations system and back of house design, whilst forming a new store team of 200 people strong.
We have restored Gowings to its former glory with an experience-led strategy that puts the joy back into shopping. The physical structure of the building meant we had to completely rethink the way that we layout and design our stores. We also reinstated the heritage of the Gowings building by revealing the art deco columns and showcasing the ceilings on level one as well as restoring the shopfront to a brass clad original. We know it will be the ‘beating heart of beauty’ in the Sydney CBD.
How would you describe the past year for Mecca and has there been any interesting customer behaviour that you’ve noticed?
We have noticed that as soon as lockdown ended, be that across Australia and New Zealand earlier this year or more recently in Victoria, our customers were very keen to get back into stores as they really missed the magic of the in-store experience. We’ve had strong support in our high street and regional locations, and we’re seeing green shoots at our CBD locations, where the ‘bounce back’ is slower as inner-city workers continue to work from home. However, we’re confident and optimistic about the 2020 holiday period, so much so that we called this year’s campaign ‘Beauty on the Bright Side’. We’ve also seen sustained traffic on our online channels, and new initiatives, like virtual services and live chat on the website continue to be popular and are here to stay.
How would you describe the beauty retail landscape since the pandemic?
I love that the beauty business is ever changing, and at such a rapid pace. The pandemic has really forced retailers like us to innovate at a much faster rate, especially in the digital space and now that virtual services and live experiences have been introduced, they are definitely here to stay.
Being able to connect with customers virtually, regardless of location, is such an asset to any beauty business, so I anticipate we’ll see the continued prioritisation of digital channels and virtual integration into physical retail and event experiences. In a Covid world, it’s all about giving customers choice and complete control of their own retail experience and brand interaction, whether that be physical or digital – there is room and opportunity for both. This was really Mecca’s break-out idea from the beginning and it still is today.
The new flagship store is a fantastic example of how we’ve integrated physical, digital and social retailing, with our dedicated Virtual Services Hub where Mecca’s expert team members can be seen in action responding directly to our online community, live from our flagship as part of our Virtual Services offering.
As a retailer leader, what have been some of the most interesting observations that you’ve picked up during Covid?
Beyond digital and virtual innovation, a notable trend is the rise of DIY beauty treatments, as the result of many beauty salons closed due to Covid restrictions. Skincare has become increasingly popular with customers creating new rituals and routines, whilst also trialling devices to recreate the results of their usual professional facials at home. For example, LED light therapy is on the up with devices such as the Dr. Dennis Gross Spectralite Faceware Pro – I’ve been using mine every day! Now that customers have experienced the results that skincare devices can deliver, combined with the time and cost saving over time, this is another trend that we believe will endure.
As Covid-19 has driven an increase in self-care purchases, which often includes beauty products, the definition of beauty has become even more intertwined with people’s sense of well-being. We will see a continued blurring of the lines between beauty and wellness and the emergence of products that work harder and do more, relying on higher active ingredients to deliver multiple benefits. Skincare really is the new self-care with an outside-in approach to feeling good.
How are things tracking in China since the launch and what has feedback been like?
Mecca’s partnership with cross-border e-commerce platform, Alibaba’s Tmall Global, is our first endeavour in the fast-growing market and brought with it several highly coveted, new-to-market beauty brands. The response has been fantastic since the launch, and we have continued to use the opportunity to learn about consumers and the market allows us to refine our offer as a result. We endeavour to be agile and entrepreneurial, considering future opportunities as we learn.
The customers are thrilled to have access to Mecca’s line up of new-to-China brands including Australian favourites Frank Body, Go-To, Lanolips and The Beauty Chef alongside global bestsellers Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Cosmetics 27, Briogeo and Sol de Janeiro as well as Mecca’s own signature line brands, Mecca Cosmetica and Mecca Max.
In response to customer demand, we have ramped up our digital offering including key opinion leader (KOL) Tmall livestream events. Most recently, we hosted 68 livestreams with 11 KOLs to celebrate the 11/11 shopping frenzy period, which is in addition to our ongoing livestreams from Australia, presented by our fabulous Mandarin-speaking Mecca hosts. We have also engaged Australian-based KOLs to produce and share content on Chinese social platforms including Weibo and Little Red Book and host interactive livestreams from our Mecca stores.
You’ve introduced some popular mainstream brands into the mix lately, including Kylie Skin and Goop. How would you describe your thinking behind the buying process at Mecca, especially now that you have expanded into China?
We have launched an incredible collection of new and exclusive customer-favourite brands during 2020 including Estee Lauder, Tom Ford, Shiseido Makeup and most recently, Kylie Skin and goop Beauty. At Mecca, we love the new, now, wow – delivering our customers the world’s most coveted brands across our six unique beauty concepts: Mecca Cosmetica, Mecca Maxima, Mecca, mecca.com.au, meccabeauty.co.nz and mecca.tmall.hk.
Our customer’s diverse interests strongly influences our buying approach to ensure we are truly the ultimate beauty destination, representing the best global across niche, heritage cult classics and trending direct-to-consumer brands making Mecca a one-stop-shop.
Since opening the very first Mecca in 1997, we have worked incredibly closely with our global brand leaders to bring the very best of beauty to Australia and New Zealand (and now China), conceiving ways to amplify their products with a touch of our unique Mecca magic in stores and online. We look for brands with a unique point of view, innovative ingredients, highly effective formulas and passionate, visionary brand founders who strongly align with the Mecca philosophy.
We have a global network of fellow beauty obsessives across retail, artistry, photography, science and manufacturing and we are forever talking with these people about new products, technologies, colours, and innovations. In addition, our team members and customers have lots of amazing suggestions for brands that they want to see at Mecca, so they play a big part in what new brands we introduce. It’s about anticipating what the customer will need, want and get joy from discovering.
For our Tmall Global flagship specifically, we selected brands that didn’t already have a substantial presence in China, so we could deliver a brand curation that was new and exciting to the market. We also have an increased focus on skincare brands for Tmall given it accounts for a majority of the market in China, as well as anti-ageing, clean beauty and Australian brands.