Though U.K.-based retailers, like Feelunique and Cult Beauty have gained attention as of late for launching buzzy beauty brands in the region like Huda Beauty, Charlotte Tilbury and Girl Undiscovered, luxury British department store Harvey Nichols is attempting to re-claim its clout in the beauty space. On March 8, the retailer will debut a new beauty campaign and event activation series called “Rebel, Rebel” to underscore its roots in the market.
Harvey Nichols’ beauty business is one of its fastest-growing segments — in the last five years, the company said its sales have increased over 80 percent, thanks to launching exclusive regional partnerships with brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty in 2017. But bringing emerging names to the U.K. is not something its Harvey Nichols’ customer knew off hand, said Jo Osborne, Harvey Nichols director of beauty and concessions.
“We have been focused on bringing makeup artistry and services to the U.K. for well over 30 years. My boss Daniela Rinaldi, who is now COO, brought MAC to the U.K. and Europe, [as well as] Trish McEvoy and Shu Uemura. Bringing brands like these here to the U.K. is part of our heritage, so we need to shout with our voice,” she said.
Harvey Nichols has brought 35 other beauty companies to the region first, including emerging brands like Marc Jacobs Beauty and Augustinus Bader more recently. In total, the retailer carries over 200 beauty, grooming and fragrance brands.
To remind customers of its positioning, Harvey Nichols will launch seven new brands in March in its eight U.K. stores, including Irish hair-care brand We Are Paradoxx and personalized perfume house Ex-Nihilo. (The retailer has eight international stores in cities including Hong Kong Dubai and Istanbul, as well.) Additionally, the retailer will offer two beauty discovery kits over the course of the month, which are customized edits of brands it has brought to the U.K., and host eight event activations with tastemakers like Mario Dedivanovic, influencer and Rodial CEO Maria Hatzistefanis, and Life and Lipstick podcast hosts Hannah Martin and Lisa Potter-Dixon.
Though it would seem Harvey Nichols’ increased focus on messaging these emerging brands and influencer events is meant to entice only a Gen-Z and millennial customer, Osborne said customers shopping at HarveyNichols.com and in stores range vastly in age, from 18 to mid-60s.
Still, Harvey Nichols is hoping the above influencer partnerships will help boost the brand’s social and digital presence. For instance, the Laura Mercier event that Dedivanovic is hosting on March 9 (and costs $170 to attend) was cross-promoted on both Harvey Nichols’ Instagram, where it has 464,000 followers, and Dedivanovic’s, which has 6.2 million followers. As of Thursday, Harvey Nichols had sold over 100 tickets to the Dedivanovic event. The Life and Lipstick podcast event sold out of all 80 tickets in 24 hours, thanks to promotion on its three related Instagram accounts that see around 115,000 followers, as well as Harvey Nichols’ account.
“We understand and appreciate the power of these influencers’ fanbases and are keen to work with them to ensure their readers have access to the most exciting and interesting beauty product launches and events,” said Osborne. This has been clearly helpful, as the beauty industry relies so heavily on product launches, promotions and event activation notices via email, but has had to look to other methods of marketing communication since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect in May 2018.
Harvey Nichols, which saw revenue increase by 9 percent to nearly 275 million in 2018, expects that activating on social and offering more of these beauty-led events will further drive customers to stores. Physical retail remains the larger mix of the retailer’s business, though Harvey Nichols would not delineate the split between DTC, and 60 percent of online customers still shop in stores, explained Osborne.
“Our beauty customer is looking to social and online to hear about new brands and experiences, and read about them, but she is still coming into stores to touch, feel and play with the product,” she said. “We’re not only showing the customer this amazing mix of brands that you can only find from us, but we’re adding an experiential piece to it, which is like nothing else happening in beauty in the U.K.”