The Sweet Smell of Retail Success
You don’t have to earn an MBA to know retail is suffering. In the age of Amazon Prime and big department stores closing (RIP downtown Minneapolis Macy's), it’s a new challenge to inspire shoppers to visit a brick and mortar store. But while many retailers are faced with empty stores and declining foot traffic, UK-based Lush cosmetics is still expanding their retail locations in the U.S.
Simply put: you have to visit their store to get the Lush experience.
The experience begins before you even walk in the door. Right before entering, the smell of vanilla, honey and flowers greets you at the sidewalk. A Lush employee (donned in a black apron as if they have just whipped up a fresh batch of lotion) gives you a warm welcome and offers their expertise in navigating the store. Lush employees are knowledgeable and passionate about the brand, but not overbearing or pushy. You can tell they genuinely believe in the products they sell and are simply there to create a custom-fit experience for you.
Lush’s approach to “naked packaging” lends itself to a memorable retail experience. The entire store will place you immediately in the candy stores of your childhood. Bath bombs in bold, bright colors are piled high, while huge soap blocks with beautiful swirled patterns are waiting to be cut up and weighed like cheese at a deli counter. Face masks are displayed in silver bowls that sit on ice, garnished with edible ingredients – chocolate, blueberries, even a whole garlic clove. If you want to buy a face mask you’ll have to go into the fridge to get one – they’re so fresh that they are refrigerated (and have expiration dates). Their inventive shower jellies are displayed on plates like a dessert cart you would find at a restaurant. The store truly feels like a feast for the senses.
Lush is so confident in their products that they also let you take home samples of whatever you want to try. Not sure what else to try? They have a grab bag of samples to pick from when you check out, so you always feel like you’re getting a little more than you came in for.
I have been to Lush in both my hometown of Madison, WI and Edina, MN and have had very consistent experiences – something that is important to keep shoppers coming back for a brand with such a strong experience environment. Bath and body products easily lend themselves to an immersive retail experience in a way that Circuit City or Borders most likely would not have been able to. However, if existing retailers take note on the value of user experience from start to finish, their stores have a better chance of surviving in an increasingly digital marketplace.
A word of caution: Lush's brand integrity (ethical buying, fair wages, etc) and high quality ingredients means a higher price tag. But a high quality product paired with a memorable retail experience that will keep me coming back? That's priceless.