Superdrug expands premium to give ‘beauty choices for every budget’

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

UK health and beauty retailer Superdrug has acquired seven new premium fragrance and beauty brands [Getty Images]
UK health and beauty retailer Superdrug has acquired seven new premium fragrance and beauty brands [Getty Images]

Related tags Superdrug retail premium beauty Consumer trends COVID-19 Prestige beauty Uk

The UK’s second-biggest health and beauty retailer Superdrug is defying the cost-of-living crisis and upping its game in premium beauty brands as it broadens its offer beyond its lower price point core.

The A.S Watson-owned 800+-store chain had this summer bolstered its fragrance range with six new premium fragrance brands – YSL, Viktor & Rolf, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Valentino and Narciso Rodriquez – taking its total fragrance stock to 54 brands.  Luxury cosmetics brand Urban Decay had also joined its stable of cosmetics brands that now stood at 29.

Superdrug said the acquisition of these seven premium brands was a response to “the shifting retail landscape”​ and should offer its customers “beauty choices for every budget”.

‘The right combination’

We’re incredibly excited about the new acquisitions,” ​said Superdrug trading director Megan Potter.

 “As an accessible retailer, offering our customers the right combination of value and quality is crucial for us, and we are delighted to be able to offer our customers a full shopping experience that aligns with their wants and needs. Whether they are looking for premium, own-brand or ethical beauty, we have something for everyone,” ​Potter said.

The new fragrances will range in price from £49 (€58) to £83 (€98).

Superdrug said all the premium additions would be supported with genderless in-store fixtures and “highly trained experts to inspire and educate customers, providing a seamless luxury experience”.

The expert view – premium’s place at the beauty table

The move comes amid the ongoing social and economic fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic.

These factors, however, had not directly affected Superdrug’s performance, with fragrance and cosmetics sales growing 39% in the 12 months to July 2022, driven by the pandemic ending plus a strong online performance.

Kimberly Howard, semiotics director and trends expert at research agency Verve, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe the push toward premium carried its own logic, despite the widespread economic belt-tightening going on up and down the social strata.

“I think with every trend there is a counter-trend,” ​Howard said. “For instance, many big brands are investing in very cheap lines with high quality ingredients to help consumers have an affordable skincare regime.”

At the same time,just because people’s budgets are squeezed doesn't mean they won't be investing in luxury products. They'll just be very picky on the luxury products they do have. So maybe they'll buy an own-label range and then they might really want to invest in particular premium products to make them feel good.”

The Manchester-based analyst said this kind of budgetary manipulation was increasingly common where people were “stripping back some of their other products to really good duplicates in order to make room for premium products”.

“On TikTok, #dupes is coming up a lot where people are talking about the best duplicates they've seen. So, I think luxury is still going to exist, it's just brands need to work harder to convince consumers why they should buy that product. It needs to really deliver something efficacious, and maybe that moves beyond just the safety of big brands,” ​Howard said.

A place for price cutting

Highlighting this assertion that premium and low-cost offerings could co-exist, Superdrug recently began offering its loyalty scheme customers 60% discounts on certain items across personal care, skincare, fragrance and beauty.

“We are working hard to help customers cope with the rising cost of living and want to stay ahead and continue to offer our customers the best on the high-street offers,”​ said Superdrug own-brand director Jamie Archer.

The move followed health and beauty retail leader Boots offering similar discounts to its loyalty customers, and both chains freezing the price of certain own-label items for a year.

Walgreen-owned Boots and Superdrug remained the leading UK health and beauty retailers, with Superdrug traditionally being better known for its affordability and accessibility across its 830 UK and Ireland stores as well as online.

The move to increase its premium beauty brand presence comes amid a broader expansion of 200 ‘forward thinking’ brands added to the Marketplace platform Superdrug launched in April this year.

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