The secrets behind Marks and Spencer's successful beauty strategy

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

M&S Beauty has recently welcomed fine fragrance experts Estée Lauder
M&S Beauty has recently welcomed fine fragrance experts Estée Lauder

Related tags retail Retail sales Estée lauder Clinique Consumer trends Fragrance Skin care Cosmetics

The UK retailer’s Director of Home, Beauty & Furniture Heidi Woodhouse shared 5 helpful insights...

UK retailer Marks and Spencer continues to enjoy growth despite headwinds. For the full year that ended on 1 April 2023, the British retailer reported an 11.5% increase in sales for its 'Clothing and Home' division, which includes Beauty, to achieve £3.72bn, which was also driven by record in-store sales.

Its beauty department M&S Beauty has strategically evolved into a well-loved mix of homegrown brands and household names that resonates with beauty lovers of all ages from all walks of life.   

M&S Beauty’s Heidi Woodhouse – Director of Home, Beauty & Furniture – shared more insight into its strategy and why it has become so successful.

Fusing own-brand with third-parties to be the ‘trusted editor in beauty’

"We’re committed to offering a simpler approach by being the ‘trusted editor in Beauty’, with our considered-own brand ranges together with a curated breadth of third-party brands that are relevant to our customers’ needs.

All of the third-party brands that we stock have been carefully considered and curated to ensure we are offering customers a breadth of choice, providing a trusted Beauty proposition of brands they know and love, and that which complement our own brand offer.

We know that customers are loyal to the brands they love, and so welcoming exciting new brands including Benefit and Clinique to M&S.com and selected stores gives customers – both existing and new – more reasons to shop with M&S.

Skincare remains a key category for us, as customers are inclined to carefully consider their skincare routine which, for many, plays an important role in their overall wellness. The recent launch of Fresh Elements, our first own-brand skincare launch in seven years, has been evidence of this and since its launch has already been hugely popular with customers."

Cross-category shopping

"As we continue to reposition for growth, we’ve seen more customers turning to M&S for their beauty needs –14% of Clothing & Home customers shopped Beauty in 2022 – and they are particularly loyal, shopping 11.5 times a year. We want to continue to build on this growth by enticing customers to shop cross-category with more frequency, with our wider ‘Brands at M&S’ strategy playing a big part of this.

With over 15 own-brand labels including Formula, Discover, Fresh Elements and Apothecary, we’ve continued to develop our own ranges which customers love. By welcoming and growing a host of dynamic, market leading third-party partners, we’re further growing our own-brand beauty offer, which is helping to inspire loyalty and repeat purchases, whilst also driving new customers to M&S as we continue to build market share in the category."

Building out its fragrance offering

"We have seen a significant growth across our fragrance offer, which we continue to build on with the recent introduction of much-loved brands, including fine fragrance brands to further grow our offer across this category. Sales across our own-brand fragrance have increased by 120% vs last year, so we know that customers are excited by these products.

In fact. 12% of M&S’ third-party brand offer is now fragrance, which presents an opportunity for us as we continue to grow our beauty offer. Having built success in fragrance - including our incredibly popular own-brand ranges - this Autumn we have welcomed fine fragrance experts ​Estée Lauder and Floral Street​ to offer customers a broader product proposition and stretch in price point, bringing the total number of third-party brands available on M&S.com to 47.       

Our own-brand fragrance offer has seen great success over the past 12 months, with our line of Discover fragrances, which we first introduced three years ago, growing to include Men’s fragrance, along with an additional line-up of unisex ‘Intense’ scents.

With the demand for great quality, affordable fragrances a growing trend across social platforms, our in-house development team have been working hard to build out the range which has already seen an incredibly positive response from customers and media alike, so this category will continue to be a focus for us."

Offering a true omnichannel experience

"We’re seeing the benefits of the steps we’ve been taking as a business to offer a true omnichannel experience to our customers. Our new renewal stores are home to an expanded Beauty offer, which we can already see is driving more customers to shop more frequently, and to see M&S as a destination for their Beauty products on the high street.

Additionally, with the inclusion of brands’ presence in stores – such as Clinique & Benefit Cosmetics beauty counters – alongside products and brands available exclusively on M&S.com, we’re providing a unique omnichannel opportunity for new and our existing customers to easily shop and discover the some of the UK’s favourite brands alongside our own​."

Creating a unique brand proposition

"The arrival of ​Estée Lauder Fragrance follows the success of global skincare brand Clinique in 2022; part of the Estée Lauder group. Clinique resonates strongly with the M&S customer and is now the number one third-party beauty brand at M&S. Third-party brands now represent over 40% of total sales in M&S Beauty, so we know that this approach is resonating with our customers. 

Equally, in the space of two years, our own wellness brand, Apothecary, has grown to become a £20m brand, with the Warmth eau Dde Parfum 50ml (£10.00) becoming the number one beauty line at M&S, selling over 20,000 this summer alone.

We‘re focused on keeping up with our customers and listening to the feedback they give us. Our focus is on building a unique brand proposition for our customers, and carefully selecting curated ranges that meet all their Beauty requirements."

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