Supermarkets checkout beauty

The idea of walking into a supermarket to buy a few tins of baked beans and walking out with a beauty makeover may seem strange. But with Sainsbury’s opening a shop-in-shop beauty section at its Savacentre store in Calcot, Reading – complete with trained beauty consultants offering manicures, makeovers and top make-up brands – it is now a reality.

Sainsbury’s move, which is being mirrored by a new emphasis on health and beauty at Tesco, Safeway and Asda, is one of the more bizarre ways that supermarkets are extending their tentacles into new high-margin areas.

The Savacentre beauty section was designed by the same outfit that worked on the fragrance hall and shoe department at upmarket department store Harvey Nichols.

But shoppers will need to change the way they view buying beauty products – and the way they view supermarket shopping – before they will flock to the grocers’ new beauty centres.

The usual trips to the beauty halls of department stores are a way for women to pamper themselves, though these services may be out of the financial reach of many shoppers. The supermarkets can again portray themselves as consumer champions, offering services at lower prices than the established channels.

The drive by the supermarkets to attract shoppers to their stores with the promise of cut-price premium brands has given them some excellent publicity, and has no doubt attracted shoppers who would otherwise go elsewhere.

Indeed, the new Savacentre beauty section was unveiled just as the chain was removing Nike products from its stores under the threat of a High Court injunction by the sportswear manufacturer. Nike says some of the products that Sainsbury’s has bought on the grey market may be counterfeit.

To give credibility to its beauty service, Sainsbury’s will stock top brands such as Clinique and Clarins, again sourced from the grey market. But it will go further than this, and is even dressing its beauty consultants in similar clothes to those worn by Clinique’s consultants, which a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman describes as being ‘like Clinique but without the logo’.

It is one thing to visit a supermarket to buy a pair of trainers bearing a desirable logo such as Nike or Adidas. But it is quite another to go there for beauty treatment. Whether shoppers will buy into this will be a true measure of the success of supermarket encroachments into high-margin areas beyond food and drink.

It may be that one day, it will not seem so strange to pop out for some beauty treatment and come back with a few tins of beans as well.

Cover Story, page 28

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