Unilever moots direct retailing

Packaged goods giant Unilever is expected to create a retail concourse for its brands inside its London City headquarters, Unilever House, in an attempt to sell its products direct to consumers.

The initiative is likely to be implemented after the refurbishment of Unilever House next year.

This is not the first time that Unilever has crossed from manufacturing into the retail sector, although this will be the first time that the company has attempted to sell products from across its food, household and personal care brands directly to consumers.

In 2000, the company launched a retail outlet called Myhome to provide house-cleaning, washing, ironing and dry-cleaning services, but the standalone venture was axed and sold a year later. Last year, Unilever opened two dedicated Lynx branded barber-shops, but these folded within six months.

A Unilever spokesman confirms that there are preliminary plans for a retail service in the refurbished Unilever House, but says that details about how the company would encourage consumers to shop in the building are still a long way from completion.

Refurbishment work on Unilever House is expected to start in 2004 and will last for about two years. The spokesman refuses to rule out using the retail outlet for test-marketing products.

“Plans are nowhere near advanced enough to talk about how we would retail to consumers within the concourse. Unilever House is a great building, but it doesn’t have facilities for consumers at the moment. Unilever is all about getting closer to the consumer so it would make sense to use the space within our building,” he adds.

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