Healthy competition in the health and beauty aisles


Boots has long been the front-runner in the health and beauty market with a strong beauty and fragrance offer, a pharmacy business and a loyal customer base developed through its Advantage Card programme. But things are hotting up with Superdrug upping its game.

Superdrug is buffing up its brand on a number of fronts with the competition between the two high street health and beauty retailers never stronger.

The fuscia pink fronted store is inviting customers to reappraise the brand and wants to be seen as “the best in everyday affordable beauty”.

It launched its first brand campaign in a decade at the end of last year under the slogan “Take Another Look” and signed actress Joanna Page as its brand ambassador because she fits the brand’s personality.

Marketing director Dan Jarvis told me that Superdrug’s personality isn’t about being high end or “white-coating” beauty products, it’s about giving customers access to beauty that makes them feel confident, whether that’s a bar of soap, perfume, cosmetics or vitamins to boost health.

He says that tactical pricing and promotional activity is still important but that brand is coming to the fore.

It is also launching its first loyalty scheme in May, in a further bid to offer consumers another reason to choose it over Boots.

While its one point per pound offer isn’t as generous as the Boots Advantage Card’s four points per pound, where it will really give customers a chance to rack up their points balance is on additional points bonuses with specific products. For instance, it might run a points promotion giving away 3250 extra loyalty points for every £10 spent on Rimmel cosmetics.

Superdrug is also raising its game in the pharmacy business and in the fragrance market.

Boots is currently the biggest retailer of fragrance in the UK, followed by Debenhams or The Perfume Shop depending what sources you look at.

Superdrug and The Perfume shop are both owned by global retail group AS Watson and already operate The Perfume Shop branded fragrance counters in 11 Superdrug stores. It has outlined plans to increase this to 50 which gives Superdrug an opportunity to take some of Boots’ share of the market.

There are also similar opportunities for cross promotion across the soon to launch Superdrug Beauty Card and The Perfume Shop loyalty scheme due to launch later this year.

In pharmacy, Superdrug currently operates around 200 pharmacies across its 900-strong store portfolio. It’s not something that Superdrug is particularly well known for so it is looking at ways to make its pharmacy and healthcare business more visible.

At its recently opened Wimbledon concept store, Superdrug has introduced a pharmacy consulting room and makes a bigger play on its pharmacy service and plans to roll out ideas from the new store design across its estate.

It’s not just Superdrug that’s pushing itself. LloydsPharmacy recently appointed Jeff Wemyss as head of retail to develop its beauty business and Tesco outlined plans at the end of last year to improve its beauty retailing and make the supermarket a more credible shopping destination for beauty products.

It looks like health and beauty is the latest retail battleground but Superdrug has a long way to go to match Boots’ 2,500 strong store network. And it will be interesting to see if the Superdrug Beauty Card can get the same kind of engagement as Boots Advantage Card with its 16 million members.

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