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UK beauty retailers market witnessing a battle between Boots and Superdrug

Industry Sector



7 November 2012


Mike King

Type of News


The UK beauty retailers market has been forecast to witness minimal growth over the next five years, as result of saturation and the increase in competition from other store-based channels, particularly grocery retailers.

One of the consequences of grocery retailers taking a larger share of the beauty market will be heavy price discounting, which the UK market has already experienced as a result of volume-driven trade from the major grocery players.

Beauty products are becoming increasingly customized to suit specific and more defined needs. Consumers are demanding a wealth of new, more innovative products with an ageing and more ethnically diverse population profile creating opportunities for clearer product segmentation. Despite the tide of cost pressures eating into disposable income and shaky consumer confidence, consumers still exhibit a desire to indulge in health & beauty products and thus trading customers up to premium products.

Despite a small decline in its share in 2011, Boots UK continued to lead the UK beauty retailers market through its chemists/pharmacies, parapharmacies/drugstores and opticians, with annual sales of £6.6 billion. The marginal loss in its share can be attributed to strong competition from Superdrug, as well as a renewed focus on its own portfolio of private label brands, which are generally lower-priced than branded products, accounting for a larger share of sales.

The retailer has recently just announced that it will be trialling iPads and Wi-Fi in 30 of its branch locations, to enable customers to order in store more easily.

In 2011, Boots achieved the biggest increase in actual value sales. However, this was closely followed by Superdrug, which saw an increase in its sales of £32 million, primarily as a result of its rebranding campaign and the launch of its Beautycard reward scheme. As part of its marketing campaign, Superdrug has also become the first major retailer to sell an exclusive range of cosmetics and perfume based on the hit television series 'The Only Way Is Essex.'

The resilient spending patterns in the UK beauty retailers market are tempting non-specialists to target the sector. Budget variety retailers including B&M Bargains, Poundland, 99p Stores and Wilkinson are opening more stores as high street property becomes vacant. They are also upgrading their shop environments to attract midmarket shoppers who are trading down.

Department stores are reinforcing their beauty role as pampering zones by offering wider choices of services. House of Fraser is adding to its variety of treatments and services with brands like DestinationSkin and Clarins Spas, while John Lewis is adding beauty spas to stores.

Despite the rapid growth of internet retailing, the advance of pure internet retailers into beauty product categories is likely to be limited. The major reasoning for this is that consumers need to be able to smell toiletries and perfumes in order to make an informed decision before purchasing.

For more information on the UK beauty retailers market, see the latest research: UK Beauty Retailers Market

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