Beauty brand L’Occitane has opened a new Regent Street store that aims to attract a younger shopper than its current mid-40s demographic. John Ryan reports.

One of the recurring themes among retailers is the need to attract younger shoppers.

For the most part, this makes sense – more mature demographics tend to keep maturing until they reach the point where they are no more.

This means a process of continual reinvention is required, unless you happen to be that rare beast, a brand or retail proposition that appeals to everybody, regardless of age or creed.

With this in mind, perhaps, beauty retailer L’Occitane en Provence has just opened a flagship on Regent Street in a space formerly occupied by US accessories brand Coach, which has relocated to a store further north along the street.

The unit has allowed L’Occitane to create a two-floor store, boasting 1,507 sq ft on the ground and 1,938 sq ft upstairs.

Big ideas

This means a big store for a brand that is about selling items that are intrinsically small, but there is a lot more to this interior than tubes and bottles of hand cream, cologne atomisers and suchlike.

Instead, the initial vista when entering is currently of a hot air balloon, the top of which disappears through the ceiling to become part of the first floor as well.

The balloon’s basket is in fact a display tool and the whole installation is set to be dismantled within the next few weeks, when it will be replaced by a limestone fountain destined to be a more permanent feature.

The point about what is there currently, however, is that it is some distance removed from what those familiar with L’Occitane might expect.

The same is true of the rest of the floor, which retains the brand’s sunny yellow and red colours but is in many ways a blending of hospitality and retail.

“There is an emphasis on being entertained and pampered as much as on buying beauty products”

This is evident from the island on the right-hand side of the ground floor comprising a ring of glass-topped counters, behind which, among other things, is an array of very upscale macarons. At £2.70 a pop, they are the creations of Pierre Hermé, a French pastry chef and judge on the French version of MasterChef.

Next to these are tubes of beauty cream, with scents and colours designed to match those of the macarons.

At this point it is worth noting that the store’s general manager was recruited from posh London hotel Claridge’s, rather than a retailer. There is an emphasis on being entertained and pampered as much as on buying beauty products.

The rest of the floor uses a mix of marble, LED lighting and screens to give a bright and sunny feel to the environment, with personalisation to the fore.

Jamie Taylor, retail, property and wholesale director, says this was a major part of the brief given to Dutch design consultancy UXUS when it was retained to create the interior.

Personal touch

Behind the counter there is a highly finished wooden box. When its lid is lifted, a laser-engraving machine is revealed, capable of personalising wood, cardboard, metal, glass or soap at a moment’s notice.

For those who need their purchases personalised further, there is an alcove at the rear of the floor offering a bespoke wrapping service for free.

Head upstairs via a marble staircase, where the tread of each step is lit by a string of LED lights, and a long floor with views over Regent Street is reached.

This one also has a counter with macarons, but this time coffee is added to the mix, as well as chairs, tables and banquettes that allow the visitor to relax and take in the view.

The top of the hot air balloon is encircled by a wooden table and chairs, which is where the initial beauty consultations are carried out.

“The appeal is similar to that of the nearby Nespresso flagship, which also specialises in selling small items in a big space”

Those wishing for something more private can head to the far end of the floor, where two rooms with vertical wooden slats and curtains make this possible.

Overall, this is a world away from L’Occitane stores of old. In terms of experience, the appeal is similar to that of the nearby Nespresso flagship, which also specialises in selling small items in a big space.

It is also, along with stores in Paris and Tokyo, about looking for new customers – those in search of luxury without breaking the bank.

Taylor says there are 20 new projects to be completed this year. More than ever, beauty means money, and new ways of enhancing the category continue to be unveiled.

What makes L’Occitane Regent Street different?

  • It is a beauty store that focuses as much upon experience as product.
  • Leisure and hospitality are carefully blended with retail.
  • The lighting, by consultancy Nulty, imparts a warm glow to the interior.
  • Pricing is aspirational, but affordable.
  • Rapid personalisation is a central part of the proposition.