Upscale beauty specialist Space NK is going to make some of the features and changes it has introduced as a reaction to the lockdown permanent when some of its stores reopen this month but its reopening program could take some time and key stores in central London are likely to remain shut for the foreseeable future. Instead, reopening high street stores near affluent residential areas will be the focus.
The 27-year-old retailer has seen its 75 stores shuttered for nearly three months. And while CEO Andy Lightfoot thinks to reopen will see pent-up demand as “people are craving social interaction,” he also thinks many retail businesses could struggle in the months up to Christmas.
Space NK itself saw its sales down 30% in the days before lockdown started and they were falling further on a daily basis, he told The Telegraph.
As far as store reopenings are concerned, 11 will open on June 15 with the locations chosen to be “neighborhood” areas. That means high streets near to residential areas in towns such as Wimbledon, Weybridge, and Richmond, the newspaper said.
In the meantime, the company is undertaking intensive staff retraining as they prepare to go back to work after months at home. Some 700 of them have been furloughed out of the firm’s 1,000 total, with Space NK having been topping-up the 20% of their salaries that haven’t been paid by the government.
It’s unclear how long it will take to reopen all of its stores, but the CEO said it could take quite a long time.
“We do plan to open all of our stores back up, but it's a conditional plan,” he said. “There are no stores that we're taking this opportunity to exit but we have to look at how customer and shopping behaviors have changed and react to that.
“We’re expecting our community locations which are close to people's homes to perform very strongly. Conversely, with our stores on Regent Street, in Covent Garden and Canary Wharf, I'm not sure when we'll be opening those because I cannot see those areas coming back any time soon.”
Meanwhile, Lightfoot also sees a more digital future ahead for the company.
The executive spent three years running the firm’s digital arm before stepping into the top job last year and told The Telegraph that this experience was crucial during the lockdown.
“We made quite a number of brave decisions before we needed to make them and they’ve turned out to be really beneficial to the business,” Lightfoot said. “One of the first things that we did is pull stock back from our stores and brought it back into our warehouse so that we could fuel our online business. Throughout we’ve been one step ahead and we’ve tried to stay there.”
It also introduced one-to-one beauty consultations via Zoom to replace the in-store beauty expert consultations that it couldn’t offer. These will now continue.
“If someone wants a digital consultation, they've got a choice, they can do it with a two-meter distance in-store or do it through their phones and we can give them a personal digital consultation there and then in the store," he said.
Other changes that will continue for a while at least include a ‘kerbside’ collection/payment service, card payments only, and sinks in stores being available for customers to wash their hands.
Lightfoot also explained that key trends during the lockdown have seen consumers still making an effort with their appearance. E-sales of lipstick has risen 142% year-on-year with hair treatments rising 380%. But fragrance has perhaps understandably seen a decline, as has the foundation, with Lightfoot saying shoppers are using the opportunity to “let their skin breathe”.