Lessons from Lush

You’ve only got to look at the UK high street to see how the switch to online has had a huge impact on store-based retail. Debenhams has shut 19 UK branches in the past month, at least 12 Arcadia store sites are due to close later this year and just this week Beale’s was announced as the latest casualty on the high street.

However, one retailer appears to be bucking this trend and thriving on the high street. Cosmetics retailer Lush launched its biggest ever store in Liverpool last year. Following on from the success of this, it now plans to take over old department store sites to replicate the Liverpool store concept – a store that delivers on the immersive customer experience that has been talked about a lot but not so often delivered.

Struggling bricks and mortar retailers can learn from Lush in order to have a better chance of attracting shoppers back to the store – vital for the survival of the UK high street.

Design centres of excellence

In order to attract shoppers back to the high street, retailers need to give people a reason for visiting by offering shoppers an experience to help them “make a day of it”. For example, Lush’s flagship store in Liverpool offers customers a reason to visit – an experience they can’t get online - from a permanent florist to a hair salon, a tea and coffee kiosk and a spa area where luxury services like massages and facials are on offer. It is this kind of innovation and creative thinking that is required to tempt shoppers away from their sofas and back onto the high street.

Retailers need to look to Lush as an example of how to reimagine the shopping experience. Stores need to be reinvented to offer services that both help and inspire shoppers. This can be achieved through extra, value-added services such as a salon or a florist, but also by creating some in-store theatre that inspires, entertains and educates consumers in creative ways through the products or services on offer.

For Lush, this takes the shape of film screenings and diverse makeup workshops; such as those aimed at LGBTQ+ individuals. Other retailers, for example Boots, are focusing more on this experiential element, providing its biggest ever wellness range, along with yoga classes, makeovers, hair consultations and influencer appearances during the launch week of its Covent Garden store.

Focus on your unique proposition

To draw in consumers, store-based retailers need to focus on providing consumers with a unique proposition to its rivals. For Lush, this includes its handmade and fresh cosmetics, and the fact that 80% of its products are vegan friendly. Moreover, Lush is well-known for its strong stance on sustainability; launching its first packaging-free store in the UK earlier last year. Lush stands out as an advocator for environmental issues – an issue that is more top of mind than ever in shoppers’ minds – and an issue intrinsically linked with their local area and in turn, their local high streets.

Retailers looking to follow a similar path need to ensure that such efforts towards sustainability are in line with brand and company values. It is one thing to have a “sustainable face” in marketing campaigns, but another to genuinely support the cause through the way products are manufactured, or in other aspects of the business.

In a world where consumers are now more inclined to shop online, Lush is an example of a retailer that is thriving on the UK high street. UK retailers can learn from its success and draw consumers back to traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ high street stores, by providing immersive and experiential stores, capitalising on their services in unique ways and ensuring they provide a unique proposition that helps them stand out from competition. These dissipating retail sites and dying department stores can be saved, but retailers must act fast and learn from brands who are listening to consumers and standing out from the crowd.