Despite the economic downturn, the growth in the natural beauty sector has continued apace, with the last 12 months seeing a huge number of brands and new lines being developed, reflecting the increased demand for such products and the number of more discerning customers scrutinising the ingredients in their everyday beauty regime. Media coverage of the green revolution continues to drive demand forward with celebrities revealing their green credentials and favourite ‘eco beauty’ products in the glossy magazines and weekly titles. This means even the mainstream beauty brands are now looking to utilise organic and natural ingredients. Independent pharmacies can not only benefit from responding to this trend and stocking more diverse products, but they can really capitalise on it by stocking niche, independent brands that are not available in the multiples and that can be sold at a higher price point because of their unique selling points and ethical credentials.
Competing on price with the supermarkets is always going to be an uphill battle, so why not take a different tack and offer your customers something that the supermarkets don’t? Not only will your margins be better but you may find that you become a ‘destination store’ for some products. Discerning customers will travel for a product that is good value, high quality and meets their personal needs – which you can then develop into a natural beauty category, further increasing each consumer’s spend.
Education really is the key to success when it comes to selling niche products. Unlike mainstream brands that are in the public domain through multi-million pound national PR and advertising, your niche brands may be less familiar to many of your customers. With just some basic understanding and enthusiasm from your staff however, the rewards can really be reaped with independent brands, with such products often generating a considerable brand loyalty. Consider this case study for a specific alternative beauty product that is really thriving and can compete with the mainstream alternatives.
Create a category
When you have established a niche brand such as a less chemical colourant, develop this into a category so customers come to your store for more than one product. Build up a ‘natural bodycare’ category in your store, or site products of a similar ethos together, for example all of your parabenfree products. The natural products industry offers a huge variety of gentle alternatives to many of the bodycare products found in a pharmacy environment – make-up, sanitary towels, sun protection, nutritional supplements and skin creams, to name a few, so an appealing and varied category or section can soon be introduced to your store.
As pharmacies, you have a guaranteed consumer base coming into your store each day for their prescriptions, so if you can offer them an interesting, new and different shopping experience while they pass through your store, your sales will benefit. Make yourself stand out from the multiples further by encouraging your staff to be engaging with your customers. This is particularly important when selling natural or less chemical products, as it doesn’t take a great deal of customer assistance for the correct hair colour, food supplement or herbal remedy to be chosen. But it does increase the chances that your customer will have a positive experience with the product and become a regular purchaser of that product, and in turn more receptive to similar ones. If it isn’t feasible for all your staff to be trained in new products, why not let one of your team take on the role of ‘Natural Beauty Advisor’ or similar, and they can then take ownership of promoting this category.
Opening natural doors
Once you have established a ‘natural beauty’ or ‘free from’ category within your pharmacy, make sure your staff keep all possible link sales in mind. Many customers looking for less chemical products are doing so for the health benefits or because of a specific condition, so look at the other products you sell that could be recommended. It could be as simple as suggesting a nice sulphate-free shampoo to go with a less chemical hair colorant, or you could try and introduce them to a hair, skin and nails supplement or a mineral-based make-up. Once a customer has had a positive experience with a natural or less-chemical product, you can open them up to a whole variety of gentle alternatives to their everyday products.
Top tips for the safe and effective selling of natural products
- ALWAYS recommend your customers carry out a skin test. Just because a product is natural or less-chemical does not mean that it can’t cause an allergy. It is likely they will cause less irritation for most of your customers, but some that are drawn to such products will have more sensitive skin.
- Check what medication or treatment they are receiving before they use certain products. Some natural remedies may not be suitable for use alongside some medications.
- Ensure your customers have access to all available product information. Distributors of natural products will be keen to provide consumer leaflets, colour charts, samples and testers, so make use of these so your customers can make informed choices.
- Keep your display or category looking tidy and neat. Clean and clear shelving doesn’t cost much in time or money but this attention to detail along with the often very effective aesthetics of ‘natural’ brands will catch the eye of your consumers.
Case Study: Less chemical hair colourants
All ladies, even in a recession, insist on keeping their hair looking good. Home hair colourants have been a pharmacy staple for many years, but sales are difficult to sustain when consumers can pick up their usual shade when they do their weekly supermarket shop. Firstly therefore, try offering a brand that they can’t get in the multiples.
- Secondly, try stocking a brand that meets consumers’ demands for kinder, more gentle and less aggressive products. Good quality, chemically-light colourants are formulated without unnecessary ingredients such as ammonia and resorcinol and should make effective (not just for labelling purposes) use of organic and natural ingredients.
- Manufacturers or distributors of such products know that retailers need technical support and generally speaking, are not in the business to just simply make a profit – they care about their consumers and the credibility of their products, so turn to them for support and technical advice.
- A little promotion will go a long way with products such as these and again, your distributor will be keen to help you merchandise their brand in store, offer targeted advertising and provide materials not only to attract but educate and engage with the consumer. Colour charts, consumer leaflets, video demonstrations and window display materials should all be utilised where available.
- Lastly, enjoy the regular repeat purchases that follow! Good quality home hair colourants that deliver effective grey coverage with fewer chemicals easily generate a loyal brand following and in tough economic times are far cheaper than a trip to the hair salon.