Walking tall: The Boots influence


 To be sure, Walgreens started out on its Go Big in Beauty mission before its partnership with Boots began in 2012. But Boots, with its rich portfolio of beauty brands certainly helped ‘kick’ things up a notch or two.

Although the iconic No7 skin care and cosmetics brand first bowed in the United States in 2007, it was the brand’s expansion into Walgreens that opened the door for more American shoppers to discover — or become reacquainted with — the brand.

With No7 hitting the mark, Walgreens is anxious to add other Boots logos, especially now that Walgreens and Alliance Boots are one family.

“We’ve brought the best of Boots and the best of Walgreens together,” said Gordon Farquhar, managing director, Boots Retail USA, Walgreens Boots Alliance, who promises more proprietary brands will expand in Walgreens stores. “So far, we’re quite pleased with results,” he said.

American consumers who either knew Boots from traveling abroad or who have discovered the lines in Walgreens’ U.S. stores quickly developed into fans. Additionally, Boots got a vote of confidence in the U.S., when the Good Housekeeping Research Institute gave Boots No7 its coveted award in the anti-aging category in 2013.

For many shoppers, Walgreens stocking Boots fills a huge market void. “I moved to a new town far away from department stores,” said Sherry Miller, a self-proclaimed beauty junkie. “Being able to get No7 at my Walgreens store was the best discovery and saved me from having to order all my beauty [products] online.”

Walgreens Shannon Curtin, group vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty and personal care at Walgreens, was among the fans who wanted a crack at bringing Boots to Walgreens stores five years ago. Roughly two years later, she got her chance when Walgreens purchased a 45% stake in Alliance Boots in 2012. Late last year, Walgreens completed the merger of the two companies, becoming the world’s first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise. The potential in beauty was clearly one of the factors attracting Walgreens to Boots.

Star treatment in Hollywood

Shoppers got their first glimpse of Walgreens’ commitment to Boots at the 2012 opening of a flagship in Hollywood. That store featured dramatic fixturing and extended products.

Recently, Boots completed the rollout of Boots brands No7, Botanics, Expert, Extracts and Champneys in nearly 400 Walgreens doors, first in the Phoenix market, followed by installations in flagships and stores in the New York tri-state market. Botanics is skin care and cosmetics, harnessing the power of plants; the Expert range, which is a problem-solution skin care line at an affordable price, including facial washes, eye creams and scar serums; Extracts, a sustainably sourced line of body butters, washes and scrubs; and Champneys, an indulgent line of bathing products.

Most notable in these doors is the striking No7 signage, illuminated fixtures and the availability of well-trained Beauty Advisors. According to Farquhar, Boots sends out its own trainers to assist in the education of the Boots and Walgreens Beauty Advisors about the Boots assortment. “We’re bringing a masstige proposition in a premium experience that differentiates us in the mass beauty space,” Farquhar said.

Working in tandem with the Walgreens beauty team, Farquhar can tap into the data from Walgreens’ loyalty program, Balance Rewards, to help determine the right markets for further penetration of Boots brands. He said new markets will be revealed in the near future. “We are getting key insights to understand how women shop for beauty. We think we have a phenomenal opportunity as we evolve.”

But Boots isn’t only creating a buzz in flagship doors. In 2013, based on demand, Boots introduced three of its brands chain wide in Walgreens — No7 Men, Mark Hill Salon Professional and Indeed. “The products are well received because they are innovative and often solve a problem,” Farquhar said. For example, Mark Hill, a well-known British hairstylist to the celebrities, has products targeting such specific consumer hair issues as frizzy or limp hair. “We call him the Jamie Oliver of hair,” Farquhar said.

Boots No7 Men also has converted many male non-skin care users into daily users. Many of these men had been searching for grooming solutions, but didn’t know how to go about shopping for products, Farquhar said. “Many men haven’t been using skin care, but once they try us, they buy. We’ve had tremendous success [in mens].”

The finalizing of the acquisition certainly sets up expectations for greater sharing on both sides of the equation. Walgreens and Boots are anticipating the chance to duplicate the excitement, especially at holiday, throughout U.S. stores. A visit to Boots on Regent Street in London during the holiday season revealed a bustling business in gift sets, bath and body, fragrance and color cosmetics. “Similar to Walgreens, Boots is a destination at holiday, especially for gifts such as Soap & Glory, [which Boots acquired last year],” Farquhar said. “There’s no reason we can’t expand on that here.”

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