In February, Sephora U.S. and The Body Shop announced an unprecedented alliance: according to WWD (February 18, 2011) Sephora was to stock exclusive The Body Shop products in 170 of its 230 sales points in the U.S. This partnership deserves a second look - especially since the beauty brand had so far relied on total control of its distribution - selling only through its own stores (300 of which are in the U.S.).
- The offer: The sephora.com site offers 44 The Body Shop products, including 11 listed as "exclusive". These consist mainly of different packs and formats: the Olive Body Butter on the site comes in a 10.1 oz package at $ 20, as against 6.9 oz (for $ 18).
- Prices: a study of the prices shows that the "exclusive" products are about 20 to 25% lower at Sephora. The others are identical.
- Merchandising: a The Body Shop "branded" area is reserved in the Sephora stores - "merchandised as a brand in a full bay presentation dedicated to The Body Shop".
This initiative should be viewed from the perspective of a news report that went unnoticed: The Body Shop U.S. (following a move initiated by ... Sephora - see my post of December 13, 2009) has started setting up its vending machines. While Sephora was satisfied with setting them up only in airports, The Body Shop has chosen to install them in shopping malls and supermarkets: Kroger Marketplace, Stop & Shop, H-E-B and Jewel Osco.
We are obviously witnessing here the implementation of a strategy of banalizing The Body Shop in the U.S.: the strategy of exclusivity is being greatly "watered down" by the multiplication of outlets operated in this manner. The big question is, what consequences could this have for the brand: can it defend its status considering the proliferation of distribution channels ... and the non-negligible differences in prices?
Some Internet surfers seem to doubt it:
lara / the glossarie.: i am definitely with you, muse. this is a weird one for me? i associate them as two totally different types of companies and i love visiting the body shop because it’s different from sephora. kudos to them for wanting to get their products out to more people, it just compromises their boutique-iness for me, i guess.
Kel: I prefer to buy the products in The Body Shop store. It’s such a cute little store and I feel like it’s not crowded the way that Sephora is. Shopping in Sephora makes me feel like a squirrel in a field full of hawks. They don’t keep their eyes off you
the Muse: lol kel! I agree about Sephora but I also feel TBS employees are annoying and keep asking can I help you, have you tried this, have you tried that, etc…so I’m actually more comfortable in Sephora as they do watch you like a hawk but at least they are jumping on you about this product and that one and proceeding to mist you and slather it on, etc.
However, the question raised (pressure from the sales staff) begs another question: the commission-based salaries, specific to the USA - which concerns not only The Body Shop.
I find this initiative interesting, on one condition: that the consumer-experience lived in The Body Shop becomes truly a reflection of the strong values of the brand - an experience that Sephora can never offer. Yet, one can ask oneself if this experience really exists...