The number of beauty standalone stores is growing in the Middle East as brands seek closer relationships with their consumers and more control over their image.

More beauty brands in the Middle East, as elsewhere, are launching standalone stores to respond to increased demand for information and personalization from consumers and to be able to better control their image.

The move towards opening branded standalone stores in the Middle East reflects a desire on the part of brands to get closer to a consumer, which for independent or smaller companies particularly, may be a largely unknown quantity. As well as providing personalized beauty advice to consumers – key to generating brand loyalty in a crowded market – standalone stores offer brands an opportunity to test product lines, categories and merchandising on a new clientele. And in a market where mobile phone usage rates are high, such outlets also enable brands to more easily collect consumer data to be used later for targeted digital advertising.

The intense development of malls in the region has also provided brands with new opportunities to open standalones. International brands like MAC, The Body Shop, Kiehl’s Since 1851 or Clarins have been quick to establish a branded presence in locations such as the Dubai Mall. British brand Lush, which has built its brand on a standalone store retail strategy, celebrated its 20th anniversary in September with the opening of an eighth UAE store in the Bawadi Mall.

Dutch skincare and lifestyle brand Rituals Cosmetics opened its first two standalone stores in May in Dubai’s luxury Mall of the Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall. Meanwhile, Make Up For Ever has been increasing the number of its stores in the region, thanks also to the fast growth in the color category in the Middle East.

Local Appeal

Local brands too see an opportunity to capture consumers with standalone stores. UAE skincare brand Herbal Essentials this week launched its first standalone store, known as The Beauty Hub, in the Mercato Mall in Dubai’s high-end Jumeirah district.

The store includes state-of-the-art skin analysis machines to provide consumers with personalized skin diagnosis and advice from trained beauty consultants. Founder and managing director Ali Rahimtoola says beauty consumers in the Middle East are keen to learn more about their specific skin type and issues. “We find that there are a lot of consumers getting mixed messages about products and brands so we thought it best that we create a service center, or location, aimed at exclusively helping customers on a case by case basis address their specific issues,” says Rahimtoola. “Larger global brands have missed the point that the Middle-East consumer is curious about products and that she wants to invest time to learn. We plan to roll out more Beauty Hubs across the UAE in 2017.”

Local oriental fragrance brands have long operated out of their own standalone stores, but it is thought that more Western fragrance companies could look to bring more branded stores to the region too. This reflects what is happening in other markets with the growth of niche brands with their own retail store concept, such as Maison Francis Kurkdjian or Atelier Cologne.

The trend for branded beauty stores is set to continue in the Middle East and beyond, with some analysts even pointing out that this model along with online sales could become as dominant as multi-brand retailers. They point to the fashion sector, where there are few multi-brand retail outlets and distribution is largely centered on branded stores, both in the high end and in fast fashion, and ask why this would not happen in beauty. Watch this space.

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