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Marie Claire launching ‘speed beauty’ salon brand extension

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Women’s magazine Marie Claire UK is launching its third brand extension at the end of November: a hair and beauty salon aimed at women on the go.

Marie Claire Jet Style is opening its first salon in Kings Cross, in collaboration with renowned hair, retail and business entrepreneur Steph Stevenson.

Speaking at the Association for Online Publishing’s 2019 Digital Publishing Summit, Marie Claire’s outgoing MD Justine Southall set out the brand’s plans for the extension, as part of a talk on ‘Leveraging your authentic brand voice to build new revenues’.

Acknowledging the publication has had a rocky few months with announcing the closure of the print magazine, Southall emphasised that the extension shows that the brand is still growing in strength, but outside of what it has traditionally been known for.

“The systemic changes that are happening today…have made the need to pivot particularly urgent for some brands that are in the legacy space,” she outlined in her introduction. “However, the ability to do it…depends on what you’re pivoting to and how that takes place.”

“In the case of Marie Claire, we have a very strong digital business. And so it’s meant that a number of things have collided that means this is the moment that the brand is making that crossover.”

Beauty for busy women

Southall describes Marie Claire Jet Style as a “fully experiential part of the Marie Claire brand,” which is a “multi-service, bricks-and-mortar salon business.” It is designed for time-poor working women when they’re travelling, and will be located in stations and airports.

“The reason that it works for Marie Claire is because…a huge portion of our audience globally are working and career women, and so it very much fits with our other propositions,” she explained.

The first Marie Claire Jet Style salon is opening at the end of November in King’s Cross St Pancras, which over 52 million people travel through each year. Another salon is planned for Heathrow later this year, and then a further 215 salons globally over the next two years.

Marie Claire Jet Style concept, via Marie Claire

The choice of location in airports and stations is important for the concept. According to their site, there are over 178 minutes of ‘lost time’ at airports and stations as we wait around to start journeys. 

“I realised that, like the 123,000 other women travelling through Heathrow, it had been a mad dash to get manicured and styled before I left, then I was sitting in an airport for two hours wasting time,’ Steph Stevenson explained, when describing her lightbulb moment. “I wondered why, when 75% of us work full time, there wasn’t an option to maximise this lost time.”

The salons will have multiple services available, from hair and makeup to manicures and other treatments.

The speed beauty market is hugely under-developed, and there is an opportunity for these services to appeal to the vast proportion of Marie Claire’s audience are time-poor working women who are increasingly travelling. “Our current global strapline…is ‘Think smart, look amazing,’” said Southall. “Yes you can have both, and that’s what most women in this room absolutely would want as well.”

“You think about the challenges that are happening on the high street you know so many traditional retailers are looking for experiential offers to make their brands interesting, bring customers in. So this is really turning that on its head and saying, let’s go to the experience first, and then what’s the offer?”

The collaboration with Stevenson is crucial, and Southall emphasised that Marie Claire are not salon owners or experts in that area. But launching with an experienced entrepreneur and celebrity hairstylist has given them the expertise they need to ensure Marie Claire Jet Style is set up for success. 

Completing the trio

Marie Claire is no stranger to brand extensions. Jet Style will join Fabled by Marie Claire and the Marie Claire Edit 

Fabled by Marie Claire was the publisher’s first extension in 2016, in collaboration with Ocado. Southall explained that Ocado may be known primarily for groceries, but they also had the major world-leading technology and eCommerce experience to take advantage of the opportunities around online distribution for premium beauty brands.

Fabled by Marie Claire also has a bricks-and-mortar store on Tottenham Court Road in London; a necessary investment to be able to overcome restrictions around selling some of these brands online.

Fashion brand Next acquired the beauty store in June this year, but has still retained the name as it recognises the power of the Marie Claire brand. It now sells over 100 beauty brands on through Fabled.

“Now it’s really transcended into a much much bigger beast, that’s just going to get larger and larger,” said Southall about Next’s acquisition. “But I think that the important bit of this is that the thing that both Ocado and Next wanted was the voice of Marie Claire, the credentials of Marie Claire, and the trust of the brand, beyond the audience.”

Just under a year ago, in November 2018, Marie Claire launched its second brand extension: Marie Claire Edit. It is an eCommerce aggregator platform for the fashion industry, which allows users to shop and browse brands directly from Marie Claire’s website.

The technology was built in-house, which made integration into the main site much easier.

“In and of itself, it’s not unique, but I think the way we did it is,” said Southall. “We are tapping into fashion and shopping, taking the supposition and the knowledge to help you edit, help you choose, help inspire, help direct, that’s the job we do.”

“This really came out of the idea that we could create a shopping platform: content-led, embedded in the fashion team, through the editorial team of the brand, digital and print. And then expand the digital reach through that channel; really tap into the purchasing power of the audience, leverage the power of the editorial voice through editorial recommendation.”

Maire Claire Edit currently has a 6% conversion rate, and an average basket size of almost £400. It released an update to the platform in August, allowing users to search more than 6,000 brands and access professional styling advice straight from the fashion desk.

Inside successful brand extensions

For Southall, the success of their brand extensions so far has been that they are embedded in trust that people have in the Marie Claire name. “We’ve used that to extend the long term reach, because actually let’s not forget that we have to be brave; we have to extend our customer bases, we have to extend our audiences, we have to extend our reach,” she explained.

“It demonstrated that there is a value in those brands, and you have to have a look at the logic around what those are, and help to leverage those customers that you have with you, but also importantly, bring new customers in, and that might not be to your first main proposition [the print magazine].”

But the most important thing for a brand extension to work is collaboration. “We as a content business have a certain set of skills,” said Southall. “We’re not retailers, we’re not salon owners. So to make these things, you have to have collaboration, I think it’s absolutely vital.”

“And if you don’t collaborate, then you have to have experts that you bring in to do it for the same reason.”

A need to be brave

Southall concluded by emphasising how important it is to continually be looking for new ways of taking brands out to market. “In the eight and a half years that I’ve been Managing Director, the world has changed seismically, to the point where I’m standing on stage and telling you that we closed the magazine, and I’m not doing that with a smile on my face at all” she said.

“But at the same time, there is a need to be very brave, and look at ways of taking your message to market, and still communicating with audiences that could be relevant to your brands in multiple different paths, different platforms, and different experiences.

“That brand legacy that Marie Claire has, it’s been looked after to the degree that we have been able to do these things, and will continue to do so.”