How has Poundland’s move into skincare products affected the beauty market?

Nick Vaus, creative director, Free The Birds, discusses how Poundland's move into the beauty market this year is squeezing the middle ground of skincare.

Poundland #6

First there was Chanel No. 5. Then there was Boots No. 7. Now we have Poundland No. 6 – or simply “#6” as it prefers to be known.

The progression nicely illustrates the democratisation of the skincare and beauty industry, from the exclusive innovator through to the high street hero and into the bargain aisle; all equally iconic categories in their own right.

The #6 products come in packs that look disruptive and credible, playing into the utilitarian, functional appeal of generic skincare ranges and the cachet of the US drugstore aesthetic.

Supermarket brands have a heritage in this space – such as Waitrose’s Pure, Marks & Spencer’s Formula, Asda’s Nspa and Sainsbury’s Source of Nature – and have earned high levels of trust and quality assurance through their other products and brand values. Poundland doesn’t have this heritage, although at £1 a go, it’s a very low risk purchase.

Nestled in between the grab bags of Doritos and the seasonal special offers, #6 will stand out in store and get people talking about the range, which includes an anti-ageing day cream, a night cream, a cleansing water, an eye cream, a derma serum and a collagen filler.

All six products in Poundland’s skincare collection are made from up-to-date ingredients like algae extract, hyaluronic acid, collagen, ceramide and sweet almond oil.

The “anti-ageing” claims, however don’t sound quite so contemporary. I thought we had moved on from a time when age was a condition we had to battle against? Maybe in Poundland the war is still raging – the retailer’s head of glamour, Holly Mobley, says brightly: “We spent a lot of time ironing out the wrinkles to develop a range to fit all budgets.”

Poundland’s move into skincare is a reflection of our buying habits. The middle ground is being squeezed, with the result that consumers are either flocking to the uber-luxe category, or seeking out the “you’ll never guess where I got this” bargains at the other end of the scale.

Even Kim Kardashian claims to use some pretty generic products, like an eye cream you can buy at Tesco for £6, and a £9.99 cleanser from Boots. Aldi’s Lacura range, including an exfoliating mud mask for £5.99 and a £3.99 hot cloth cleanser, sold out almost instantly when it launched on Mother’s Day, and was restocked for the summer.

We also know that consumers are nervous about trying something that may not suit them, and at least with cheap ranges you haven’t wasted £50 or more. If it doesn’t work for you, Poundland’s £1 price tag is unlikely to be a big deal.

Consumers are used to finding high quality skincare at rock bottom prices, so #6 could well be a hit for Poundland. Many of the big global companies use the same laboratories to develop their exclusive ranges as they do for their high street offerings: L’Oreal owns Lancôme and Maybelline, for example, while Revlon, as well as its eponymous label, also owns upmarket brand Elizabeth Arden.

At the same time, a host of reasonably priced brands, like The Ordinary, are ready to make the most of the latest innovations as soon as the drug companies’ legal monopolies expire.

Poundland’s #6 launch is a sign that the brand is in good health, particularly against a backdrop of the collapse of rival Poundworld, and tough times for the British high street, with House of Fraser now run by Sports Direct, Marks & Spencer closing stores, and John Lewis forecasting zero profits.

It’s a smart move, too, when retailers are looking to eke out revenue wherever they can. GlobalData forecasts that the beauty market will be worth £26.7 billion by 2022, thanks to 21% growth over five years. The category is also more resilient than many to the internet retailers, with 10% of skincare and beauty sales still expected take place in store in 2022, which makes it a strong category for a bricks and mortar retailer like Poundland.

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