Peter Macnab: Superdrug boss leads main street response | Retail business



The beauty market got a makeover during the pandemic. Department stores are losing what little influence they have, and social media is increasingly the place to try and buy skincare, cosmetics and perfumes.

With TikTok and Instagram now holding much more influence than white-coat beauty assistants, it might not be surprising that Boots are for sale, Debenhams – once one of the Kingdom’s leading beauty retailers. -Uni – has left Main Street and the home of Fraser and John Lewis are in retreat.

Against all this, Peter Macnab tries to lead a response in the street. The boss of the Superdrug and Savers chains has for mission to weave physical stores with the online world.

The 64-year-old Scotsman began his career with the now defunct supermarket chain Safeway in 1972, carrying paper shopping bags to customers’ cars. Today, he oversees a digital integration project that allows Superdrug to offer two-hour delivery for online orders or in-store pickup within 30 minutes.

Last month, the 800-store chain introduced “the never-ending aisle” – where shoppers who can’t find what they want in the store can order it at checkout for home delivery. Macnab calls it “o and o”: online and offline working together.

“People are worried that o and o will get watered down offline, but it isn’t,” Macnab says, as he walks around the Superdrug in Northamptonshire’s Rushden Lakes shopping center. “The online shopper spends more with us if they are also offline than if they are only online.”

This coordination has proven to be essential given that buyers have not returned to the streets in the same number as before the pandemic. Macnab says the cancellation of many Christmas parties means customers


Age 64

Family married with two grown children and two grandchildren.

Education Victoria Drive High School, Scotstoun, Glasgow.

To pay “We are a private company. The highest-paid director received £ 1.45million in pay and benefits last year.

Last holidays A family trip to Mallorca: “It was wonderful.

The best advice you have ever received “Listen to your customer. This is something that I have tried to achieve at all stages of my retail career. I still spend a lot of my time traveling the country, going to our stores and walking the workshops – it’s by talking to customers that we are able to respond, grow and be successful.

Biggest career mistake “I left AS Watson in 2005 for a few years.

Word he abuses “It’s a tough question, but I hope it’s thank you. I think it’s so important to pause and acknowledge and thank. Come to think of it though, those two words can never really be overused.

How he relaxes Spending time with the grandchildren.

are also less likely to buy mascara and lipstick, but still expects a “good Christmas.”

As some businesses are downsizing, discount chain Savers plans to open 50 more stores. Superdrug will open 15 mainly larger stores, where it can offer more services to attract trade.

Macnab says he’s “not depressed about the shopping streets,” but believes the government needs to support retailers by doing something about “insanely high” business rates. “We have stores that pay more rates than rent and that was never intended. It is a really urgent situation. Many businesses, not just small independent businesses, need much fairer pricing. “

He is not a fan of an online sales tax – a possibility the government is exploring. Macnab says it would just be passed on to consumers. Instead, he would prefer much more frequent revaluations of corporate rates, potentially every year compared to the current five years.

Macnab’s other tactic for attracting punters is a range of services that cannot be found online. Superdrug offers ear piercing in over 200 stores, has 300 nail bars, and is experimenting with barbers or hairdressers in multiple locations. He has also trained 200 pharmacists to offer free consultations for skin conditions such as acne – the kind of service that can be difficult to access through a general practitioner.

During the pandemic, the 100 nurses at Superdrug donated vaccines. The company reached over 200,000 people and was the first chain of stores to offer boosters.

Nonetheless, the pandemic has taken its toll on the beauty empire, which is owned by Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings. Sales fell 15% last year – to £ 1.1bn from £ 1.3bn a year – and Superdrug has closed 13 stores net. Pre-tax profits fell 79% to £ 18.8million. At Savers, sales fell 6% to £ 536million while pre-tax profits fell 20% to £ 40.3million.

Supply chain issues and fears over the Omicron variant have hit global trade again this year, but there are some bright spots: Fragrance sales are up more than 10% year-on-year. last, because buyers who could not sniff their favorite perfume during the 2020 containment returned in droves.

Superdrug is targeting Debenhams’ £ 800million share of the beauty market, part of which is up for grabs since she left Main Street under new owner Boohoo. “That’s a lot of business to do by the way,” Macnab said. “Some will have gone online, but at Christmas people trust stores more. This is an opportunity for us. “

Macnab’s nearly 50 years of in-store experience, including decades in beauty retail, have helped him organize the response. He joined Savers in 1997, when it only had 24 stores, and was part of the management team when it was acquired by Hong Kong retailer AS Watson in 2000. He took over as management of Savers in 2011 , helping the fledgling chain to win a big chunk. market share before adding Superdrug to its role three years later.

Hopping into the Rushden Lakes store, Macnab is clearly excited to come up with ideas that will appeal to punters and fill in the market gaps that bigger rivals have missed.

Each store has Facebook and TikTok feeds that anyone can post to, so staff can tell customers about offers or products that will appeal locally.

Macnab’s strengths are Japanese skincare brand Hada Labo – which Superdrug stocks exclusively in the UK – and skincare brand B, which aims to create creams that compare well to many versions. more expensive.

“What I like is the effect of beauty products on people. It’s amazing how they lift their spirits, ”he said.



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