Lush: A lesson in value

I’ve recently returned home to London for a round of familial birthdays, culminating with my mother’s birthday yesterday. It just so happened that the day before, I took my sister into town to see Avatar in 3D. While there, I decided to stop off at Covent Garden to peruse the shops and market stalls there, to see if I could find a last minute present suitable for mummy dearest. I circled Covent Garden a couple of times, before visiting Lush, as out of all of the shops there, it was by far the most inviting.

I’ve never ‘been to’ a Lush store before, at least never with the intention of buying anything. I’d heard from a fellow vegan that they stock vegan conditioner, which is elusive, to say the least, so I decided to pay them a visit on the off-chance that I’d also find something for my mum. I was right. It was certainly an experience, and it was a wonderful demonstration of how retailers can go about creating value to entice customers, and get them excited about shopping, which is something I think they do brilliantly.

As I’m sure many of us are aware, Lush is a smelly shop. As much of their wares aren’t packaged, their smells are free to waft in and around their shops. This is primarily what makes Lush more enticing than other retailers, as I say above. At this particular store, there was actually an exhaust vent below the window outside, which was blowing out fragrant, fruity, soapy-smelling air. I’m sure this turns a lot of heads, and certainly attracts many to investigate the source of these lovely smells. As a result, when you enter a Lush store, it’s more than likely you’ll be in a good mood, as you’ll be smelling what Lush want you to smell. It’s a veritable onslaught on your senses, which is something you don’t really see (or smell!) anywhere outside of department stores.

Once I was inside, I went about searching for this vegan conditioner I had in mind. When I found the section for haircare, I was approached by a bubbly lass who asked if I needed any help. I stress that she was bubbly. She was smiling, and seemed as if she was genuinely enjoying being at work, much like the other staff I saw. This is brilliant. A glum demeanour is infectious, and is a sure-fire way to put people off shopping. On the other hand, smiles are also infectious, and put people at ease. Combined with the incensed smells circulating the shop, this adds greatly to the ‘chill-out’ factor, and almost changes the motivation of each visit from a shopping trip, to an adventure. Together, I explored the various shampoos and conditioners with the sales assistant, who was rather enthusiastic for me to sample (smell) each individual product. More than this, she seemed to possess a great deal of product knowledge on all the products in-store, knowing instantly what shampoo to recommend for my thick, frizzy hair. It came about that this was because our assistant had a great many Lush products at home. I don’t know if Lush operate a policy of handing out samples to their staff, so they can get a feel of the products they’re selling, but it’s definitely a good idea. She also knew off-hand which of the products on display were vegan, which was a great relief, in saving me the trouble of scanning lists of ingredients. In the end, I settled on a shampoo ‘bar’ (which I’m still excited about) and a sample of conditioner, which was given to me for free.

After this, when asked if we would like help with anything else, my sister and I revealed our true purpose. As soon as it was discovered that my mum has a penchant for hand cream, we were whisked away, by the same assistant, to another part of the shop. She even got someone else to cover her ‘station’, so she could accompany us, which was lovely of her. We then went through the same routine of sampling, and smelling individual hand creams, which again we were ensured were vegan. On asking for a moisturising cream, our needs were also suitably catered for. I’m no good at shopping, as was made clear by my sister, who soon decided on a cream made in Gurugu, Ghana. We were soon on our way to the cash register. All in all, a streamlined, pleasant shopping experience.

The process of paying was in itself, also a pleasant experience, which might seem a little ironic. The bubbly, beaming girl at the till seemed to possess the expert product knowledge of her colleague, as while ringing up my purchases, she informed me that the sample of conditioner I was given was perhaps a little too thin for my hair. She suggested another conditioner I try out on my next visit.

Suffice to say, I left the shop with a smile. Ultimately, it was a very pleasant experience, and I’m sure to go back there in the future. The products are great (I’ve probably used the hand cream more than my mother) and the overall shopping experience was generally enthusing. On leaving, I commented to my sister that everyone working in the store was ‘very kind’, and she replied that it must be a lot of fun to work there. I suppose she’s right. It was apparent that it was a pleasant place in which to work, and I think this is essential if you want to get shoppers to enjoy shopping with you. It’s not just a shopping trip, it’s an experience as well, to boot. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I want to go back there to buy conditioner, or to be ‘nursed’ back into a good mood. That’s good marketing.


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