Former John Lewis Buyer Rebecca Saunders Opens London Pop-Up Shop Seekology To Showcase Emerging Beauty Brands
Seekology is definitely not your average Boots.
The pop-up concept store in London’s Richmond area displays merchandise on tables rather than shelves and presents emerging brands with descriptions sharing their reasons for being. Beauty products such as face oils and anti-pollution cleansers comprise most of the selection, but customers can find wellness and home items like yoga mats, candles and supplements, too.
Seekology founder Rebecca Saunders, formerly buyer for premium beauty at John Lewis, is out to foster an intimate, personal retail atmosphere that’s the antidote of huge store chains and Amazon. She says, “I really think that there’s a great opportunity to create something different on a high street that’s focused around the discovery of new brands, but also a really inspiring environment that enables the storytelling of those brands.”
At the outset, the brands featured in the 800-square-foot Seekology space are based in the United Kingdom, although Saunders figures the geographic reach could expand in the future. For the majority of the brands in its assortment, Seekology marks their retail debuts. While brands largely start online today, Saunders believes brick-and-mortar environments remain crucial for founders to interact with customers and build audiences. Seekology has a packed schedule of events, and it invites founders to come in to discuss how they launched their brands, and the challenges and possibilities of embarking on significant career changes.
“I always felt that there was a missed opportunity in beauty where, actually, most sales still take place in the stores because customers want to feel the product or smell it or put it on their hands,” says Saunders. “A platform that was online-only wouldn’t necessarily serve their brands in the best way.”
“There’s a great opportunity to create something different on a high street that’s focused around the discovery of new brands.”
She doesn’t just talk about the importance of founders meeting customers. Saunders puts it at the center of Seekology’s business model. When scouting for brands to include in the store, which she generally learns about through word of mouth, connections and referrals, she ensures their founders are willing to show up at the store and become a member of the community it’s cultivating. Beyond the involvement of founders, Saunders looks for brands with effective products, standout positioning and packaging, and entrepreneurial ambition. She’s keen on introducing the big brands of tomorrow.
Seekology has assembled a premium assortment. Rather than hunt for brands that stick to specific price points, Saunders honed in on products that represent good values to encourage customers they’d be worthwhile investments to spend on.
Anti-pollution product specialist Freya and Bailey, and bath, home and body product purveyor Lavender & Lillie are early bestsellers. Speaking of Lavender & Lillie, Saunders says, “That’s a great product with a great story, but it’s also got fantastic packaging. It really illustrates how important packaging of a brand is.”
Another popular brand has been Kind2, a producer of solid shampoo and conditioner bars. The brand is an ideal fit for Seekology’s target demographic of women aged 30 years old and above that Saunders says are “interested in the provenance of their products and in trends around sustainability, natural and organic products without compromising on style or quality.”
“Customers nowadays shop across all channels and, as a part of that journey, they could be discovering a brand or a proposition on one channel and, then, actually making the purchase on another.”
As vital as Saunders holds brick-and-mortar stores to be, she maintains it’s crucial to provide consumers multiple purchasing options. Seekology will be unveiling an online marketplace soon. Saunders says, “Customers nowadays shop across all channels and, as a part of that journey, they could be discovering a brand or a proposition on one channel and, then, actually making the purchase on another…All of the most successful retailers in the U.K. at the moment are retailers that have a very strong offer both on and offline.”
Seekology’s current lease is up in three months, but Saunders’ goal is for it to stay around longer. She’s planning to bring in additional brands and rotate out some existing lines to clear room for newness. The merchandising strategy is designed to imbue Seekology with freshness and seasonally-relevant products, and give brands flexibility. They have the leeway to try Seekology for a few weeks.
“At the moment, we have a lot of brands that are more focused on Christmas gifting for obvious reasons,” says Saunders. “Whereas, when it comes to January, we might have slightly more of a tilt toward health and wellbeing because that’s what’s going to appeal to consumers at that time.”