Speaker in the Spotlight

Session: Targeting the Buyers

When: Sunday 23 February at 11.40am

With: George Hammer, Chairman of Urban Retreat at Harrods; Jacqui Wilsher Ellis, Head of Space Planning for Health & Beauty for Debenhams

Give us a quick snapshot of Urban Retreat's business.

Urban Retreat occupies around 20,000 square feet in Harrods, where we are their exclusive salon and spa operator. We employ around 250 people, and are one of the biggest salon operators in the world. We have also acquired a majority stake in the London School of Beauty and Make-up, London’s most important beauty school, which I intend to build into the industry’s prime beauty education hub.

What have been your big success stories in capturing new markets?

I think our success lies in having lots of initiatives over the years. We pioneered a whole new market with the opening of the Sanctuary in the 1970s in Covent Garden. We did the same with brands such as Aveda, L’Occitane, Philip Kingsley and Leighton Denny.

With Urban Retreat, we have broken into new markets through initiatives in high-end perfumery, partnering with fragrance expert Roja Dove to open the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie. Other initiatives include the Urban Retreat Body Clinic. What distinguishes Urban Retreat from other companies is that we harness all care services under one umbrella. For example, in terms of hair, we don’t simply offer haircuts but every single hair service available.

We were the first company to express a serious interest in all four sectors of the industry – beauty, hair, retail and spa. Whereas for the most part companies specialize in one particular area, we are strong on each of these four fronts. Our next initiative involves innovating the market for beauty, spa and nail education.

Did you pursue different strategies in targeting department stores vs. multiple retailers?

Every sector of the market needs a different strategy. There is no such thing as a common strategy that will work across all markets.

What are the key ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for breaking into new markets?

The ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of breaking into new markets are inextricably linked. Simply put, the main ‘do’ is you can only launch once, so do it right. Most people don’t launch effectively - the main ‘don’t’ is don’t mess up the launch!

What can we expect from your session?

You can expect a real insight into how I’ve forged my path in beauty and made it a success. I will share the best practices and, with examples, illustrate what I’ve done to achieve success, and how I’ve consistently executed successful businesses in the beauty sector.

What discussions do you hope to provoke with your talk?

I expect a lively Q&A session and so I will leave plenty of time for the delegates to ask me questions. The talk can be as exciting as they want it to be; it’s all down to the audience!

What are you most looking forward to at the forum?

I’m most looking forward to some interesting and challenging questions from my audience.



Find out more about George Hammer's Urban Retreat here: www.urbanretreat.co.uk