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Interview: refreshing change at skincare brand Scrubd

Men’s skincare brand Scrubd has immediately followed up its recent brand reset with the signing of a major deal with upmarket US-based Nordstrom involving product listings… View Article


Interview: refreshing change at skincare brand Scrubd

Men’s skincare brand Scrubd has immediately followed up its recent brand reset with the signing of a major deal with upmarket US-based Nordstrom involving product listings in 60 of its department stores and on its website.

Under the guidance of Darren Williams, interim chief executive of Scrubd and co-founder of Williams Harding Consulting, the UK company is making great progress in boosting its presence both in its domestic market and overseas.

Creating a unique range

Williams joined the company 18 months ago as interim chief operating officer to lend some branding muscle to its founder, a self-confessed soap enthusiast Mark Helvadjian, who formed the company in late 2017 after selling his former business ShippingEasy.

“It was a bit of a labour of love for him flogging soaps to family and friends before he thought they were good enough to market them generally. He then created,” says Williams.

Success in the physical retail channel came swiftly with a launch in London’s Harvey Nichols store but the initial momentum waned a little – not helped by major works at the department store – and the relationship ended.

Meanwhile, the range had been extended beyond soaps to encompass a broader skincare offering revolved around anti-ageing and energising. Helvadjian worked with chemists and skincare specialists for each of the Scrubd products and “the formulas stay true to those original creations,” says Williams.

In late-2018 the brand was given a boost when its anti-ageing serum won the ‘Best Innovation in Anti-ageing’ award from GQ magazine beating off industry heavyweight Clarins. Despite such accolades there was frustration with the lack of sales growth and this was investigated by Williams who pitched up at trade fairs and spoke to retailer as well as competitors in the marketplace to gauge views and insights.

Initiating a brand reset

“It became clear the problem was the packaging. It was beautiful but it was made of glass. It was not practical – because of its potential to break and its heavy weight. Harrods told us they loved the product but that glass was a no-no,” he recalls.

Throughout 2019 the company pushed ahead into various international markets through arrangements with retailers and wholesalers as well as through its own online channel but Williams says it was recognised that the “big to-do” in 2020 was to sort out some new packaging.

During lockdown this year time was spent with the company’s manufacturers – a soap factory in Lewes, East Sussex, and the moisturiser producers in York and Horsham, West Sussex – to create the new packaging.

The energising range of shower products comprising shave cream, face scrub and face wash are now housed in fully recyclable tubes made of sugar cane plastic, and the anti-ageing serum is in new cylinders. The soaps have been switched into single-piece paper wraps.

Alongside the packaging overhaul Williams also undertook a range review and adjusted the pricing structure. Three products were removed from the range including face masks. “It was lovely to have them in the range but they did not sell. Also oak moss and spearmint soap went,” says Williams, who adds that a June sale with 20% reductions was used to clear out much of the old range with the remaining stock sold onto TK Maxx. This cleared the path for an official launch of the new look range on 1 August.

Making a big splash in the US

Throughout the brand reset period Scrubd has retained its relationships with its retailer customers including Six and Sons in the Netherlands and Wasted Talent Boutique in France. But the big news is the addition of Nordstrom, with the Scrubd range having hit its US stores in late-October. The whole range has gone into 40 outlets, while 20 are taking just the gift items, and the full range is also available on the US retailer’s website.

“Nordstrom is exciting and we need to make it successful. I think gifting will be massive with them. It’s certainly the biggest thing the brand has ever done to date,” says a very excited Williams.

The deal also includes Nordstrom having an exclusive relationship with Scrubd in the US market, which involves Scrubd stopping shipping online orders into the US from its UK-based online operation. This will not affect the company’s existing online sales too much as overseas orders only account for 5% of its turnover. This forms part of the 30-40% of total company sales that are derived from the online channel.

This online customer base is very loyal, according to Williams, who says they are “faithful to the range” and spend an average of £75 per order. Although these customers are recognised when they hit the site, he says the Scrubd CRM system is improving and engagement will advance over time.

Growth opportunities

Online revenue currently accounts for the vast bulk of UK sales, which surprisingly represents only 30% of total company sales. The fact that overseas markets generate as much as 70% of sales highlights how much traction the company has made internationally but it also shows how much of an opportunity exists for growth within the company’s home market.

“We’ve not had the bandwidth to build a UK presence – beyond our own website. We do also sell through the online sites of Wolf & Badger and LoveLula but there is no physical presence in the UK. We will look to address this in 2021. We would love to work with Selfridges and Harrods but we know the buyers have had other issues to deal with this year,” acknowledges Williams.

Words by Glynn Davis

Hear Darren Williams speak at The Future of Retail Customer Engagement Webinar on 18 November. Register free of charge here

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