Retail safari: inside the Glossier London pop-up (updated)

Glossier retail store design

I finally made it to the Glossier London pop-up in Covent Garden. It’s been open for seven weeks and it closes on 9th Feb* at the end of the year, but I wanted to get the Christmas crowds out of the way. And the wait was worth it. Glossier is as famous for its pop-ups as its cult-like community and influential cool-luxe aesthetic. Having started out as an e-commerce brand, it has slowly built a strategy of opening pop-ups in key markets to test our products, meet its customers and build hype around the brand.

With still only 36 products in the line, the five-year-old old brand is still small, but the appeal is huge. It feels intimate because in the main, its fans have been along for the journey. They remember the launches and have often been involved in crowdsourcing products that fulfill their needs. So they are extremely engaged customers. In the U.S, it’s common to see permanent queues around the block in the manner of Supreme or Palace skate wear, something pretty unheard of in beauty until Glossier came along. And what’s smart is that every pop-up is different. The decor is site-specific, there are usually plenty of Instagrammable areas and the space is less transactional boutique and more tourist destination where the souvenir is a cute beauty must-have.

Glossier London pop-up decor

LOCATION The London Glossier pop-up is in Floral Street, in the heart of Covent Garden, in what’s become known as the Beauty Quarter. As such, the walls, soft furnishings and underfoot are smothered in Glossier-logo-ed kitsch floral print (think Liberty-print on steroids). It’s genius Insta-fodder. There are three or four rooms bedecked in florals, with very tidy counters of product equipped with every cotton pad, spoolie, spatula and applicator you could want. Away from the counters are full-length mirrors placed for perfect selfies and Boomerangs, and right at the back is a room whose sole purpose seems to be a backdrop for Instagram, decorated like a candy-coated London roofscape.

QUEUE OR NO QUEUE From what I’ve seen, during busy times entries are staggered causing long queues. That’s annoying but means you get a nicer, calmer, almost VIP-like experience when you go in. If possible, get there early (I arrived at 10.30am on a Tuesday and walked straight in) for the most unhurried experience.

THE INTERIOR The decor is made for Instagram, which you expect of course but it still makes you want to whip your phone out to photography the logo wallpaper, kitsch carpet, cute mirror emojis and the rest. There are lots of mirrors; full-length selfie mirrors, wall mirrors, hand mirrors. The lighting is excellent but the coloured wallpaper means that it’s marginally better in some rooms than others. But it feels intimate enough that it’s no bother to flit from one room to another to try products in different mirrors.

Glossier London Pop-up Floral Street

THE SERVICE Everyone is young and cool, wearing the signature pink jumpsuits. There are lots of staff (called ‘offline editors’) but the vibe is friendly yet informal (but not sloppy). You’re not accosted, but feel that help is at hand if you need it. The only thing lacking is the sense of expertise. Like, are these ‘offline editors’ all trained make-up artists? Would they have the answer to my skincare dilemma? That bit isn’t clear so it might be helpful to have a notice on the walls to explain as it’s so not your average beauty counter experience. However there is very little messaging in the store overall, which is surely intentional.

THE CUSTOMERS It was quiet when i arrived but got increasingly busier over the next half hour. It’s predominantly teens and millennials with a few mums in tow.

THE PRODUCT I’m frankly amazed how many things I wanted when I saw the products in the flesh. I’m not an online beauty shopper so I’ve not bought much Glossier before. But like most, I’m more than familiar with everything having seen them on relentless targeted Facebook and Insta ads. I tried the Stretch Concealer (gorgeous moist texture, sheer coverage), Boy Brow (loved the teeny brush), Milky Jelly Cleanser (bought), Glossier You fragrance (fresh and girly rather than the unisex musk I was hoping for) and Futuredew oil serum (very tempted by it but saving for another day). I also loved the Cloud Paint blushers in their cute paint tubes (much sheerer than expected) but decided to swerve, as I do not need any more blushers.

There’s a weird urgency to buy something, knowing that you can’t easily pop back to buy, but equally, I think that’s only if you know the brand already. If you were a passer-by coming in to see what the fuss was about, I think you would be bemused at the minimalist ‘Emperors New Clothes’-ness of it all. Ah, the power of marketing!

Glossier Futuredew
Glossier Cloud Paint

THE TRANSACTION In true millennial, direct-to-consumer style, there’s no till. Purchases are made via iPad Mini (fast and frictionless) and you pay by card. When your item is ready (within a few minutes, just take a pew on a kitsch floral couch), your name is called at the hatch. I’m not a fan of the ‘cashless society’ we’re being forced into, but I can see how it benefits businesses. It makes transactions happen faster and painlessly, which means more sales. And potentially more footfall.

THE PACKAGING And to take away, you get your product delivered in signature pink bubblewrap, with a free sample and a sticker. It feels more like a party favour than something you paid for, which is clearly all part of the strategy. Gotta say, the attention to detail is outstanding. (Although not without flaw; the plastic bubble wrap has come in for plenty of criticism.)

With Glossier pushing further into the mainstream, it’s clear that visibility in physical retail spaces is part of the plan. It recently opened spaces in seven Nordstrom stores to sell its Glossier You perfume and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a full-experience Glossier outpost in a store like Selfridges some time soon.

Glossier London is open until 9th February at 13 Floral Street, WC2E 9DH. [UPATE! Retail Week reports that the Glossier store will remain open until the end of 2020.]

[UPDATE August 2020: The store is now closed.]

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Inside the Glossier London pop-up by Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links* and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

CLICK HERE to get Disneyrollergirl blog posts straight to your inbox once a week
CLICK HERE to buy my book The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman