The Interview: Space NK's CEO Andy Lightfoot on its first-ever double-level store
Space NK has recently opened a new store at 3 Neal Street in Covent Garden. Making history for the retailer, the location is Space NK's first-ever double-level store. Spanning 2,000 sq ft, the upsized unit provides a bigger floorspace for its portfolio of products.
In an exclusive interview with TheIndustry.beauty, Space NK's CEO Andy Lightfoot speaks about the new store, what makes it different from its existing locations, why Covent Garden is a great area and more.
Before we talk about the new store, I'd love to find out a bit about yourself. How long have you been at Space NK and what were you doing before you joined?
I've been at Space NK for coming up to five and a half years and I've been CEO for just over three years. I joined originally to lead the ecommerce business, particularly a transformation project.
I've had quite a varied background but I’ve always been in retail. Prior to Space NK, I was at Arcadia. Before that I was at Amazon for about six years and I really grew with that business. I was the 103rd employee in the UK and left when there was around 4,500 in head office - a lot has happened in the last 12 years.
So, what drew you into beauty and Space NK?
I've worked in lots of different categories including fashion, music, electronics. What draws me is companies with a story and with opportunity. When I joined Space NK, I was really convinced by what they were trying to do with the brand.
I didn't really know a lot about beauty before, so it's been a voyage of discovery for me to learn about the products, the brands and the founders. But what I love about it is that, as a CEO and as a strategist, you can really feel the impact of what you're doing in this sector.
This new store is Space NK's first double-level unit, but you had another store in Covent Garden before this right?
We did. This is a relocation. We had been there for about nine years, but we saw an opportunity to get into a better location. When we originally looked at this store, we came downstairs and it was a skate pop-up. Quite a lot of basements can often be a bit oppressive but we saw this space with these great industrial features. So, we said we wanted to keep this and it just felt like the opportunity to do something different.
So, the aesthetic features of the new store were a big pull. Was there anything else that drew you into wanting two floors?
Space! It gives us twice the space. When we look at new stores, we're now looking at bigger spaces because our selection has expanded and we've got so many amazing brands that we need to make sure we've got the space for.
Other than the double-level unit, is there anything else different about this store compared to other Space NK locations?
We took a lot of feedback over quite a long period to find out what our customers liked and what they didn't like about our store environment. One of the pieces we got feedback on, which was pretty universal, was that it felt a bit clinical. When you get big walls of shelves, it can be difficult to pick out where one brand ends and another brand starts. As packaging has got more colourful, this has become easier. However, with traditional white packaging, you can have a sea of white boxes.
So, we've done a couple of things at this store to help. First, we've got a different floor. We've chose a lighter floor rather than our traditional floors that are dark oak. We put it in a herringbone too, which is a small detail, but it draws the eye-line through the store instead of the linear planking that we traditionally have. We have also used a warm accent colour on the walls. We've used pink to try and give a contrast to the white stands. If the walls were white, it would be a lot colder in the basement.
We're also using a lot more imagery around the store and have changed the way we merchandise the brands. So, it's now much easier to differentiate where one brand starts and another ends.
How do you decide what is featured in your stores?
It varies by store and we look at customer shopping behaviours and try and get our new brands into as many stores as we can too. However, even with these big new brands we have got to make sure we have good stock supply. So, we generally start small and then expand over 6-12 months.
In January, Space NK announced its partnership with Handle to house a number of in-store recycling points at select locations. Is this available in your new store?
Yes. We have these collection points at our warehouse and our offices too. Our intention is to roll it out to all of our stores. The partnership is part of our better space project and sustainability focus. Our whole ethos is that we reduce, reuse and recycle. We reuse anything that we can and we recycle those things we can't use. Handle is a brilliant partner - we felt we had the same ethos and I think the brand's products are beautiful as well.
How do you feel about the store finally opening and being able to welcome customers?
I'm delighted! I'm so proud of the team and what they've done. They've achieved all the things we set out to achieve and I think it looks beautiful. I've been here throughout the week, popping my head in and giving them my support. When the store opens, you don't always appreciate how much work it takes to get everything looking this good.
As CEO, what other involvement did you have in the creation of the new store?
My main job is to actually stay away. However, as we've got new design elements, I was involved in those. So, we talked a lot about the floor and the colours. We also talked a lot about how we are going to entice people downstairs. But really, my job is to help my teams execute.
Looking at the wonderful location of Covent Garden, which was home to the first Space NK store, how does it feel to develop Space NK's presence in an area that is quite historical for the retailer?
Very exciting! Covent Garden was the genesis. We've had a store here for 27 years in a few different locations. I think we will always be here as it's essentially our home.
It's great to see how busy it is, how many people are out shopping and how well London's central locations have rebounded. When we were planning this, we thought it would take a while to get going because even in January, footwall was still low in the city. However, today's been great! We've had lots of people shopping and lots of new and old customers coming in. It's brilliant!
So, how successful is Covent Garden for Space NK?
It's a really good area. Covent Garden is a very important location and I couldn't imagine us not having a presence here. It offers a different selection of stores, as well as a lot of stores that you don't get together anywhere else. It's unique.
Keeping on the subject of location, are there any plans to open additional double-level Space NK stores in the future?
I think that this store will be a very interesting test. In terms of how well this works and how well we can get people to flow between the two floors, it will likely dictate whether we do more. So, we'll be watching this with real interest and if it works, I think for certain we would look at doing more. It also really depends on the buildings. Some of our stores already have other floors. So, if this works we might look at some of those and add retail space perhaps.
Finally, how does in-store retail compare to ecommerce for Space NK?
Ecommerce equates to just over half of our business now, but stores are incredibly important! Thinking about the idea that "the high street is dead", you only have to walk around Covent Garden and see that it really isn't - It's doing well.
For Space NK, it's all about allowing customers to shop how, when and where they like. In-store and ecommerce fit together. You've got the convenience of ecommerce but then the discovery of being in a store. In-store there's the smell, texture, shade-matching and all of these things that are important parts of shopping. For me, I really want to go into a shop and have an emotional connection. I think in-store retail is really important.