Movers & Shakers Q&A – Joel Palix, CEO, Feelunique

Movers and Shakers 2014 Front Cover

Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Joel Palix, CEO, Feelunique

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

Our greatest opportunity is to build our core UK market. It is the fastest growing economy in Europe with a booming beauty business growing by 6% a year and the most-advanced e-commerce market too. Feelunique is the leading premium beauty online retailer in UK, growing above 30% a year. We want to be “The destination for beauty” and already offer 500 brands and more than 20,000 products allowing consumers to have a one-stop shopping experience with many tools to select the product that makes you feel beautiful and unique.

We are introducing new brands all the time including Clinique, Estee Lauder, Aveda, Vichy, La Roche Posay, Victor & Rolf, and Laura Geller in 2014. We are also pioneering the launch of digital beauty brands such as Zoella and Tanya Burr.


2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

Biggest challenge is to replicate our UK success into international markets. Luxury brands require selective distribution agreements to sell their products locally, assortments and payment systems need local adaptations, and currency fluctuations have negatively impacted our business on emerging markets this year. Strongest potential for us is Europe where we have recently launched translated sites in French, German and Spanish and seen good growth there.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

We have still to fully embrace social shopping. We just changed the way we present ourselves and dialogue with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audiences. We can enrich further the level of interaction on the site and give more freedom to our consumers when expressing opinions on products.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

For physical goods, I expect online beauty business and retail in general to reach around 20 to 25% of total business. It is huge but still means most of the physical stores have a raison d’être. We have some stores in the Channel Islands ourselves and try to create a seamless experience with our customers between online and offline. Clearly stores will need to be more spectacular in design, offering a unique experience and live services to motivate the consumer to come and shop. In the beauty business they will need to go beyond distributing products and become a place for revealing, demonstrating, educating, applying and delivering products.

5. What will the high street look like in a decade?

The more people shop online the more they need to have fun and entertainment outside too. The high street in 10 years will mean less banks and travel agencies surely, no more me-too fashion stores but many cafés, gaming places, beauty spas, and social hubs. There will be incredible stores offering top designs, unique fun and strong interaction. We should not be afraid of such evolution. Think of how high streets have evolved in the last 50 years, shopping environments adapt at the same time as people.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

Mobile devices represent 50% of visits on Feelunique already. Current mobile devices offer a qualitative shopping experience and it is not going to stop. In the future devices will include projection and augmented reality tools that will allow you to interact with multiple and bigger images. Mobile purchasing will soon become the primary sales channel because you want to shop when you talk, read, see, share and that is anywhere, anytime.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Most of my professional experience has been with beauty and luxury brands. I admire brands that have managed to integrate the retail culture while still mastering their product and positioning. Hermes, Jo Malone, and Apple are nice examples. I also admire a few department stores that have managed to reinvent themselves such as Lane Crawford in Hong-Kong or Le Printemps in Paris. I have the highest respect for retailers that stayed faithful to one value which is putting customers first such as Nordstrom in the US and John Lewis in the UK.

8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?

Prior to Feelunique, I enjoyed managing beauty and fashion brands, it requires a long-term view in business which is always challenging in a world which asks for short-term financial results and I find this stimulating. Otherwise I would have loved be an architect. It is the most demanding profession involving a creative side, a financial side and utmost precise planning. Leaving a strong creative mark that can withhold-time and yet having people live and work every day within your creation…what an incredible challenge!

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

I give myself 3 because I have just completed one year in my job as CEO of Feelunique. We agreed with my shareholders on a three-year plan and mission, so only a third has been achieved so far.

10. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?

In terms of companies there are many sites I would place in the top 25 such as Net-a-Porter which revolutionised consumer approach to luxury fashion or Boohoo which seems so well connected to fashion consumers. But the truth is I admire even more ‘service’ sites such as TripAdvisor, Citymapper and AirBnB which have deeply changed the way I live and travel.