High Street newcomer: Nature Republic

When Retail Insider attended the UK launch of South Korea’s major beauty brand Nature Republic in central London a few weeks ago several key differences with the usual beauty retailing sector in the UK were noticeable.

At a time when companies are increasingly thinking local, Nature Republic has a list of key ingredients, upon which its core range is based, that is unashamedly global in nature. Walking around the small Charing Cross Road-based shop is like going on a wishlist of travel destinations and this has been a feature of the brand story since its creation in 2009.

The first Nature Republic shop in the UK

In Korea, Nature Republic has cleverly tapped into huge concerns around pollution and pollutants together with the desire of many people to return to a pristine natural environment where the air/water are seemingly untouched by humans. This search for paradise is coupled with the identification of ingredients which have been used for thousands of years by humans like Aloe Vera (California) and Hibiscus (Hawaii).

This has a particular resonance in Asia, and especially China, after various adulteration scandals meaning consumers there are far more likely to trust ingredients with an ancient heritage.

The brand therefore literally goes to the ends of the earth to get its ingredients. Sparkling spring water comes from Jeju Island in South Korea, glacier water comes from Iceland. Marine collagen (no, we have no idea either) is from Indonesia. Deep sea water is brought up from 900m below in Kona and the Centella Asiatica, a herb which is recommended for soothing skin, is from Madagascar.

Nature Republic takes ingredients from extreme places such as the dry deserts of Africa for its moisturising Shea butter and by using products that thrive in that extreme make the connection with what it can achieve on the skin – this direct linking is a fairly fresh angle for the UK consumer who has not in the past had a huge focus on where ingredients come from. However as a spokesman said “The UK is truly progressive beauty market, with consumers armed with a lot of industry knowledge and desire to find the next big thing in beauty. We wanted to reach these beauty aficionados as the prestige marquee ‘K-Beauty’ brand”.

Nature Republic will be hoping that the next big thing could be its Aloe Vera Soothing Gel range – so popular in the shopping malls of China where consumers suffering the ill effects of extreme air pollution on their skin buy up millions of units per day.

Facemask packs from Nature Republic

Having said all that, Retail Insider will be watching with interest to see how the sales of the anti-ageing cream featuring ‘snail secretions’ from France go – although it is quite refreshing to see a company not even try to dress that ingredient up as something more appealing than it actually is. Probably a sign that the Korean customer is less squeamish about the more animalistic part of the natural world than their western counterpart.

Another commercial strategy which will seem strange to the UK market is the brand’s use of male boy bands to actively promote the use of its wares which are largely female-focused. At the launch the shop was dotted with cardboard cut outs of the band EXO which Korean customers were then photographed next to. Managing Director of Nature Republic Yujin Jung told Retail Insider “We have been using EXO since 2013 to attract female customers, who are willing to use the same products as their idols. It has been a great success… our sales always went up drastically whenever we launched a new product with EXO as it triggered people to purchase.”

The range being sold in the UK is not tested on animals although for the more environmentally conscious plastic seems to be the prevalent form of packaging – and more emphasis may well need to be given to this area if the brand wants to continue its journey through western Europe. In terms of the current expansion, Yujin Jung said “Our aim is to increase our footprint across the UK, particularly in major cities such as Manchester.”