Wendy Liebmann: "It's all about a new dynamic social movement to be well"


Wendy Liebmann knows what customers in the USA and South Korea really want. The CEO of New York based consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail gave insights into her latest survey results – here and at the GDI conference "Eternity Now" on 10 May 2019.

Wendy Liebmann

You are just conducting “The big business of WELL” benchmark study in the US and in South Korea. From LA to Seoul, what do customers want?

It has been fascinating to see the cultural differences emerge. In the US it's all about a new dynamic social movement to be Well. In South Korea it is about an integrated wellness lifestyle. One that is quite well established. Where both communities of shoppers converge however is the way they consider Healthy Beauty, their desire for beauty products that make them look healthier, at home beauty treatments and the emerging interest in "clean" beauty.

Which beauty and wellness trends will we soon adapt from South Korea?

We will see more and more of the integration of hydration and nutrition as part of healthy beauty in other countries as we now see in South Korea. Also concerns about the environment will drive new products and services. South Koreans already deal with significant pollution.  And last, "old world" experts, such as acupuncturists and new world digital tools (both important today in Asia) will become more accepted in other countries. We already see that in the US research.

What differentiates the US beauty and wellness industry from the European one?

In the US, holistic health and beauty has become a new, fast social movement that people across demographics – especially but not only younger shoppers like Generation Z – are adopting. It is across many categories, from comfortable fashion to infused waters and foods and clean food and beauty products. In Europe, as in Asia, holistic healthy and beauty has been more a lifestyle for a long time.

Could you please list your current top-3 shopping trends?

In our How America Shops research we see:

  1. Demand for stress-free everything – it is the #1 obstacle to a healthy life and shoppers are doing everything they can to eliminate from their lives
  2. Commoditization of retail, and the final "death of retail channels" – as shoppers buy anything everywhere, driven by both the impact of digital shopping and also the availability of brands in many many locations.
  3. The challenge to big legacy brands as small, indie brands are now trusted in categories as diverse as food, beverages, oral care, and beauty. 

Which innovative beauty retail concepts inspired you most, lately?

The growing number of healthy beauty concepts, like specialty store, WELLECo, and service concepts, such as Madison Reed hair color.

Which shopper behavior surprised you most over the last years?

The growth of "order online-pick up in-store" (click & collect) and then shoppers park their car and actually go in to the store.   When you think about it is actually quite logical.  Our research shows that once they have the "basics" off their shopping list, they then have time to shop and browse for other things, or they may go in to the store because they forgot something.  But surprising none the less.

Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, spoke at the GDI conference "Eternity Now" on 10 May 2019.