Lush Oxford Street: First and Second Impressions

It would take but a little scrolling from a novice SWB reader to discover that I am an unabashed Lush fan. I use a multitude of their products on a daily basis, support their ethics and love their innovative and fabulous cosmetic creations. When I saw the teasers for their new flagship store flash up across their various social media accounts, I knew that I would have to visit as soon as I could after launch day. Rumours flew of a colossal unit with vast displays full of mountains of new, exclusive products; of a store filled with innovative features quite unlike any other Lush shop worldwide. I wanted to see it all for myself.

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The Oxford Street store is located about two minutes walk eastwards along Oxford Street from Oxford Circus tube station, just next door to Marks and Spencer. The chic black frontage stands prominently between the other name brands, but the experience inside is quite other. The front of the shop peels open, unencumbered by dressed, inaccessible windows. The whole feel of the place, as with all Lush outlets, is hands on. Even in the heart of the busy city, Lush unabashedly wants you to touch all of the things.

The unit itself goes back and back and is truly vast. Set over three floors, the new store has plenty of room for elaborate displays featuring live plants (to highlight the ingredients of their neighbouring products), countless sinks for demos of the new innovations and lofty display units to fill the space floor-to-ceiling with eye-catching colour.

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As you enter on the ground floor, an enormous round demo sink greets you to the left (and is usually populated with one of the new bath bombs), with handcare and deodorants on the right. On entering the store on my first visit, I was instantly greeted by a staff member and treated to an on-the-spot hand massage and treatment featuring two of the new products (Salted Coconut Scrub and Elbow Grease). This area also houses the hand/body lotions, and here I noticed that some staple products have been given a better size range. They now come in a half size, and a double size, modelled below by the ever charismatic Simon.

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After handcare, you progress past the stairs and haircare into the back part of the shop, which is full of skin care, facial skin care, a vast display of soaps and shower products, the all new make up sections and mouth care.

Let me break that down a little, and it will have to be a little because, despite have spent hours in Oxford Street, the shop is so overwhelming and there is so much to see that I simply haven’t made it round everything yet.

The facemask display is much larger, with seating for consultations with an attending member of staff. Incidentally, I noticed that staff were zoned to product ranges, which meant you could always find someone if you needed help, despite the crowds. There are three or four new facemasks. I’ve only picked up the one designed for sensitive skin (Rosy Cheeks, a rose based formula), but there is also a mushroom based mask with a yoghurt consistency much like Sacred Truth (It’s called The Man in The Mushroom Mask), a bright blue delight called Don’t Look at Me and I think I saw a black, charcoal one too… Lush have also added another non-fresh (by which I mean that it doesn’t require refrigeration) mask to their repertoire in Cup o’ Coffee, which is mocha-y and delightful.

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I didn’t have time to check out skin care, but the soap display, like a gleaming multi-coloured candy land drew my eye. Old favourite scents have been reformulated into new permanent products (like Maypole, which smells like candy canes), and old products have been brought back, like Milky Bar. All of the current soaps (Rock Star, etc) are present, but in new shapes to catch the eye. Oxford Street also boasts a selection of cold-pressed soaps, which are a new product entirely. Cold pressing helps preserve more goodness in the natural ingredients, so these products should be extra nourishing. They also have a small range of ‘luxury’ soaps. These are very soft in consistency, pricy compared even with the regular soaps, but luscious in fragrance. I highly recommend checking them out- though I have forgotten their names, the aniseedy one and the almondy one are particularly lovely.

Shower is another area where Lush have upped the anti. A few store staples seem to missing from Oxford Street, which makes me wonder if they are being retired, but in their place are probably a dozen new gels, jellies and scrubs. Fan favourite scents like Lord of Misrule, Comforter and Yuzu and Cocoa are represented in new ‘Shower Creams’, which are aerated and rich in wheatgerm oil. Other product scents have new homes in new products. Tuca Tuca massage bar and fragrance is now Don’t Rain On My Parade, Wicci Magic Muscles is now 93,000 Miles jelly, Rub Rub Rub shower scrub is now a solid body scrub bar and Cocktail perfume (my FAVOURITE) is now Wash That Man Right Out of Your Hair shower gel. There are also Soap Sheets- solid, sponge like wash cloths that are actually made of soap. I have no idea how they work, but they are pricey.

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A section I want a spend a day in, and alas have spent about ten minutes in is the all new makeup section. Lush already has a makeup line, Emotional Brilliance, but the Oxford Street shop has a massive upgrade. Various new powders, solids, crayons, pomades, mascaras and solid lipsticks have joined the party. When I’m next up, I want to spend a good long time having a full consultation. For now, I have three lipsticks that I am LOVING: Witty (Lilac), Secure (Blue-Black) and Soul (Iridescent Shimmer).

In mouth care, which is like a pick a mix leading up to till, there are lots of changes. The existing toothy tabs (solid natural toothpastes- you should try them!) have been repackaged into more practical recyclable plastic bottles, with some being given an updated look (Chou Chou is much prettier now with pink dots)and some being reformulated into tooth powders. There are also several new tooth care products- Tooth Fairy powder for those with a sweet tooth, and new tabs Bling Bling (a citrussy gold tab), Oral Pleasure (fruity and purple) and Boom Boom (charcoal for a deep clean). There are also new lip balms with fruity flavours like lime and passionfruit, and they look to be vegan. The one downside to this section is the low position of the products (hip-waist height on me, and I’m short!), and I really don’t like the way they’re displayed. They are laid out like the sweets are at other highstreet shops- as temptations while you’re queuing, or things you might have forgotten on your way round. Frankly, they shouldn’t be- it undermines the value of the products. If the display was in the same location, for the same function, but more creatively laid out and at a better height, I’d be more happy. As it is, the products are designed to be picked up as an after thought by the customer, as it seems they were an after thought for the creative team.

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Downstairs in the basement level, you will find the Gorilla Gallery. This installation houses some of the stories and inspirations behind the artistic perfumes in the Gorilla Perfume range. I haven’t been able to go in yet, but I have heard very mixed reviews, though generally positive. This area also houses the Gorilla Perfume collection, including the exclusive and otherwise retired ranges that have previously only been available online or at the Gorilla Perfume shop in Islington. My favourite perfume, Cocktail, is available there, as well as the full released range from the new Volume 3: Death, Decay and Renewal, rather than just the in-store picks. This area has some more facial care products, the full massage bar range on a huge table, and the entrance to the Oxford Street Lush Spa.

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Upstairs on the first floor is my least favourite area (after mouth care) and probably my favourite area too. Right at the front, looking out over Oxford Street herself is the Fun area. This popular, multipurpose product isn’t my cup of tea most of the time, so I haven’t really explored it, but this would be a great place to park with the kids if you go as a couple, while one of you browses. There’s plenty of room for them to play with this, well, fun product.

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That ‘least favourite’ area I mentioned is the gift section. For me, it’s sterile, bland, and looks like Ikea threw up. Pure white and boxy, the area is generic high street, not rustic and warm like the rest of the decor of the shop. One step out of the gift area and you are in the bath zone, which is like a farmer’s market, and much more on style. I love this area. The products are in plentiful supply, with dozens of new innovations. There are at least 5 demo sinks set around an island- perfect to compare products all at once. The bombs look like fruits, and it entices you to pick them up and smell them. There are too many new products here to count, between the new bombs, new bubble bars, new reusuable bubble bars and wands, reformulated old favourites and all new bath oil pick and mix. It’s truly a candy land of bath goodies, and if this is what you love about Lush, you NEED to go and experience it for yourself.

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Overall, Oxford Street is overwhelming. 220+ new products over three floors, a gallery, a spa, live hair treatments in a barbers chair, vast new ranges to explore… it’s an entirely new experience quite unlike a visit to your cosy local shop. This is Lush on not an industrial scale, but certainly a massive leap for a company that started in a tiny unit in Poole (which, incidentally, they still own). This feels like the direction the company should be going in. They aren’t compromising on their morals, their great and award winning customer service, their innovation, their creativity or their emphasis on the natural and the handmade. What they are is a slicker, smoother, sleeker, better creature altogether- a more modern, yet nostalgic version of themselves. And I can’t wait to go back.

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