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We’re getting ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day this month – the most loved-up day of the year. It’s the perfect opportunity to spoil our loved ones and show them how special they are to us, be it our partners, our friends, or our families. But it’s equally important we remember to treat ourselves with love and kindness too, something it can be easy to forget amid the flurry of our everyday lives.

The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important of all. We know that our customers are taking their wellness, both mental and physical, more seriously than ever before. Wellness can mean different things to different people – it might mean pledging to get more active, taking time to try a new hobby or simply carving out ten minutes to really unwind at the end of a long day.

At M&S, we’re on a mission to mission to make our products more relevant to our customers’ daily lives. One of the ways we’re tapping into this new interest in wellness is through our beauty and home fragrance range, Apothecary.

We launched Apothecary in winter 2018 with just a handful of products in our Calm and Balance fragrances and I’m really proud to have played a part in the amazing success of the brand. It’s been quite a journey. In just three years, Apothecary has become one of our best and fastest selling range. The brand is now worth more than £20 million every year and spans everything from body washes to candles and diffusers.

Wellness is at the heart of Apothecary. The range now has five fragrances, blended using carefully selected essential oils known to promote a sense of wellbeing. Our Calm fragrance, for example, combines lavender, cedarwood and orange thought to aid soothing the senses. Products in our Sleep range use jasmine, vetiver, and eucalyptus, which are considered to have relaxing and restful qualities.  

As well as adding new fragrances, we’ve added new products to the Apothecary range which have really spurred on the growth of the brand. Our Electronic Diffusers, which we launched in winter 2020, have flown off the shelves. We also added new gifting options and a limited-edition scent, Retreat, to the range for last Christmas, as we know our customers love to give Apothecary products as presents.

When we’re buying for Apothecary, I think about the moods and rituals of our customers as they go through their busy weeks, from chilling out at the end of the day to preparing for a good night’s sleep and taking a restoring bath over the weekend. We rigorously test the products to make sure they have a good ‘cold’ throw – what you smell when you pick up it up from the shelf – and a ‘hot’ throw – what it smells like when it is lit. As a team, we’re also constantly reviewing our customer’s feedback on the M&S website to understand how our customers use our products and how we can make them even better.

A key factor in Apothecary’s success has been that the brand has a really broad appeal. All the products are unisex, so there’s something for everyone. And there’s no denying that the price point is incredible – amazing products for a fraction of the cost of other luxury home fragrance brands. Our large three wick candles, for example, are just £15 and have a burn time of up to 40 hours.

We’ve also found that Apothecary’s contemporary packaging, particularly the smoky dark amber, has been a real hit with our customers. It’s simple but stylish and looks great in any home – or taking pride of place in an Instagram ‘shelfie.’ And we’ve made the packaging even better by reducing plastics where we can and introducing refillable options for our handwashes and diffusers, so our customers can be confident that their Apothecary products are doing some good for the planet, as well as looking and feeling good.

Home fragrance is a growing sector across the retail market and an increasingly important category for M&S. There’s no question that this growth has been accelerated by the pandemic. We’ve all been in our homes more than usual, and home fragrance is a quick and affordable way to inject a little added luxury into your surroundings. It’s been a difficult couple of years for many of us and so we’ve learnt to prioritise what matters most to us and find new routines that can aid mental wellbeing, like lighting a favourite candle or taking a long bath. We’re expecting interest in home fragrance to remain high as consumers continue to prioritise wellness and taking care of themselves.

The most exciting thing for me about working on Apothecary is that I know we’ve only just got started – there’s still so much more to come.