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Beauty Brands Focuses on Hair, Makes Growth Plan

Under ceo Caryn Lerner, Beauty Brands is working on an update.

The new chief executive officer of Beauty Brands has her eyes on a prize — turning the Midwest beauty chain into “the hair authority.”

Caryn Lerner, who took the helm of the TSG Consumer-owned retailer last February, has spent her first year on the job working toward that goal. She’s also working on updating store interiors and plotting overall expansion, in terms of both the top and bottom line, as well as store count.

“The business was a little stagnant and underperforming when I came on board,” Lerner said. “My role here is to strengthen the vision and the mission of the business.” Hence the company’s decision to hone in on hair.

Beauty Brands Focuses on Hair, Makes
Caryn Lerner, Beauty Brands ceo.

“It’s an own-able point of difference for us as a brand, and it’s where our heritage is,” Lerner, who has retail experience that spans Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York and Holt Renfrew, said.

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As it stands, about 70 percent of the retailer’s offerings in its 61 stores are in the prestige and professional hair segments. “It’s not just shampoo and conditioner, but all different sorts of styling aids, accessories, color…extensions — men’s grooming we lump into there,” Lerner said.

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Beauty Brands has more than 700 salon and spa professionals across its retail base, and in store, has a heavy focus on services. “We have a minimum of six chairs per store,” Lerner said. “We are very serious and deeply entrenched in the salon and spa side of the business.”

Beauty Brands isn’t the only retailer with a focus on services — lots of beauty retailers have added them. Ulta Beauty, which offers hair and skin services in store, is the most obvious comparison point — but Lerner is quick to point out that Beauty Brands salons are a different format than Ulta’s. For Beauty Brands, the salon is a separate experience — those six chairs aren’t included in the retail experience — but in a salon that is “somewhat separated” from the more general retail area, she said.

To update the shopping experience, Beauty Brands is also renewing in-store fixtures and its merchandising strategy, Lerner said. So far, the retailer has remodeled six stores. Seven more are in the works now, and the goal is to redo about half of all stores by the end of 2018.

“We’re experimenting with merchandising a little bit more by lifestyle and not being quite as categorically driven,” she said. For hair, it means bringing luxury hair-care brands up to the front of the stores, next to prestige color brands and skin-care brands and “really trying to use our environment to tell stories more than just being a supermarket of product,” Lerner said.

The business is expected to grow in the high-single digits for 2018, and is planning to look at new markets to open stores.

“There is plenty of opportunity in many of our markets to fill in if you will, and then [we’ll] potentially look at new markets — that’s more of a mid to long-term strategy,” Lerner said. “One way to grow is to be adding new stores, but we all know inherently that we also have a lot of opportunity in the store base. So much depends on how quickly we’re able to, if you will, jazz the current store base so we can, with confidence, build a lot of new stores quickly.”