First came Glowhaus, now comes WellChemist.
WellChemist boutiques will be open-sell concepts taking up about 250 square feet of space within Bloomingdale’s beauty departments and stocking about 600 stockkeeping units from 35 brands. The first WellChemist is set to open at the East 59th Street flagship in Manhattan on Sept. 28, and eight more are expected to rollout in October. WellChemist locations include its Boca Raton in Florida; Century City, Santa Monica and Fashion Valley in California; Chevy Chase in Maryland; North Michigan Avenue in Chicago; Short Hills, N.J., and SoHo stores.
The launch of WellChemist comes one year after Bloomingdale’s introduced its first beauty shop-in-shop, Glowhaus, which is targeted at Millennials and stocks brands and products more commonly found on social media or in specialty retail than in a department store — think Supergoop, Briogeo, Saturday Skin and Sigma Beauty. Glowhaus, which launched at the retailer’s SoHo location in August 2018, will rollout to the flagship store in October.
In a beauty landscape where traditional department store beauty counters face increasing competition from online and specialty retailers, Bloomingdale’s has responded by experimenting with shop-in-shop concepts that mirror the shopping experience of a multibrand store.
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“This is the next iteration of our next beauty concept,” said Stacie Borteck, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s. “It’s very different [than Glowhaus], but it’s still the idea of a multibranded shop where the consumer can get an unbiased opinion on what they need for their skin-care concerns.”
Unlike Glowhaus, WellChemist is not as obviously targeted at Millennials. While most Glowhaus boutiques are located on the contemporary floors away from the beauty counters — the SoHo Glowhaus is adjacent to the beauty department — WellChemist shops will be located on the beauty floor.
“This concept has a much wider appeal, and that’s why it’s on the beauty floor,” Borteck said. “I see it as multigenerational — Millennials already know and are concerned about safer ingredients and environmental impact, Gen Xers and mature shoppers are focused on health concerns.”
Bloomingdale’s consumer research found that its shopper was looking for science-driven products with safe ingredients, Borteck said. Bloomingdale’s tested this by entering Juice Beauty skin care and makeup into about 15 stores, which Borteck called “successful.”
“We feel like our consumer might be using one or two clean products in their beauty, they’re not looking for all-natural or all-vegan and they’re not interested if the product doesn’t work,” Borteck said. “It was important to [create] a separate area for clean products so we’re giving an easy shopping experience.”
The WellChemist brand mix is focused on clean beauty products free of parabens, phthalates and sulfates, with a focus on products that are both high performance and formulated without ingredients considered toxic. About 60 percent of the assortment is devoted to skin care, with the rest split between hair, supplements and ingestibles, makeup and tools from both niche and established brands. WellChemist brands include Juice Beauty, The Organic Pharmacy, Osea Malibu, Pai, Root Science, Shiffa, Skin Laundry, vegan makeup brand Antonym Cosmetics, Rituel de Fille, Vapour, as well as hair brands Captain Blankenship, Evolis, Living Proof, Leonor Greyl and Living Proof. Ingestible brands includes 8 Green, The Beauty Chef, Glotrition and Hum Nutrition. There are also tools — Raincry hair brushes, T3 hair tools and Light Stim devices.
The WellChemist rollout is happening against the backdrop of Bloomingdale’s becoming more experimental with its in-store shopping experience, testing formats and in-store pop-ups that are unexpected from a traditional department store. The retailer earlier this month unveiled the Carousel shop, a rotating pop-up in four Bloomingdale’s stores that will change themes every two months.
WellChemist is also coming at a time when consumer demand for clean beauty continues to grow — to the point where mainstream retailers are investing in significant ways. The Detox Market this month opened a flagship location in New York — its first on the East Coast — while other clean beauty retailers Credo Beauty and Follain continue to open locations across the country. Barneys New York and Sephora both launched Clean Beauty concepts this year.