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Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty Blooms in Ulta

The retailer will be Flower's second distribution partner after Wal-Mart.

Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty is growing up.

The brand — cofounded in 2012 by the actor-turned-entrepreneur and design and manufacturing firm Maesa Group — is in February set to roll out to 500 Ulta Beauty doors, its second retail partner after four years of selling exclusively via Wal-Mart. Flower is also sold on its e-commerce site, which was launched last year.

Going into Ulta doors and online are 157 stockkeeping units — about two-thirds of Flower’s assortment. Included in this are four Ulta exclusive items — the Galaxy Glaze Holographic Lip, Miracle Matte Metallic Liquid Lip, Wanderlust Eyeshadow Palette and Beauty Flash Full Face Palette.

Flower Beauty Flash Palette
Flower Beauty Flash Palette

For Ulta Beauty, the launch of Flower coincides with efforts to premium-ize the mass side of its business, which has not garnered as much attention recently as the sizable expansion of its prestige makeup assortment. The retailer last year added niche, low-priced labels such as E.l.f. Cosmetics, Morphe, Sleek Makeup and Beauty Revolution, and is encouraging its mass brands to upgrade fixtures with features like backlighting and testing stations.

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Flower will have about four feet of space in Ulta doors.

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The expansion into Ulta marks a new growth phase for Flower, which is just one of Barrymore’s product brands — she also has a wine label and a fashion line that was launched on Amazon, called Dear Drew. That’s not to mention her day job as the star of the Netflix comedy “Santa Clarita Diet,” which was recently renewed for a second season.

Barrymore has applied a slow-burn approach to Flower’s growth trajectory, launching e-commerce two years after the brand’s exclusivity agreement with Wal-Mart ended, launching fragrance in 2014 and rolling out international distribution just last year. Flower is now in 300 doors in Mexico, and it is expected to enter more international territories this year.

And while growth has been slow, it hasn’t been insignificant — Barrymore declined to talk financials, but industry sources estimate Flower Beauty does $50 million in retail sales annually.

“I feel like we’re at a point in our assortment where we’re able to do things we weren’t able to do before,” said Barrymore in an interview with WWD, where she detailed the Ulta rollout.

She noted how the mass landscape has been permanently altered due to the rise of social media as a source of beauty marketing — consumers shopping in the mass and drug channels have unfettered access to beauty trends and how to achieve them, because of Instagram and YouTube.

“[When we launched], there was still a big discrepancy in what was too crazy for mass and what was working [in prestige],” said Barrymore. “Finally that gap has really been bridged, and I think consumers can walk into a Sephora or an Ulta or department store or Wal-Mart and understand what a product is trying to do in its performance because they’re not getting all their information from magazines and commercials — because really, when I was co-creative director of Cover Girl, that’s where everybody got their information on product.”

“We have the most exciting assortment [we’ve ever had] right now,” she continued. “When Flower started, it was more of a traditional, straightforward brand — we weren’t that Millennial brand or crazy color brand. We did try to have a lot of beautiful color in our lipsticks, but we were more conservative, which was good for [that time], but within a few years, social media, influencers, tutorial videos blew up.”

This rapid consumption of beauty content has helped to fuel Flower’s growth and place it in a retailer like Ulta, said Barrymore.

“I see [influencer] videos where they’re like, ‘this [Flower] lipstick feels like a Tom Ford lipstick,” said Barrymore. “To hear a comparison like that from an influencer who isn’t being paid a cent because we can’t afford to pay influencers, it makes you feel like, ‘Oh my God — all that labor and cost-cutting [paid off] because someone who really knows and loves beauty thinks are lipsticks are on a department store level.”

Flower Beauty Wanderlust Palette
Flower Beauty Wanderlust Palette

Flower Beauty does, said Barrymore, pay “less expensive” micro-influencers on occasion — but for the most part, the brand’s marketing strategy has remained the same since launch, which is: Take the marketing budget and put it into product formulations so the formulas wear like prestige.

Unlike the blockbuster celebrity beauty line launches of 2017 — think Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Beauty and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty — Barrymore is laser-focused on keeping her beauty brand priced for the mass consumer, while still offering prestige-quality products. Flower is also branching out in terms of product development — at launch, Barrymore sought to offer high-quality essentials that would look good on all women and do it at an affordable price. But the nimbleness of Flower as a company has allowed it to branch into more trend-driven items within its you-but-better makeup aesthetic, like contour palettes, color correcting primers and strobing sticks.

For Ulta Beauty, Barrymore herself — with her eight million Instagram followers — is the ultimate influencer.

“We see a lot of synergies between the two brands,” said Monica Arnaudo, senior vice president of merchandising at Ulta Beauty. “Drew is a very passionate beauty enthusiast and she resonates with many of our guests. [Flower] comes with an approachable and affordable stance, but brings quality products. She has this philosophy of empowerment that is very inclusive — a lot of brands talk about being inclusive, but Drew fully embodies that and brings that through with the Flower brand.”

Expansion after Ulta is something that Barrymore intends to continue taking slowly. Both Barrymore and Arnaudo are bullish on the brand continuing to expand at the retailer — the plan is to get Flower into 600 doors by year’s end.

“The way we’ve done things with Wal-Mart has been slow and steady wins the race,” said Barrymore of Flower’s launch in Ulta. “I’m of the mind-set that you don’t throw shit at the wall and see what sticks — you don’t expect things you haven’t earned and worked hard for.”

Two to three more international territories are on deck for 2018 — though Barrymore can’t say which, as contracts are not yet signed. And category-wise, she is not done expanding.

“I’ve been dying to do skin care — it’s actually doing really well at Wal-Mart,” said Barrymore, whose deep knowledge of the category is due in part to her aversion to cosmetic procedures. “I really understand the skin care game — I’ve been working my ass off to travel the world and find innovations that really work because I don’t do injections or plastic surgery or Botox. I’m out there as a woman trying to figure out this fight — how to look your best with simple ingredients, rather than radical approaches. If someone would take me on in the skin-care game, I think they’d be really wowed, because I’ve been able to collect things from all around the world that are unprecendented in their properties and technology and innovations. As soon as someone is ready, I’m raring to go.” (Skin care isn’t the only new category Barrymore is dying to get into — she’s also interested in starting a furniture or home design company, if anyone will have her.)

But beauty first. The launch Barrymore is most excited about is her Lash Warrior mascara, which is one of the many products debuting at Ulta next month. “It looks like a little grenade — it’s different and fun and it performs amazing,” said Barrymore. “We’re working with this lab I’ve wanted to work with for years and couldn’t afford, so we managed to figure out a way to hike the price point a dollar. It has a feeling and a story about what women are fighting for in this whole new generation of a women’s movement — there’s a tone in the air about politics and sexual harassment, and [Lash Warrior] is about empowerment and makeup as your armor and that’s what makes you feel good.”