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K-Beauty Stars at CVS Times Square Flagship

One of two CVS doors with 500 South Korean beauty items in a shop-in-shop format.

Maly Bernstein, vice president of beauty and personal care for CVS Pharmacy, doesn’t like to do anything half-hearted.

That game plan is brought to life at CVS’ beauty department in the new flagship in Times Square. Opened last week, it is one of two of the stores in the chain’s portfolio sporting a massive K-beauty shop-in-shop stocked with 500 South Korean beauty products. That comes on the heels of 100 items added to 2,100 CVS doors last April.

“We didn’t want to just try K-beauty, we want to own it. And we wanted to create excitement around it so customers see it right away instead of ‘hoping’ they find it,” said Bernstein during a tour of the beauty aisles in the sprawling two-story, 13,000-square-foot store.

CVS Continues to Push Deeper Into
K-beauty is front and center.

In tandem with Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily and one of the most respected authorities on K-beauty, CVS is broadening its scope beyond facial skin care to South Korean cosmetics lines.

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Based on the success of the initial foray into skin care, Bernstein challenged Yoon to deliver the same level of clever packaging and results-based products to cosmetics. So now, in addition to rows of masks and creatively packaged skin care, CVS offers lipsticks, facial cosmetics, eye makeup, nail polish and fragranced items in a department that is front and center upon entering the store.

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CVS Continues to Push Deeper Into
Alicia Yoon and Maly Bernstein

“We said, ‘What if we took the four or eight feet [sections] and expand that to 44 feet?’” explained Yoon of how the shop within the store concept germinated. In addition to Times Square, CVS’ unit in Columbus Circle also has full array of items.

One of the most important elements, Bernstein said, is to carve out space for educational messages to help customers learn about the South Korean brands. Masks have become mainstream, but some of the other items require additional signage on shelves. For example, descriptions of products on the fixtures explain items such as peel off lip tints, peel off eyebrow tattoos and cheek polish — which is a subtle lip color painted on like a nail polish.

“It was important for us to provide educate to demystify some of the lines,” Bernstein said. CVS beauty consultants are trained on the items and can pull up YouTube videos in the aisles with shoppers.

CVS Continues to Push Deeper Into
Educational signage helps introduce K-beauty.

Some of the K-beauty items resonating with shoppers include the entire Frudia collection, Duft & Doft Pink Milk Mask, Peach Slices Citrus Honey Aqua Glow, cheek blush packaged in a macaron-shaped container and the Ariul Brilliant Tone Up E.G.G. Cream.

CVS will continue to monitor customer acceptance and add more K-beauty items to other stores within the chain’s network.

Consumer takeaway of K-beauty items along with an already vibrant professional skin-care department encouraged CVS to upgrade into more premium skin care in an area called Advanced Skin Care, where customers can find La Roche-Posay, Vichy and other derm brands.

Natural is also top of mind and CVS is the first major national retailer to add the full Burt’s Bees color collection. There’s also Andalou Naturals in skin care. A special “incubator” wall in the beauty department is allocated to emerging brands, and Bernstein said the buying team prowls social media on the hunt for brands garnering attention. In the past, chains relied on trade shows and brand meetings, now they also turn to social platforms to stay current.

Listening to customer demands, CVS is delivering on trend merchandise faster than ever to its stores. “What we have found is we have the standard planogram resets, but we’re getting into fast beauty like fast fashion and we have operations systems that are more agile,” Bernstein said. “When there is something new and hot, we can cut it in right away.” Indie brands are an important component and, according to Bernstein, accounted for 100 percent of its beauty growth over the past few years.

Beauty is just one of the departments getting special treatment as CVS rolls out its new store format first previewed in April. Hair care has an amped up emphasis on natural and brands for textured hair. There is an optical center, a healthy eating on-the-go area and expanded health services — all part of the chain’s mission of transforming its drugstores from sick care to well care.