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Mass Retail’s Beauty Blitz

Mass retailers are taking advantage of increased footfall in stores with updated assortments and revamped departments that better reflect beauty's key trends today.

Getting shots in arms is bringing foot traffic to the nation’s mass market doors, giving them the perfect opportunity to flaunt the upgrades they’ve made to beauty aisles during the pandemic.

“We’ve made some major strides in renovating our assortments, bringing in new brands and highlighting brands that have the ingredients shoppers want,” said Erik Keptner, Rite Aid’s chief merchandising and marketing officer.

Rite Aid isn’t alone. Hoping to help consumers refresh their makeup stash, chains have added more conscious beauty lines and BIPOC-founded brands, expanded their men’s offerings and doubled down on items that fit into the quest for wellness.

The plan is working. Mass market beauty sales are on the upward trajectory, according to recent data from IRI for the 52-week period ended Oct. 31, 2021. Eye sales jumped 9.5 percent with a notable jump in eye shadow of 8.1 percent. The face segment was fueled by a 12 percent leap in concealers. Notably, lip liner sales rose more than 16 percent — a signal of the renaissance in lip color. In the hair sector, products to spur growth escalated 7 percent.

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Here, as retailers ready a slew of newness for the beginning of the year, Beauty Inc checks in with mass leaders for an outlook on 2022.

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Mass retailers are taking advantage of increased footfall in stores with updated assortments and revamped departments that better reflect beauty's key trends today
Mass retailers are taking advantage of increased footfall in stores with updated assortments and revamped departments that better reflect beauty’s key trends today Lucy Truman/WWD

Target

Target’s partnership with Ulta Beauty is accomplishing what the two retailers set out to do — bring prestige brands to the mass market without diminishing the loyalty to either powerhouse retailer.

“The experience complements Target’s existing beauty assortment and offers guests exactly what they’ve been asking for — prestige beauty brands alongside all of our top national and exclusive brands while they make their Target run,” said Cassandra Jones, vice president and general manager of beauty and cosmetics at Target.

The first Ulta Beauty at Target shops-in-shop, located near the existing beauty department, opened this past summer featuring 1,000 square feet of codesigned space showcasing premium brands in specialty fixtures.

Since the launch, the department expanded to include a seasonal assortment with holiday gift sets from existing brands with plans for more lines in 2022. A few of the featured items are a Benefit Mascara Mixer with three full-sized mascaras and a Morphe seven-piece brush set.

“The power of the partnership is really just getting started,” Jones said. Earlier this year, Target announced plans to have a total of 800 of the shops within the next few years.

Ulta Beauty at Target
Ulta Beauty at Target

Some of the premium brands attracting shoppers she cited include Too Faced, The Ordinary and Ariana Grande. All told, there are more than 50 brands in the assortment such as MAC, Smashbox, Urban Decay, Clinique, Tula and Anastasia Beverly Hills.

Target is leveraging Ulta Beauty-trained Target team members to serve as on-site beauty consultants. “It was important to build on that experience by introducing Ulta Beauty trained team members, further aligning with Target’s focus on providing guest service with deep product expertise,” she said.

Shopper feedback reveals high satisfaction ratings, Jones said, with consumers applauding the convenience of finding an elevated assortment of prestige brands at Target. “Guests note how they love that Ulta Beauty at Target helps streamline their day with one less stop and the added benefit of more brands to shop.”

The retailer is also seeing a boost in sales from its omnichannel capabilities. The chain’s “stores-as-hubs” model unlocks seamless shopping opportunities and fuel options such as drive up, pick up and Shipt same-day delivery choices. Those same-day services grew nearly 60 percent in 2021 on top of more than 200 percent gains the year before, according to the company.

With strong tailwinds from the Ulta tie up, Jones is bullish on the new year. “We’re proud to be winning in the retail space and are well positioned to continue to do so in 2022,” she said. “We’re already known for curating a differentiated assortment and as we lean into what’s new and next, we’re focused on bringing joy at an incredible value to our current guests and inviting new beauty guests in to shop at Target.”

Target has been a trailblazer in areas such as clean, sustainable, BIPOC-owned brands, personalized and direct-to-consumer brands. To wit, Target ventured into textured hair more than a decade ago and continues to add even more inclusive beauty brands. The chain has badges identifying Black-owned and -founded brands as well as certified Target Clean brands online and in stores.

“We’re proud of our industry-leading assortment of 50-plus Black-owned or -founded brands, and we’re ensuring that list keeps growing in 2022 and beyond to meet the needs of our guests,” Jones said.

Exclusive brands are also major contributors at Target such as Anomaly Beauty and Hey Humans.

The retailer’s efforts are paying off. Beauty is one of the fastest-growing categories at Target and plays a strategic role in driving frequency and preference across our multicategory strength,” Jones said. “Our guests love the updates we’ve made to our assortment in recent years.”

CVS

When Andrea Harrison, vice president of merchandising, beauty and personal care at CVS Health, ticks off the categories she’s most excited about, she mentions many of the usual suspects. There’s the fusion of beauty and health, beauty from the inside out, healthy skin, ingredient-led stories and self care.

But one category she pinpoints, oral health, illustrates the bond between health and beauty and exemplifies CVS striving to be ahead of the curve.

“We talk so much about confidence in beauty and feeling and looking great… a great smile is a really good piece of that story,” she said, noting some consumers don’t have access to quality oral care. “Even if it is just a simple whitening product, that space has a lot to offer in a total beauty story.”

CVS is integrating oral care into its beauty department, the latest innovation for the nation’s largest drugstore chain, which has made a series of bold moves rooted in wellness over the last decade — from removing tobacco to eliminating beauty image alterations. CVS also was among the first to edit sunscreens less than 15 SPF from its mix and to remove chemicals of concern its private label beauty and personal care items.

“Everyone is talking about wellness, self care and better choices,” Harrison said. “This is where we have been all along. This a priority for us. With our focus being around health care, and beauty being a big piece of that, we’re really excited.”

Harrison applauds efforts of heritage brands to compress their production time to meet consumer demands for ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid. Vitamins and supplements to support beauty from within are gaining traction, too.

CVS
CVS

Several new brands at CVS exemplify the chain’s health-first direction including clean beauty brand GoodSkin MD, which merges products safe for sensitive skin with a fun side; Generation Beauty by Pantene, a CVS exclusive that brings personalization to hair care and the vegan collection from Rainbow. “Rainbow shows that clean can be fun,” Harrison said. “What you see in the jar is super fun and efficacious.”

Clean ingredients are becoming table stakes in beauty, even in categories like hair color. “We’re seeing several of the most iconic names really take to heart the need for cleaner and healthier formulations. That’s exciting for us as we think people can have a healthier relationship with beauty. You are going to see that come from larger brands in cosmetics, in oral care and all across skin care,” Harrison said, noting the dynamic pickup Cover Girl saw following the launch of the Clean Fresh Collection.

Balancing legacy brands with indies is mission critical for CVS, as is the quest to include purpose driven brands. “The consumer in mass is making choices with purpose in mind,” she said.

Traffic generated by the vaccine is helping build baskets as a time when the makeup customer is coming back with a vengeance, Harrison said. The chain is seeing a payoff in its BeautyIRL format opened before the pandemic. There are now 150 of these doors that serve as testing ground for lines to roll out chain wide.

A growing number of the IRL stores are domiciled with CVS HealthHub stores that feature health clinics, yoga classes and access to dieticians. The combination of the two is having a big payoff, Harrison said, with the HealthHub stores with expanding beauty performing the best. The chain has further plans to merge the health care offering and beauty.

Working in tandem with pharmacists and SkinSafe, an innovative technology that helps customers identify “Sensitive Friendly” products, CVS is positioning itself as a trusted resource for beauty, especially skin care. “We feel we can play a role in a space that has become cloudy,” she said of the confusion over ingredient stories.

 

Walgreens

Walgreens is connecting the dots between its pharmacists and beauty consultants, both of whom are now trained to answer questions and support consumer selection in regard to skin products and hair needs.

“Our relationship between the pharmacist and consultant is unique. Pharmacists give a warm handoff to the beauty consultant who can walk with customers to find the right solutions,” said Lauren Brindley, group vice president for beauty and personal care at Walgreens.

Attention to skin health during the pandemic made people more aware of skin hygiene and care, Brindley said. That’s translated to increased sales of premium products to support regimens.

“Conversations in skin care are really about well-being and have gone beyond antiaging or acne to the importance of having glowing and healthy skin. It’s a great opportunity for dermatological led skin care brands in the mass market,” she said, adding she’s also bullish about Cover Girl’s Clean Fresh Skincare launch.

Walgreens also leverages the pharmacist/beauty consultant tag team to support hair care, another category on a growth trajectory.

“We make sure we have the broadest range of products for scalp issues like psoriasis and eczema,” Brindley said. “We’re also focusing on hair growth solutions so people can feel confident and have thick, strong hair.”

Stress, post-partum and other factors have moved hair loss to the front burner, she said. Walgreens plans to reveal a new merchandising approach to hair care in January in nearly 4,000 stores. Space is being cleared for a broader selection of products for people with textured hair. “We’re extending our selection to meet the needs of 75 percent of Americans with textured hair,” Brindley said. “While we had a good assortment, we feel we have an even bigger opportunity to provide consumers with an even broader offering.”

Beyond liquid products, the new department will have comb sets, caps and other accessories for textured strands. “We are making sure our hair care assortment is relevant to customers in their local Walgreens,” Brindley said.

Brindley believes 2022 will be a robust year for mass beauty. “Walgreens was an essential retailer throughout the pandemic. We were there for customers when they needed us the most,” she said. “That enabled us as a beauty retailer to bring new guests into our environment to see the fantastic range and service we offer. It has been great for business and many of those customers have stayed with us.”

As they shop Walgreens in 2022, they will see a bounty of new items on shelves. “We’re excited about 2022 because there is a lot of innovation,” she said. In addition to Cover Girl skin care, she cited Maybelline’s Colossal Curl Bounce Curling Mascara and L’Oréal’s relaunch of Lash Paradise, which will also add lipsticks and lip balms. The legacy brands, she added, have bounced back from the pandemic quickly because they are names shoppers trust.

Also, part of Walgreens 2022 blueprint is the addition of inclusive brands including Urban Skin, Cantu and Urban Hydration. In sun care, Walgreens has added Eucerin’s new range, Black Girl Sunscreen and Tanologist.

Walgreens
Walgreens

“Innovation continues to be important in beauty and we’re going to be tenacious when it comes to bringing the best newness to life,” she said. That includes makeup, where Brindley said sales are back on track. “Beauty is a resilient category — people are just being more thoughtful about products they purchase.”

The past 18 months have also proven the need for convenience — not only online but getting products quickly. Walgreens launched buy online, pick up at stores in 30 minutes or less last year. “It set new expectations for how fast consumers can access products and really drove huge demand for beauty, especially replenishment,” Brindley said.

 

Rite Aid

Rite Aid’s Store of the Future, with a spotlight on wellness and beauty, couldn’t have come at a better time as the nation’s third largest drug chain strives to stand out in the competitive mass market landscape.

There are now 10 of the new prototypes serving as a lab to test concepts to port out to existing and new stores. Rite Aid plans to update its 2,500-plus doors with a goal of being a destination for consumers’ whole health needs — mind, body and soul.

Anchored in wellness, the beauty department has perhaps the most dramatic overhaul with more than 1,200 new items and new discovery zones to experiment with products. The upgrade is paying off and will further drive beauty sales in 2022, according to Keptner.

“We’ve learned a lot, particularly that the new beauty department resonates with shoppers. The results [in beauty] have really stood out above all other departments, with strong double-digit increases,” he said of the area, which is situated at the front and center of the store.

Rite Aid benefited from being able to stay open during the pandemic, and foot traffic continues to increase. “As people are coming in and getting vaccinations, it’s giving them an opportunity to see what we have and we’ve made some major strides in renewing our assortments, bringing in new brands and highlighting brands that have the ingredients they want today.”

Keptner describes the beauty department as three concentric rings, all centered around self care. First is inner beauty — ingestibles and vitamins that benefit nails, hair and skin. “It is a place we can very legitimately play because of our pharmacists and their availability to give advice on vitamins and supplements. This is an area where we have a strategic advantage.”

Next is beauty care comprised of products that keep skin and hair healthy. In terms of new growth drivers, “Men’s skin care continues to see tremendous growth and innovation. You are going to see some new interesting new brands come out in the men’s care category,” Keptner said.

Leveraging the pharmacist will further boost skin care sales, Keptner predicted. “There are prescriptions that have the side effect of dry skin and pharmacists can play a role in providing recommendations for beauty care products that address skin issues,” he said.

The final circle is color cosmetics where customers can express themselves. Keptner sees renewed demand for makeup. “People are going back into offices and getting together more and that’s making the category bounce back,” he said.

Rite Aid
Rite Aid Photographer:Michael L. Mihalo

In skin care, ingredient stories will be the theme of 2022, he predicted. “Ingredients have transcended brands,” Keptner said. “We’ve seen purchasing behavior centered on ingredients versus brand.”

Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, plant-based and dermatologist-backed are resonating the most, as are products without harmful chemicals, sustainable packaging and cruelty-free practices. Biotin is playing a big role in hair care as more consumers seek to grow or strengthen their tresses. Pampering plays in the bath with a rise in demand for Epsom salts, essential oils and ingredients like coconut, lavender and oatmeal.

The push for ingredients is good for the industry, Keptner said. “It keeps the well-established brands innovating; at the same time, there is opportunity for upstart brands to emerge with something different to expand the category. There is a willingness and interest from consumers to try new products.”

To meet that desire, Keptner is trying to infuse the department with agility and rethink the traditional go-to-market model. “We have to be nimble. We have to cut new items in outside of annual resets. Social media has enabled brands to skyrocket and we have to make sure we are picking up trends earlier and integrating them into our assortments,” he said. “It is important to have a steady offering of new products online and in our stores.”

 

Walmart

Walmart’s efforts to reinvent its beauty department are coalescing at just the right moment in beauty retailing.

“The legacy distinctions between mass and prestige beauty are quickly eroding,” said Musab Balbale, Walmart’s vice president of merchandising beauty. “This is in part driven by brands, heritage and new, that want better access to customers.”

The shift is primarily driven by customers who are increasingly conscious of their time and seek convenience. “Consumers are looking for both established brands they trust and new brands that speak to them uniquely,” he said, adding Walmart’s goal is to make beauty more accessible by offering a balanced assortment of indie and heritage brands.

Moving into 2022, Balbale said Walmart will remain focused on three pillars driving beauty forward: assortment, experience and storytelling.

“We are excited to extend our strong momentum into 2022,” he said, “and for the [new brands] to bring in incremental sales and incremental foot traffic to our beauty aisle.”

By the end of the year, Walmart will have brought on 69 new brands including Lottie London, Skin Proud, Bubble, Uoma by Sharon C and Nou from Procter & Gamble.

Walmart Beauty
Walmart Courtesy Photo

As reported by Walmart, the category accounts for 2 percent of sales. Not only is there room to expand that, but industry sources said the margin structure of beauty, versus other Walmart staples such as groceries, make it an important business for the bottom line.

From a segment perspective, Balbale expects color cosmetics to accelerate with the return to social activities. Hair care is another area where he is confident that Walmart can win. “I’m excited by the innovation in hair care, including scalp care. We’re seeing increased focus on the formulation and active ingredients supporting consumer attention to their hair and scalp,” he said.

Walmart also is at the forefront of the clean movement. “We recently launched a Built for Better platform that will make it easier for customers to find products that support personal well-being and reduce our impact on the environment,” Balbale said.

Walmart is working to elevate its customer experience, online and off. “Our e-commerce site and app now allow customers to shop items for both ship to home and curbside pickup in a single experience. We’ve built e-comm experiences showcasing our newness and highlighting our Black-owned brands. We’ll continue to evolve our digital and physical experiences next year to further simplify our customer’s shopping experience,” Balbale said.

Walmart will double down on engagement via social channels, including TikTok. Seeking to flex its muscles as a beauty retailer, Walmart held the industry’s first live shopping event on TikTok last December and hosted its first Beauty runway show in  Los Angeles earlier this year.

“We are moving faster than ever to make beauty more accessible, in all its dimension, to the Walmart shopper,” Balbale said.

Ulta Beauty

Ulta Beauty is making big moves as it gears up for 2022.

The beauty powerhouse is adding more wellness products online and on its shelves. In October, Ulta Beauty opened Wellness Shops in 450 doors with an eight-foot section of existing and new items with plans to add more items and doors.

“We’re leaning into wellness and continue to embrace that segment and learn with our showcase of existing brands and new lines across all categories and all price points,” said Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer. Ulta Beauty’s wellness categories are everyday care, supplements/ingestibles, relax and renew, down there care and spa at home.

With skin care sales staying strong, Ulta Beauty is resetting its skin care assortment in new stores to be in one area in the front of the store where all brands, regardless of price are housed together. In the past, premium skin care was domiciled with prestige brands; mass with popular priced lines.

“The consumer is not walking in and saying this is a mass brand or this is a prestige brand. They want to find great products that are innovative. They are open to price points,” Arnaudo said.

The merchandising strategy is in tune with Ulta Beauty’s overhaul two years ago to bring both mass and class under the direction of Arnaudo, a seasoned retail and brand veteran.

“We will continue to evolve the shopping experience. Getting like categories together, which I call intuitive adjacencies, is very easy for guests to navigate stores,” she added.

Ulta Beauty New York City
Ulta Beauty Courtesy

Mass brands play an important role at Ulta. “Guests who shop mass and prestige in their baskets spend four times more versus those who only shop mass or just prestige,” Arnaudo said. “Those who shop across all categories spend 10 times more than those who only shop one.” Culling items from their respective homes into one area no matter the price à la the wellness concept is viewed as a vehicle to make shopping easier.

Ulta’s Conscious Beauty program, piloted in 2020, is another example of the specialty areas. Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty now spans 270 brands in mass and prestige. “We continue to lean in on conscious beauty and there will be new brands and products in that space in 2022,” Arnaudo said.

At the salon, Ulta Beauty has just introduced an Express Hair Color service in conjunction with Redken where clients can receive root touchups that provide 100 percent gray coverage in between 30 to 45 minutes for the entire process. In October, Ulta Beauty added Olaplex repair and protect services, and in January, the retail products will be added to the hair care assortment. Ear piercing will be tested starting next year in 200 doors.

At the beginning of 2021, Ulta Beauty committed to enlarging its BIPOC brands and during the year, the company signed the 15 percent pledge. Ulta Beauty already doubled the number of Black-owned brands. “We just launched a few additions, mostly in the body category, including Homebody, Luvscrub, Nude Sugar and Sunday II Sunday,” Arnaudo said. Other relatively new inclusive brands include Live Tinted, Rizos Curls and Elaluz by Camila Coelho.

Makeup is perking up, driven by two trends: the natural look, which, despite its name, requires beauty products, and escalating demand for bold looks.

“Makeup is about self-expression. Some people really want to glam it up,” Arnaudo said. “It isn’t just brow and eyeliner now, it is lashes, eye shadow, glitter and lip is back in a big way.”

Arnaudo is bullish on mass and masstige beauty which, she said, started their resurgence in 2021 ahead of pricier options. Big debuts such as NYX’s Long-Lasting Liquid Lipstick and  launches from L’Oréal and Maybelline helped bring customers into the mass area.

Ulta also got a sales bump from exclusive or limited distribution masstige brands in its assortment such as the previously direct-to-consumer-only brand ColourPop and Makeup Revolution.

Arnaudo expects mass brands with clean positionings will gain relevance. Prestige was ahead of the curve with clean formulas, but mass is catching up. Two examples are Undone Beauty, which is at the higher end of mass but priced under $20 and W3ll People, which E.l.f. acquired in 2020.

Online has grown for Ulta Beauty, but Arnaudo said people are happy to be in stores and testing products. “We know our guests love to shop in stores because they want to discover, they want to play, they want to try on and they want to see the products,” she said.

 

Dollar General

The confluence of shoppers seeking value and an enhanced assortment at Dollar General has more consumers heading to the value retailer for beauty. That trend is expected to further gain momentum in 2022.

“We believe macro demand for beauty continues to be strong and evolve to cater to a diverse customer base looking to stretch their budget on high-quality products,” said Emily Taylor, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.

NielsenIQ statistics supported that theory, reporting that the low-income segment comprises the largest portion of beauty and personal care both in-store and online.

Separating itself from the dollar store channel, Dollar General has built out an assortment of curated beauty and personal care brands, several created in conjunction with Maesa.

Earlier this year, we launched our Believe Beauty skin care line, which aims to provide clean beauty,” said Emily Taylor, of the range priced $5 and under.

Dollar General also introduced a cruelty-free hair care brand called Root to End that currently consists of 10 items priced at $5 or less. “We look forward to continued positive feedback on both new and existing private brands as we keep our consumers’ feedback top of mind as we develop new products and partnerships,” she said.

National brands are stocked in the mix include Maybelline, Pond’s, LA Colors and Wet ‘n Wild.

Beauty brands are also eyeing opportunities in Dollar General’s new lifestyle concept called Popshelf that targets a slightly higher income consumer ($50,000 to $125,000 versus under $40,000 at Dollar General) than its traditional stores.

PopShelf
Popshelf

Fifty of these stores are expected to be open by the end of Dollar General’s fiscal year end 2021. “The new stores aim to engage customers with a fun, affordable and stress-free shopping experience where they can find on-trend seasonal and home decor, health and beauty must-haves, home cleaning supplies, party goods and entertaining needs, with approximately 95 percent of items priced at $5 or less,” Taylor said.

Dollar General also operates smaller stores called DGX, which fits in burgeoning urban areas and offer a full beauty assortment.

The retailer, which has more than 17,000 stores, will also open about 1,000 more doors this year, it reported. There’s a Dollar General store within five miles of approximately 75 percent of the American population. Its sales escalated 21.6 percent in fiscal 2020.