Last Thursday, the department store retailer unveiled natural beauty outposts at 45 stores featuring an edited lineup of products from the brands Tata Harper, Arcona, Raffaele Ruberto, Origins, Youth to the People, Odacite, RMS Beauty, Herbivore Botanicals, Plume Hair & Lash Science and Lanolips. The outposts come as natural beauty is having a major moment with consumers, especially Millennials, taking hard looks at what they put on and in their bodies.
“Even though we have carried some natural beauty brands in the past in our stores, online and in the spas, we felt this was the best time to pull it all together in a more meaningful way and create a true destination,” said Debbi Hartley-Triesch, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for beauty at Nordstrom. “We wanted to give our customers more choices and a bigger assortment with a curated selection for her to make it easier for her to shop online and in store.”
Nordstrom began developing the natural beauty outposts in the spring and established a task force with members of two skin-care teams — one devoted to luxury and advanced skin care, and the other to spa and apothecary skin care — to spearhead the effort. The task force pinned down a definition for natural beauty products as those that don’t contain parabens, sulfates or phthalates, and went about searching for offerings that met that definition.
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“It came down to testing and trying to find the best selection for our customers,” said Hartley-Triesch, adding about the brands that made the cut, “Many of those brands weren’t carried within our stores or were in such a few doors that this expanded their visibility and gave them bigger scope.”
She singled out Origins, Tata Harper and Herbivore Botanicals as three leading brands in Nordstrom’s natural outposts. Tata Harper did well at Nordstrom’s spas prior to being picked for the in-store setups, and Herbivore Botanicals excelled at a pop-in shop devised by Olivia Kim. “She had brought in a few [Herbivore Botanicals] items within that space, and customers really seemed to enjoy its approach to natural beauty,” said Hartley-Triesch. “We felt that it would be great to bring in a bigger offer from the brand and let customers experience more of it. We saw such success with it already.”
The outposts mark a return by Origins to Nordstrom. “We are excited to bring back top-selling stockkeeping units from a brand that’s been around for a while and has great authority in the natural space,” said Hartley-Triesch. “We are seeing some great success with Origins around their mask category. Customers are really intrigued by the products that have charcoal as a main ingredient.”
Skin care is by far the largest beauty segment represented in the natural beauty merchandising. Hartley-Triesch reasoned that’s due to the largesse of skin-care brands in prestige natural beauty and the skin-care orientation of the task force behind the outposts. “When we started to build the natural beauty selection, it just lent itself to more skin care when we stayed in the prestige space,” she said. “We will continue to evolve into makeup, color items and hair-care products to really round out the assortment.”
Nordstrom relied on existing fixtures for the beauty outposts, although Hartley-Triesch mentioned there are enhanced signage and graphics indicating to shoppers the natural focus of the sections. The outposts don’t have dedicated staff. But the retailer is educating store employees on new natural brands and its Nordstrom stylists that sell across beauty departments keeps an eye on the natural outposts. “When someone starts having a conversation about ingredients and possibly having more sensitive skin, it is a natural transition to bring them over to this area,” said Hartley-Triesch.
During the ensuing three months, Nordstrom will be closely watching the outposts to determine what its next steps will be in natural beauty. “Right now, our intent was to test and learn, and to hear from our customers before we made them into a more permanent space,” said Hartley-Triesch. “Ultimately, our goal is to incorporate some of the products and brands in our everyday assortment and to offer them in more doors.”
Beauty has been winning merchandise category for Nordstrom. The retailer highlighted it as the top-performing category for the nine months ended Oct. 29. The move to expand the retailer’s natural beauty range could help position it for further growth in the beauty category in the future as maturing Millennials dive deeper into skin care and maintain their inclination toward brands that suit healthy lifestyles.
Discussing the prospects for natural beauty generally, Hartley-Triesch said, “Not only is it going to grow in regard to sales, I think it is also going to grow in terms of the size of penetration in the big picture. I do believe we will continue to see more offerings and new brands emerging with this lens.”