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As Makeup Sales Slide, Tara Simon Exits Ulta Beauty

Over the past seven years, Simon built Ulta into a true player in prestige.

One of the key architects of Ulta Beauty’s success in prestige beauty, Tara Simon, is leaving the company, WWD has confirmed.

Simon was not immediately available for comment.

Simon, Ulta’s senior vice president of merchandising, has been with Ulta for more than seven years. She started at Ulta in 2012 as vice president of prestige beauty, where she helped build up Ulta’s assortment of makeup brands. She was the decision maker behind taking in some of the indie brands that would grow into major successes — like It Cosmetics.

The prestige makeup category was one of the key factors in Ulta’s growth in recent years. Simon helped bring all kinds of major players, from Kylie Cosmetics to MAC, into the fold. More recently, Ulta has shifted its focus toward digitally native brands that have little prior exposure to retail, like Juvia’s Place and Kylie.

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Simon’s departure also comes at a tough time for prestige cosmetics in the U.S. Sales have been sliding, and were down 7 percent in the most recent quarter, according to The NPD Group, to $1.7 billion.

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“Tara has decided to leave Ulta Beauty to pursue the next chapter of her career. We will truly miss her passion, creativity, drive and dedication, and are grateful to Tara for developing an exceptional merchandising team, as well as her role in nurturing Ulta Beauty’s deep relationships with the best brands in beauty,” said Dave Kimbell, president and chief merchandising and marketing officer at Ulta, in a statement. “For nearly 30 years, Ulta Beauty has grown with our brand partners. I look forward to continuing our close collaboration that delivers the unrivaled assortment and experience Ulta Beauty guests have come to expect from us.”

Ulta’s assortment — which spans mass and prestige makeup — has helped transform it into a force in the U.S. specialty beauty retail climate. The retailer posted $6.72 billion in sales for fiscal 2018, and despite slowdowns in the makeup category, has continued to post gains in the subsequent quarters.

“From our perspective [Simon] has been a key thought leader internally and a proponent of Ulta’s initiatives with bringing in the disruptive brands (Kylie Cosmetics, for example, was her brainchild),” wrote Piper Jaffray analyst Erinn Murphy in a research note Thursday. “To that end, she crafted the emerging brands group at Ulta that has been up and running for over the last 12 months and is extremely well-respected in the beauty industry. On balance, this is a negative for Ulta given the importance of her leadership role and the significant impact she has had on shaping the prestige acceleration in Ulta’s business over the last seven [-plus] years….We don’t think she’d be leaving if business trends remained robust.”

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