The mass-market retailer is adding several new natural beauty brands to its shelves and pumping up the presences of a number of natural brands that had already found homes in its beauty assortment. The new brands include Alaffia, Little Seed Farm, Nubian Heritage, Thayers Natural, The Seaweed Bath Co., Nature’s Gate and W3ll People, and the growing brands are S.W. Basics, Fig + Yarrow, Nourish Organic, Plant, Savannah Bee and Zum.
As shoppers, especially Millennials, gravitate to healthier and greener alternatives to conventional brands, Target is positioning itself as the go-to resource for affordable options in natural beauty merchandise. The strategy has been showing results. In 2016, the retailer registered a double-digit percentage lift in sales of natural skin-care products, and brands such as Yes To, Shea Moisture, Burt’s Bees and Pacifica clocked robust results.
“We know guests are increasingly interested in and aware of ingredients within the products they’re using, particularly when it comes to skin care,” said a Target spokesperson. “Target is constantly on the lookout for new brands and the latest beauty trends, and we’ve continued to expand and refine our selection of better-for-you offerings in hopes that guests will think of us first when they’re shopping for natural beauty products.”
In tandem with building its natural beauty business, the retailer has staked out a leading ingredient policy for the mass segment. By 2020, full ingredient transparency is the objective for beauty, personal care, baby care and household items even for fragrance, the compounds in which the federal government doesn’t require be disclosed. Also, by 2020, Target is banning phthalates, propylparaben, butylparaben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde donors and nonylphenol ethoxylates from beauty, personal care, baby care and household product formulations.
“Making informed choices should be simple for guests,” said Dawn Block, senior vice president, essentials and beauty at Target, in the retailer’s announcement of its stances on ingredients. “This framework is designed to take the complications out of finding better-for-you product options.”
The bottom line is that Target seeks to be a place trusted for natural beauty products — and it’s working. “They’re the groundbreaker right now. They’re the store everybody wants to play in,” said The Seaweed Bath Co. cofounder Allison Grossman, declaring that the brand is “off to a good start” at Target since hitting end-caps in late December. After entering Target in March 2015, products from S.W. Basics have consistently sold out. The brand’s toner, containing organic raw apple cider vinegar, is a bestseller, a telltale sign to founder Adina Grigore that Target shoppers understand S.W. Basics’ philosophy that straightforward products filled with a few high-quality natural ingredients are what’s needed for the skin.
“Apple cider vinegar is getting a lot of attention, so that’s part of it, but it still takes a leap of faith to say I’m going to take this product that looks pink and cloudy, and smells like apple cider vinegar, and put it on my skin when people are used to lotions that smell like strawberry daiquiris,” Grigore said. Elaborating about natural beauty at Target, she asserted, “People actually are ready for this when we’ve been told historically that they aren’t ready, and it’s a trend that’s not here yet. I think our experience at Target has proven that’s not true.”
W3ll People cofounder James Walker agrees that customers are ready for natural beauty products — and at every rung of the retail ladder in the beauty industry. W3ll People is stocked by the upscale clean-beauty boutiques Credo and The Detox Market, natural grocer Whole Foods, specialty apparel chain Anthropologie and Target.
“We’ve been on target.com for almost two years, and it has really proven itself,” Walker said. “Target is excited about bringing better, more positive choices into their playground, and they are doing it in the context of premium quality cosmetics across skin care, makeup and hair care. It’s similar to what they’ve achieved in the food category with premium organic brands.”
At Target, premium can’t mean too pricey. W3ll People and Nature’s Gate have sharpened their pricing to suit the budgets of Target’s clientele. Nature’s Gate’s four shampoos and four conditioners at the retailer are priced at $4.99 apiece, although their prices rise to as much as $8 or $9 at Whole Foods locations. W3ll People slashed the prices of its products by 10 to 30 percent to get its price range to between $13.99 and $28.99. “They are not cheap, not drugstore, but we right priced,” Walker said. “Though you are spending money on a premium product, it’s attainable.” He stressed, “We haven’t made any formula changes to reduce price points. In fact, we are introducing higher and higher concentrations of premium organic and luxurious ingredients.”
Little Seed Farm’s Activated Charcoal Soap, Geranium Rose Soap and Lavender Soap are each $5.99 in Target stores and online. “As a company, we use all organic ingredients, and we follow sustainable and organic farming practices, which includes rotational grazing that’s very labor intensive, and we see lots of brands on the market with similar products at twice the price,” said Eileen Ray, who owns and runs Little Seed Farm with her husband James on a farm in rural Lebanon, Tenn. “We have made a conscious decision to stay affordable because our mission is to spread the idea of sustainability and to be a model for small businesses. It’s totally doable. You don’t have to charge an arm and a leg.”
Little Seed Farm is emblematic of the lengths Target will go to fill its shelves with natural beauty brands that might resonate with its customers. Before Target contacted the brand about a year ago, Little Seed Farm didn’t reach out to the retailer and had no intention of doing so. In fact, the Rays, who left New York for a purposeful life outside the city, weren’t in the habit of chasing down buyers and word of mouth had fueled six-year-old Little Seed Farm’s proliferation to a retail network of primarily curated general stores, food shops, and clothing and beauty boutiques across the country.
“We hadn’t actively pursued any large retailers, so this came as a pleasant surprise for us,” Ray said. “Our product has gained in certain circles a kind of cult vibe about it. The [Target] buyer had found out about us through a friend. We have amazing customer loyalty and that probably contributed to it. We also have a really interesting brand story, and you can follow and see all aspects of our farm and our animals on Instagram.”
Now that Target carries an ample assortment of natural beauty and personal-care products, Nature’s Gate marketing director Terry Sarian encouraged the retailer to mingle natural and non-natural products together in beauty aisles. Natural beauty products tend to be separated into their own sections. The brand’s hair-care items are located inside Target doors in areas devoted to non-natural conventional personal-care items, although they are paired with fellow natural brands within the areas. Sarian argued that blending natural and non-natural products exposes customers who may not have considered buying natural products to natural choices.
“If the product was next to, let’s say, a Head & Shoulders, it would be easier for consumers to pick it up and think, ‘Maybe I should look at a healthier alternative.’ The trick today is getting that customer into the natural aisle,” Sarian said. “The future of Target will be all the products mixed with each other and customers, whether [wanting] natural or not, will see all of them in the in-line set.”