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Ulta Beauty’s Monica Arnaudo on Post-pandemic Shopping Trends

Monica Arnaudo, Ulta Beauty's chief merchandising officer, said makeup's rebound is complementing growth in skin and hair care.

At Ulta Beauty, color cosmetics are making up for ground lost in 2020.

Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer at the retailer, said consumers are carrying over coronavirus-era behaviors, including self care rituals and prioritizing skin and hair care, while also spending increasing amounts on makeup.

“All of us were optimistic makeup was going to make a comeback, and we’re seeing a lot of traction in the newness that we’re launching,” Arnaudo said. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by this, but what is great to see is that the habits, routines and rituals we saw with skin care are continuing, too.”

Arnaudo said new lip launches from NYX Professional Makeup, Clinique, Benefit, MAC Cosmetics and Too Faced were among the most popular with Ulta Beauty’s customer. “We’re seeing great results in lip across our prestige brands,” she said.

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Mass market makeup has also been performing well, Arnaudo said. “We started to see mass recover faster. Even when you look at last year, as people were being value-conscious, mass was a little stronger during the pandemic into the holiday season. Same with ‘mass-stige’, since we have so many brands at that mid-tier price point,” she said.

Eye makeup has also been performing well, Arnaudo said, driven by a new exclusive MAC Cosmetics mascara launch – ”it’s just been on fire,” she said – and increased interest in colored liners like those from Urban Decay and KVD Vegan Beauty.

Hair care — the fastest-growing category in prestige beauty — is also garnering more interest from consumers who are more focused on hair health, Arnaudo said.

“Last year, people were taking more care of their hair, and you heard more about treatments,” she said. “The piece around repairing damaged hair, we started to see a lot of traction with that earlier in the year.”

For skin, sun care and sunless products were back on the rise after a year of grounded flights, Arnaudo said, adding that brands like CeraVe and La Roche-Posay were winners in the segment.

Body care has kept up momentum in tandem with Ulta Beauty’s assortment of wellness-oriented products, too. “There are really great brands like Megababe, and Love Wellness, which is more ingestibles. People are really loving the assortment,” Arnaudo said. “We saw such an influx in sales in bath and body. Brands like Truly, which is exclusive to us, have some really great self care products, and those are doing really well for us.”

Fragrance has also been a “huge growth category” for Ulta, she said, adding that designer offerings were providing halo effects around the brands’ other offerings.

Here, see proprietary research takeaways on Ulta Beauty’s customer.

1. 65 percent of shoppers plan to buy beauty.
2. 90 percent of shoppers plan to wear natural makeup looks, while 60 percent plan to wear bold looks.
3. 66 percent of shoppers see a connection between beauty and wellness.
4. 44 percent of consumers plan to have their hair cut or colored, and 41 percent are buying new hair care products.
5. 90 percent of beauty enthusiasts are maintaining beauty routines, and 60 percent are still adding new products to their skin care routines.


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