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Ulta Salons Get the Drybar Treatment

A new blowout menu is one of the first steps in the retailer's reinvention of its services strategy.

Look out, Drybar. Ulta Beauty this month is rolling out a new blowout menu meant to serve consumers who have become accustomed to fast and affordable hairstyling — and who may not have realized the service was already available in Ulta’s in-store salons.

The expanded blowout service consists of a menu of five blowout styles customers can choose from, including “tousled texture,” “weightless volume,” “sophisticated chic,” “vintage curls” and “beachy waves.” The styles are priced at $35 each, and are rolling out this month to The Salon at Ulta Beauty, Ulta’s full-service salons that are in all of the retailer’s 1,100-plus doors. The blowouts have been quietly rolling out this month, and became more visible to consumers this week, following a social media push surrounding an in-store event in Los Angeles with “Modern Family” actress Ariel Winter.

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Ulta has always offered blowouts, alongside cut and color services, but they have not been heavily advertised or very well-known by consumers. “We’ve not been known for a quick, beautiful blowout,” said Nick Stenson, vice president of salon services and trend for Ulta Beauty. “We wanted guests to know we’re a one-stop-shop for all beauty needs, whether it’s for a quick service [before work] or a night out.”

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Styles on Ulta’s blowout menu are meant to “guide the conversation between stylist and client,” said Ammon Carver, Ulta’s chief artistic director. “A lot of the time clients don’t know what will look good for them, and the style book gives them more of a benchmark than the general blowout did.”

Ulta is also hoping the new blowout menu will serve as a gateway to other services its salons offer, such as cuts and color.

Compared to the hyper-visible Drybar, which operates around 100 locations across the country, Ulta’s $35 price tag on blowouts is a value. Ulta’s blowout services include a shampoo and condition with scalp massage, a blow-dry and styling with hot tools. At Drybar, prices vary by market, but in New York, a standard blowout with styling is priced at $49. Less expensive services are available — Drybar’s quickie dry-styling goes for $25.

The blowout menu has already proven successful, said Stenson, particularly with stores in the metro markets, though he added that the blowout trend is “definitely trickling down to the suburbs.” After just a few weeks, blowout services at Ulta’s salons are already up 50 percent.

Stenson added that Ulta’s Ulta-mate Rewards loyalty members — 33 million and counting — overindex in salon services, which are redeemable for rewards points.

Salon services comprise a small part of a Ulta’s overall business — in the first quarter, they represented 5 percent of the company’s net sales — but they are fast-growing. In 2018, salon services increased 8.1 percent to $301 million, according to Ulta’s annual report.

The new blowout menu represents a step in the reinvention of Ulta’s salon services — something the company is relying on for growth, alongside its omnichannel and store expansion strategies, according to the 2018 annual report.

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