Clean beauty brand Ursa Major has turned lemons into lemonade.
Starting 2020 with a fresh $5 million in additional funding, the clean skin-care brand was able to hit the accelerator on expansion efforts that led to double-digit growth year-over-year, in spite of an industrywide sales slump sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. Rounding out the period of growth for the brand comes an expansion into just over 600 doors at Ulta Beauty, and a sharpened focus on sustainability, including B Corporation certification. They are also bringing a renewed focus on sustainable packaging.
Ursa Major cofounder Oliver Sweatman attributed the brand’s growth to its social listening practices, including data collection from its direct-to-consumer business, rigorous surveying of customers and social media interactions. The practices only grew in importance during the pandemic. “This was an awesome opportunity to get closer to our core loyal customers, because we know loyalty is going to be hugely important going forward in this new environment,” he said. “Who knows how challenging it’s going to be to acquire a new customer?”
The brand’s data revealed that many of its customers come from suburban areas. “That was kind of like one of the key insights that caused us to embrace Ulta as a possible partner,” said Sweatman. Ursa Major’s retail partners — Detox Market, Credo and Follain — lack brick-and-mortar presence outside major cities.
On Aug. 9, Ursa Major will be launching at Ulta with its five bestsellers: Golden Hour Recovery Cream, Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum, Fantastic Face Wash, Essential Face Wipes, and Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant. Prices range from $6.50 to $54.
The Ursa Major launch at Ulta is coming at a time when the retailer is prioritizing clean beauty as a merchandising pillar. This month Ulta introduced its Conscious Beauty initiative, meant to convey its commitment to stocking sustainable and transparent brands. Ulta has also entered a partnership with clean beauty retailer Credo. While Ursa Major is also sold at Credo, its launch in Ulta is separate from that partnership.
Sweatman said the company’s B-Corp certification had been in the works for 10 years. “We were fairly close to being certified, but it’s quite a rigorous standard. And there are a lot of hoops to jump through. We took this opportunity in the second quarter, during COVID-19, to really fast-track that. This is totally in line with our mission,” he said.
Certified B Corps, according to the certifier’s web site, ”are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Other certified brands in the space include Davines and The Body Shop.
Ursa Major has its sights set on removing plastics from its packaging completely. “Ultimately, our goal is to get out of plastic use. In the meantime, we will be working to go plastic-neutral. In fact, we’re actually looking at going plastic negative,” said Sweatman. “In our minds, the way we think about B Corp is that you have to make a net positive impact.”
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