Walgreens and Birchbox debuted their highly anticipated partnership on Thursday, including three stores in New York. The other markets where the total of 11 pilot stores will operate include Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami and Minneapolis.
To build upon Walgreens’ efforts to elevate the beauty experience, the retailer took a minority stake in Birchbox last October. “Through Birchbox, we’re able to bring in the best items of the best brands,” said Lauren Brindley, group vice president of beauty and personal care at Walgreens. “And this is a scalable model,” she said noting that based on feedback from the initial stores the concept can be rolled out to more doors. For Birchbox, teaming with Walgreens exposes Birchbox’s subscription model to even more consumers.
Birchbox shops are located in 400- to 1,000-square-foot within the Walgreens beauty area. The centerpiece of the area is a Build Your Own Birchbox — also a feature in Birchbox’s own two stores — where shoppers can handpick five samples.
“We’ve really tried to make it comfortable and encourage women to spend more time with beauty,” said Birchbox chief executive officer Katia Beauchamp during a tour of the boutique with displays that look more like furniture than drugstore fare. In particular, Birchbox and Walgreens hope to provide a “home” for what Beauchamp calls the casual beauty customer — a shopper who wants new and exciting, but in an edited format.
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Full-size skin-care, makeup and hair products from more than 40 brands are merchandised in a grid-style fixture set up by type rather than brand. For example, cleansers are in one area. “A consumer can come in and easily find if they want, say, a cleanser that is hydrating,” Beauchamp said. “We don’t see this shopper as being extremely brand driven.”
That said, there many up-and-coming brands both parties hope will hit the mark with shoppers, including many indie and digitally native lines. Examples include Coola, Sand and Sky, Wander Beauty, Beachwaver, RMS Beauty, Huxley, Davroe, Acure, IPKN, Embryolisse, Winky Lux and Arrow. The Birchbox collaboration is also the entry into a new market for the reinvigorated Georgette Klinger range. “A large section of consumers not accustomed to prestige beauty and those who shop for it regularly, will now be introduced to it in a comfortable, fun and exciting environment,” said Simon Abadi, president of Georgette Klinger. “Their team has surpassed our expectations with the design and layout of the space which will make it so easy for consumers looking for the very best in beauty to shop easily and conveniently for their products.
There are also high levels of service provided by specially trained Walgreens beauty consultants, Brindley said. During the opening they provided makeup touch-ups and offered information about the brands stocked.