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WWD Beauty Inc Awards: CVS, Cult Beauty, Detox Market Win Retailer of the Year

Transparency, digital savviness and curated offerings are helping these retailers lead the pack.

Mass Market: CVS

In 2018, CVS left no doubts it is serious about beauty and willing to bet big. The efforts ranged from eliminating altered images to inking a deal with Glamsquad to provide services in stores. “This year, our beauty business is growing faster than the market, gaining share across nearly all categories,” said Maly Bernstein, vice president, beauty and personal care, for CVS Pharmacy, who is credited with spearheading many of the advancements. In January, CVS put the industry on notice that it would halt the practice of airbrushing images on collateral materials in beauty—and encouraged brand partners to do the same. A specially created CVS Beauty Mark alerts consumers to untouched imagery; brands that Photoshop images bear a notation they have been  modified. Product-wise, CVS doubled down on K-beauty, put a fresh gloss on its hair department with an eSalon installation, and capped off the year with the reveal of four pilot stores. Called BeautyIRL, the format offers express services from Glamsquad, along with about 30 brands not often found in mass-market venues. “We are looking for ways to engage with new, emerging brands so that we can make them more accessible to beauty enthusiasts,” Bernstein said. BeautyIRL is one-and-a-half times larger than traditional CVS beauty floors. Healthy growth, indeed.

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E-Tailer: Cult Beauty

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Even in the age of Amazon, Cult Beauty has found its digital niche. The beauty e-tailer stands out in a crowded digital marketplace for its shrewd assortment of products from big brands and Indie brands—all of which have a decidedly cult following. There’s Huda Beauty’s #FauxFilter Foundation, Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade, and Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask, as well as Pixi’s Glow Tonic, Lime Crime’s Venus XL Palette and Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser. That curated approach is working: Sales are expected to soar to 63 million pounds in 2018. Cult Beauty is succeeding in an increasingly crowded digital marketplace, thanks to the finely honed vision of its founder, former model and journalist Alexia Inge, who champions customer service and staying focused on the Cult customer over tracking what larger competitors are up to. That strategy has paid off in spades—Cult Beauty has a more than 50 percent return customer rate coming from multiple territories and shopping multiple brands. “The scourge of our times is the excess of choice,” Inge said earlier this year. “We wanted to create a beauty retailer that was centered on excellence, not necessarily on themes or trying to deal with a specific concern. I see Cult as a cult of perfection. That’s the vibe behind it. It’s something that people can really easily get behind.”

Specialty: The Detox Market

As the clean beauty retail landscape heats up, purveyors are looking to differentiate themselves in a fast-growing market. The Detox Market has done just that, solidifying its niche in the beauty-meets-wellness arena with a vast assortment that goes far beyond traditional beauty categories like skin care and makeup. The mix includes everything from The Beauty Chef’s probiotic-infused powders and collagen drinks to adaptogenic blends from Sun Potion and Moon Juice, supplements from Hum Nutrition and alkalizing greens from WelleCo, alongside clean beauty stalwarts such as Tata Harper and RMS Beauty. Founder and chief executive officer Romain Gaillard has dubbed the retailer’s assortment “green beauty,” and its first East Coast location, which bowed in September—a sprawling 2,100-square-foot space at 76 East Houston Street—was designed with community in mind. An upstairs library holds books on wellness, and there’s plenty of space for events and experiences, like meditation classes and a Moon Juice latte bar. The blend of wellness and beauty has resulted in very healthy sales gains, with industry sources reporting sales doubling annually for the last five years—a stat expected
to continue in 2019.