Makeup Academy’s Contouring Palette. 

CVS doesn’t want its shoppers to wait for trends they see on YouTube or Instagram. To deliver the most up-to-date beauty products at warp speed, the chain is accelerating innovation in its exclusive Makeup Academy line.

First brought to CVS stores in 2014, Makeup Academy unveiled lip, eye, lash and brushes. Based on consumer acceptance, CVS is expanding the brand into the face category. Nine items are hitting almost 6,000 CVS doors this month. That brings to more than 175 the total stockkeeping units in the Makeup Academy portfolio at CVS.

CVS does not comment on sales figures, but industry sources said Makeup Academy can easily soar past the $15 to $20 million mark.

The drugstore giant has made a commitment to its exclusives, an area that builds shopper loyalty and traditionally delivers higher gross margins. “Store brands also remain an area of both strength and opportunity, and our store brands represented 22.6 percent of front-store sales in the quarter; that’s up about 80 basis points from a year ago,” said CVS chief executive officer Larry J. Merlo during the chain’s second-quarter earnings call in early August. “We’ve been growing and gaining penetration in health care, beauty, personal care and edibles by focusing on providing high-quality value alternatives.” 

Working closely with Makeup Academy, CVS gets on-trend items to the shelf in a pace on par with the prestige industry, a strategy more important than ever as consumers hunt for products to produce looks gleaned from social media. While megabrands are credited with compressing launch times, many industry experts note there is still a lag in getting innovation to mass doors quickly. That’s driving more retailers to work out exclusive deals to speed the process to compete on par with online and specialty competitors.

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“We can react faster with our exclusive brands. We’re as agile and nimble as we can be,” said Cia Tucci, CVS’ vice president, store brands and quality assurance to WWD. She added there is a pipeline of innovation slated under the Makeup Academy logo.

This is the latest in a string of upgrades in the beauty aisles at CVS, which recently included a major commitment to K-beauty, the introduction of independent brands found only in the U.S. at CVS and healthy skin-care initiatives. The latter involves removing all sun products with an SPF lower than 15 from shelves and bulking up in-store Healthy Skincare Centers with larger selections of clinically proven and natural brands. In addition to Makeup Academy extensions, CVS is widening its scope in Skin + Pharmacy, another CVS exclusive. Next month Advanced Acne Masks will be available. The masks are dermatologist tested to help diminish the appearance of blemishes and scarring.

“Customers have been looking to CVS for niche and exclusive brands and we’ve had a lot of success in beauty,” said Tucci. “Innovation and [being on] trend are so important for impulse purchases. We want to have the trends in our store when customers are ready to shop.”

The items in the Makeup Academy arsenal include those to address several demands such as contouring, illuminating and color correction. The total lineup includes: a Pro Bronzing Palette, a Pro Bronzing Palette, a Pro Highlighting Palette, Pro Correcting Crayons, Pro Mattifying Balm, Pro Mattifying Powder, Pro Illuminating Powder, Mattifying Primer and Pro Illuminating Primer. Prices range from $8 for the Crayons to $15 for the Mattifying Balm.

Beauty is getting attention from the top-down at CVS as the chain seeks to bolster front-end performance and differentiate from other mass beauty players. “We remain focused on growing our beauty, health-care and personal-care businesses, and continue to enhance our digital presence to increase engagement with our health and beauty shoppers,” Merlo stated.