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Belk Inc. isn’t ceding Millennial beauty customers to cellphone or specialty retail shopping.

Going after the generation’s avid makeup enthusiasts, the department store chain has installed young contemporary cosmetics sections into locations at the shopping center SouthPark in Charlotte, N.C.; Haywood Mall in Greenville, S.C., and The Shoppes at Bel Air in Mobile, Ala., where a flagship opened last week. The sections span roughly 400 to 650 square feet and house about 25 beauty brands.

“There are so many cool and innovative items out in the marketplace and, in a traditional department store, you are relegated to your big, known brands. How do we bring surprise and delight our customer so she can discover the things she is seeing online?” asked Cory Clark, a buyer for specialty cosmetics at Belk, adding, “We have seen the success that Ulta and Sephora have had in terms of their presentation, and department stores need to figure out what is a similar application of that in a department store with the things that make a department store unique in terms of the experience and service aspects.”

Clark estimated 45 percent of the brands chosen for the young contemporary cosmetics sections are new to Belk. Brands in the sections include NYX, Laura Geller, Juice Beauty, Florapy, Sigma, The BrowGal, The Balm, Winky Lux, Beautyblender, Patchology, Rodial, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Juice Beauty and Spongellé. Shoppers navigate products both by category and by brand.

“We definitely know that color is having its heyday right now. Someone said there’s a makeup tsunami going on. We tried to lean heavily in the makeup realm, but we do have representation of treatments and tools as well,” said Clark, elaborating, “What we looked for were any brands that we saw emerging. We tried to pick category leaders resonating on social media or that we have been reading about on blogs. In a lot of instances, we are going to be incubating beauty here.”

Belk is tapping into key beauty trends such as the Korean skin-care wave in its young contemporary cosmetics sections. According to Sarah Chung, chief executive officer of Landing International, a platform curating Korean brands for retailers, the department store is introducing an assortment of Korean skin-care products arranged by steps in skin-care regimes. “The Southern woman cares about her skin. She is someone who takes care of herself. If we can communicate the great skin-care technology these products offer, I think she’ll be open to it,” said Chung. Belk is headquartered in Charlotte.

In the design of the young contemporary cosmetics sections, Belk worked hard to cultivate an inviting atmosphere. “It feels a lot like the South. In the South, we are all about hospitality and warmth,” said Clark. The spaces contain white as the base color with accents of turquoise, one of Belk’s signature colors, and touches of wood. Gondolas have ample testers, and there’s also a seating area and play station. At the play station, Clark detailed, “There are trays where they [customers] can select product and they can charge their smart device, while they are playing with product, so they are ready to take selfies after they finish playing.”

Belk is dedicating at least three employees to the young contemporary cosmetics sections. “They have to be the best on the floor because they have to be able to navigate a price range from a $6 item to potentially a hairdryer in the $300 range, and they are going from selling everything from treatment to color to a tool to a giftable item,” said Clark. “We want them to be welcoming, but not oppressive. They are there to help, but not to dissuade someone from their own experiences. They [shoppers] get service, but they don’t get a feeling of high pressure.”

Millennials are clearly Belk’s target at the sections, which are expected to roll out to additional stores, but Clark pointed out the audience for them extends beyond a specific slice of people. “We find it is more about a state of mind and being a beauty connoisseur,” she said. “You don’t have to be a Millennial to want to try something new and to have seen things on social media that you want to check out. There are a lot of discovery moments for all ages. The only condition you have to have is to be a beauty junkie.”

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