The Glossary at UC Riverside

For many college students it is back to beauty along with books at college campuses across the country.

Barnes & Noble College, a Barnes & Noble Education company, continues to roll out The Glossary, a beauty store within a store at select Barnes & Noble College bookstores.

The newest opened last month at the University of California, Riverside. New lines for The Glossary stocked at this site include Ren Clean Skincare, Patchology and Skyn Iceland.

Riverside is the fifth installation of The Glossary following a pilot that opened in August 2015 at Southern Methodist University and was succeeded by Emory University, Tulane and the College of William and Mary. Five new shops are slated for 2017 with University of California, Irvine, coming up next.

Barnes & Noble College estimated there eventually could be as many as 40 to 50 The Glossary shops in its college bookstores.

Shops vary from about 300 to 800 square feet based on the physical opportunities and demographics of each store.

The Barnes & Noble Education Company teamed with design and build firm RPG to create a concept they expect will “shake up the beauty business.” Inspired by the environment at retailers such as Sephora and the open-sell at Nordstrom, The Glossary was curated with Millennials in mind.

“We felt strongly that we want to create an unexpected experience when consumers enter our stores instead of the predetermined,” said Joel Friedman, vice president and chief merchandising officer for Barnes & Noble Education. “When we decided to get in the beauty business, we knew we wanted to do it in a different way.” In the past, he said, beauty had been just a convenience at many college bookstores.

Beyond the brands, the directive was to make it a haven to explore. “The department is open to testing, trying, playing and purchasing,” said Bruce E. Teitelbaum, chief executive officer of RPG. “It is open-sell with no barriers so they can shop in their own way,” he added.

After seeing consumer interest from small assortments of Burt’s Bees, Cover Girl and Clinique, Barnes & Noble College decided to take the next step.

“We asked students what brands they used, where they learned about cosmetics and where they shop,” said Lisa Mazzio, director of merchandise, fashion trends and beauty, Barnes & Noble College.

Prestige brands were top of mind, but many responders noted they shop discount and drugstores, too. “So, we knew we had to incorporate mass beauty,” Mazzio added. Barnes & Noble College also harnesses the feedback from a panel of 10,000 campus student correspondents from a wide swatch of Barnes & Noble College universities with varying spending budgets.

“The instantaneous responses we get from them are real and powerful,” noted Friedman. That input helped formulate the merchandise mix.

The Glossary features a wide range of products across price ranges and categories. On the premium side, the selection includes Smashbox, Philosophy, Bliss, Butter London and Lipstick Queen. Traditional mass-market brands rounding out the lineup are Burt’s Bees, Cover Girl, Sally Hansen, Nicole by OPI, L’Oréal and Maybelline. Sensing interest from men, The Glossary added Jack Black near the entrance of the shop. With college students looking for transportable fragrance, roller-ball forms of Kate Spade and Michael Kors fragrances are now stocked. Rapid takeaway of hair care such as Frédéric Fekkai encouraged The Glossary to expand the choices by adding Living Proof. When an experiment of self-tanning spiked sales, St. Tropez was quickly added to the shelves.

Student input reached farther than just assortments. “This concept is built by the students right down to the stripe on the wood to the use of illustrations which they prefer over photos,” Mazzio explained.

Karla Lopez, creative director at RPG, elaborated on key design elements, especially the ability to be flexible to react to market trends and product introductions. “There is a feeling of discovery throughout the experience,” Lopez said. “You have grab and go right at the entrance, pods where you can test brands and at the back is our anchor brand, Smashbox, where there is an on-counter tester area. You have so many different experiences to satisfy a wide variety of shopping styles and trends.”

Feedback directed The Glossary to eschew the type of service young customers said they avoid at department stores. “They also told us loud and clear they didn’t want beauty advisers,” added Mazzio. “The confident college students prefer to do their own demos in store and The Glossary features testing areas as well as cross merchandising displays to offer advice on how to put a look together.” There are in-store events, however, featuring beauty makeovers to help teach application tips.

Interest in buying beauty with books comes at a time when department stores are struggling to entice Millennials who want instant pathways to purchase beauty. “The Glossary attracts the desirable 18- to 22-year-old consumer base that can be developed into lifelong brand loyalists,” Teitelbaum noted.

There is certainly a captive audience with many students who don’t have access to off-campus beauty purveyors. “We have exposure to millions of students every day,” Friedman said. What’s more, the products are sold full retail price and presented in a boutique environment rather than a few pegged brands next to stationery.

“We want to carry the brands and products the students have told us they want. We didn’t want to treat this assortment from a commodity standpoint because we never wanted this to be about price,” Friedman said.

There’s evidence students are giving bookstore beauty high marks. The Glossary at SMU is churning out three times the results of a coffee shop it replaced.