CVS Pharmacy aims to strengthen the link between health and beauty.

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The drugstore is making a number of changes across its beauty department to support CVS’ bigger picture of further
establishing itself as a leading player in wellness. The upgrades — found in 2,000 of its 7,800 doors — are designed to cement CVS’ position as a health-care destination, and to recover sales growth from its bold stand to stop selling tobacco products last year. Its efforts involve the addition of several exclusive brands, including clinical skin-care ranges that blur the lines between beauty and wellness.

“Our customers think of health and beauty as going hand-in-hand,” said Alex Perez-Tenessa, vice president of retail merchandising for beauty and personal care at CVS. He added that the goal of the tweaks is to draw more women into the department.

For instance, a store in Rochelle Park, N.J., merchandised vibrant fresh-cut flowers alongside the first end-of-aisle display in the beauty department. The fixture serves as the gateway to a glossy-back fixture that houses the cosmetics wall.

“We needed to do a better job of enticing her to shop the department,” said Perez-Tenessa.

In cosmetics, CVS has added mirrors to aid product selection, and in skin care it has employed shelf headers — including Dermatologist Solutions and Skin Solutions — to help shoppers navigate the aisle. It’s also made room for regimen trays to better showcase a range of products (some out of their outer carton) and created “hot spots,” or display areas, that will feature new items every couple of months, said Perez-Tenessa. For instance, the hot spots may showcase trends such as makeup contouring or eyebrow shaping.

New signage also more prominently calls out existing sections, such as Natural Skin Care.

CVS has peppered the assortment with exclusive brands, including its existing lines such as Nuance by Salma Hayek, Makeup Academy and Essence of Beauty. The clinical skin-care lines include Skin+ Pharmacy, a range of dermatologist-tested

products designed to treat specific skin concerns, such as acne and aging. In August, it will add Jouviance, an antiaging dermalogical line imported from Canada, and Wilma Schumann, a treatment-based line from Europe. CVS is the exclusive U.S. retailer of both lines.

CVS plans to expand its natural skin-care assortment in September with Promise Organic, a range that relies on ingredients such as argan oil and coconut milk. Perez-Tenessa noted that CVS’ sales of natural beauty and skin-care products gained 50 percent in 2014 over the prior year, and were up 50 percent in the first quarter as well.

“In beauty, exclusive brands are one of the fastest-growing segments,” Perez-Tenessa said.

CVS will add more than 1,200 products across its beauty department this year.

The drugstore chain began rolling out the upgrades in March and will soon complete the earmarked 2,000 doors. “We went big from a scale standpoint,” said Perez-Tenessa, referring to the 2,000 doors. “We needed to design the [upgrades] that were consistent with our format so that we could scale up quickly,” he said. The retailer has tapped New York-based psychologist Vivian Diller, Ph.D., to herald the link between beauty and health. Diller, who has written extensively about the psychology of beauty, has found that taking care of personal beauty needs enhances a person’s sense of personal well-being. A good hair day, for instance, can boost confidence and reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, according to her research.

As for how CVS balances newness with the risk that sometimes comes with change, Perez-Tenessa said, “We do a lot of consumer research to see where newness drives categories. We play in segments where there’s openness to newness.” He noted that in skin care, consumers are on a quest for a sense of discovery. “They are looking for CVS to guide her.” With that in mind, CVS aims to up the level of services in 1,000 doors by making sure associates are available at peak hours and offering a more extensive three-week training program for beauty advisers. CVS will outfit beauty advisers with tablets filled with educational materials and host more in-store events.

CVS has tinkered with its beauty department over the years with some efforts more bold than others. It made a splash in 2008 with its first Beauty 360, an upscale store-in-store concept that featured more premium-priced brands and beauty services. By May 2012, it had shuttered all 25 Beauty 360 locations.

Last year, it outfitted a store in East Windsor, N.J., with a dramatic new design and reconfigured beauty department set off by a faux-wood floor and glossy-black display fixtures. Skin-care, haircare and personal-care products sat on low-profile shelves, set at an angle to the cosmetics wall, replacing traditional gondolas. In the center of the department is a counter for consultations.

At the time, a CVS spokeswoman said the retailer was testing the format in a handful of stores. CVS did not roll them out.

This latest round of changes seems more subtle in comparison, but it sets the stage for more to come.

“This is a journey. This is step one in a number of steps on that journey,” said Perez-Tenessa. “Beauty requires a much different [in-store] experience.”

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