ULTA’S VENTURE INTO E-COMMERCE
Byline: Laura Klepacki
NEW YORK — Stepping over the wreckage of collapsed beauty Web sites, Illinois-based beauty retailer Ulta has deemed the time is right to get into the Web game.
Terry Hanson, founder and chairman of the 86-store chain, said executives have been painstaking in the development of its new e-commerce site — Ulta.com — which went up quietly last week but has an official launch date of March 15.
With the ability to conduct advanced product searches using variables such as brand, category and even ingredient, Hanson believes the Web site is one of the most advanced yet. “Our search capabilities are unmatched,” said Hanson. The Web site also provides detailed explanations of ingredients and live advice from hair stylists.
With Ulta.com, “we hope to strengthen our brand and stretch our brand to more people,” said Hanson. Ulta is now in 12 states. “It will make us national immediately. And we will be able to meet the need of convenience 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Already, Ulta has 400 brands approved for online sale. Hanson claims that is “almost double of any other online retailer today.” And he thinks Ulta is perfectly suited to attract online shoppers. The average age of the online beauty shopper is 40, Ulta’s average-age shopper is 39. Average income of online shoppers is $76,000, Ulta’s shoppers earn $60,000.
He said unlike the start-up independent online beauty sites, Ulta.com does not need to spend millions on advertising or to develop a distribution system. “We are using our existing assets to launch the business,” said Hanson, who expects the Internet operation to be profitable by year two.
Meanwhile another brick-and-mortar retailer is stepping up to the Internet plate. Dale Crichton, executive vice president, cosmetics and fragrance for Nordstrom, was talking to New York beauty vendors this week in preparation for its expansion into online beauty sales. Nordstrom already operates an e-business, but beauty products will be added for the first time beginning this spring with full operation by July 1, said Crichton.
Hanson noted that Estee Lauder, with Gloss.com, is coming to market now, too. And reflecting on the carnage of independent online beauty sites, he said, “I’m glad we weren’t out there a year ago.”