Wholesale beauty brands are starting to launch their own stores centered on experiential elements, like meet-ups and training classes, and aimed at reintroducing themselves to customers.
Glad Lash, a 35-year-old eyelash extension business selling to professional artists, salons and spas, opened its first retail location at the end of June in Northridge, California. Last week came announcements of physical stores by Osea, a 22-year-old, family-owned natural skin-care brand that had historically been available in spas, and CoverGirl, which said it would launch a tech-focused 10,000-square-foot store in Times Square later this year.
“Truthfully, we really wanted to have the hands-on interaction with our customers,” said Melissa Palmer, CEO of Osea. “We haven’t had this level of connection with our customers to see what they’re looking for, and we wanted to share more of who we are.”
Osea, based in Venice Beach, Calif. (and opening its store near its headquarters), is a clean beauty brand that started to branch out three years ago from supplying only to spas by increasing its distribution to include stores. But now the company is opening what it’s calling a “skin-care studio” that expands beyond being a point of retail. It will have two treatment rooms offering three facials, breathing and meditation classes, clean beauty panels and influencer-hosted events for local customers.
Companies are opening physical spaces to gather data about consumers, said Maya Mikhailov, chief marketing officer and co-founder of mobile commerce platform GPShopper. Historically, beauty brands were wholesaling businesses that were distributed through pharmacies or department stores and they had little access to customers.
“Increasingly, brands are realizing they can have this close relationship with customers shopping online … but they’re seeing they lose control of their brand in these other [retail] channels,” she said, adding that brands are looking at understanding who their customer is, what she wants, what she buys and how she interacts with the brand.
Additionally, the power dynamic has shifted between brands, consumers and traditional retailers, with the entry of direct-to-consumer and digital-first brands into beauty. Companies are now trying get closer to shoppers, increasingly by creating experiences within stores. Some brands like CoverGirl are using technology to help them: CoverGirl plans to have an “experiential beauty playroom” with interactive elements, full-service makeup application and on-the-go services, according to a press release. Additionally, the store will sell all of its current products as well as store-only exclusives.
The store will sell products but is part of Coty Inc.’s — CoverGirl’s parent company — effort to overhaul how customers see the 57-year-old brand. CoverGirl has also gotten a modernized logo, minimalist black-and-white packaging, an inclusivity-themed marketing campaign and trend-driven product innovations, including a foundation available in 40 shades.
“Opening a flagship storefront was the obvious next step for the full rebranding of CoverGirl,” Ukonwa Ojo, senior vice president of CoverGirl, said, adding later that establishing the new brand vision was a “tough decision.”
Nielsen data shows, as of May 19, CoverGirl sales were down 7 percent year-over-year, a modest improvement versus a year ago when it was down 10 percent, according to WWD.
“Combining stores with experiences, and making them more brand-centered is now fundamental,” Mikhailov said. “That customer is now expecting digital technology, like [magic] mirrors or connections to their mobile shopping list with in-store programming. It’s becoming par for the course.”
The connected-store concept has received a lot of attention over the past few years, especially as Sephora and Ulta have introduced virtual makeup looks using augmented reality or artificial intelligence that matches customers with the right shade of foundation. Younger digital-first brands like NYX Cosmetics have also adopted this model — NYX includes features like algorithmic-based crowdsourcing of selfies on its e-commerce site and shoppable video platform.
It is unlikely that heritage brands will rival large beauty retailers like Ulta or Sephora, but longstanding brands are trying to strike a balance between connecting with the consumer directly and continuing their traditional distribution channel, Mikhailov said.
“I’m sure brands like CoverGirl have looked at the success of Glossier that created a physical storefront in New York, which has become a [destination] for their customers with a cult-like following — there, customers can not only try on the product, but they can also live the brand,” she said. “We see the experience-based trend in beauty as powerful as the health and wellness one.”