As companies across the board prioritize e-commerce in a coronavirus landscape, some beauty brands aren’t giving up on brick-and-mortar.
This week, 12-year-old Beekman 1802 is announcing its partnership with Ulta Beauty: first selling online, starting on July 26, and then in 400 stores as of August 9. The brand will be part of Ulta’s emerging brand platform, Sparked. The brand will be bringing hero products like its Pure Goat Milk Soap and Pure Deodorant into Ulta, plus it has developed a new line of products that is focused on the benefits of probiotics and goat milk, and features new packaging. Prior to this, Beekman 1802 had relied largely on QVC and HSN for sales and brand awareness, as well as its e-commerce site; it also sells its line in 2,000 independent shops across the U.S and Canada. In 2019, Beekman 1802’s DTC accounted for 20% of sales, while wholesale retail accounted for 80%.
“We had been looking at and in talks with Ulta and Sephora, and they are both different and unique, but we had real fans at Ulta,” said Beekman 1802 co-founder Josh Kilmer-Purcell of Ulta’s merchandising reactions. “In this current climate, Ulta is a much safer environment to shop, and we think if anyone is going to figure out beauty retail right now, it’s them. They are the biggest beauty retailer in the U.S., and our business is here.” Kilmer-Purcell highlighted Ulta’s new Covid-19 store updates and that is more strip mall-centric compared to Sephora.
Though Beekman 1802 is a lifestyle company and has a mercantile arm that sells books, hot sauce and jam, among other items, in 2019, the beauty category made up more than 90% of sales. Amid coronavirus, the company reported that it has seen a 100% increase in e-commerce sales.
Beekman 1802 co-founder Brent Ridge added that the brand sought anecdotal advice of Beekman 1802’s customers to decide where they wanted to see the brand. Ulta was a winner, largely because of its suburban footprint.
Moreover, Ulta will expand Beekman 1802’s reach from a 35-64-year-old audience found on QVC or HSN to one squarely centered on Gen-Z. According to Piper Sandler, Ulta is the No. 1 beauty destination for younger shoppers ranked ahead of Sephora and Amazon.
“It’s a question of if we have the recipe for that next generation, who may not know Brent or I, but love the idea of the brand and are intrigued by our skin care,” said Kilmer-Purcell. Since 2019, he and Ridge have brought on a new CMO, Brad Farrell, who spent 14 years at L’Oreal working on Kiehl’s and Pureology, and a vp of education, Justin Hopkins, who previously led education for Sunday Riley and Tatcha. They’ve been charged with updating marketing and social media, and positioning the new offering in Ulta. “It is a year of the survival of the fittest, and more than ever, every single distribution channel has to be more robust.”
Other beauty focused companies that had little to no reliance on brick-and-mortar before Covid-19, like Nécessaire, have also taken the plunge — Nécessaire partnered with Sephora in June. Beyond the allure of a Sephora or Ulta alliance, investment partnerships can be helpful to seal these retail forays. Nécessaire secured a quiet round of investment with VMG Partners late last year. While Beekman 1802 has been in talks with investors, Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge said this week that their brand remains self-funded.
Beyond Sparked, Beekman 1802 also plays into Ulta’s new “Conscious Beauty” program, announced last week, that prioritizes clean ingredients, cruelty-free formulas, vegan formulas, sustainable packaging and positive impact. This initiative will be key for driving shoppers into store, said Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer at Ulta Beauty.
“We have been big fans of Beekman 1802; they take great care in their formulas, understand the power of goat milk in skin care and cultivate their own ingredients. For us, the the pillars of clean and conscious beauty have been a big focus. For the consumer, this clean and conscious conversation has been incredibly amplified in skin care, hair care and scalp care, since people are home and focused on health and wellness,” said Arnaudo.
Though Beekman 1802 will begin in Sparked, it will be branded with Ulta’s “Conscious Beauty,” indicating it’s made without ingredients on a no-no list that will debut fully in October. Credo and numerous other brands will also be part of the “Conscious Beauty” platform online and in stores.
“Cosmetics had been a huge part of our business, and still is, but we have had so much traction in wellness, bath and skin care. These areas will continue to be a growth focus for Ulta,” said Arnaudo.