After a largely exclusive relationship with Sephora for six years, clean hair brand Briogeo is expanding into Ulta Beauty.
On January 1, the brand will launch on Ulta.com, which will be followed by a full fleet store rollout on January 3. Additionally, Briogeo will be the first clean hair offering included in Ulta’s back bar program in February, for a five-week period. The initiative began being built in November 2018 and allows the retailer’s in-store stylists to use supplied product in salon services.
“There were so many times when customers would reach out to us on social, being like, ‘How come you guys aren’t at our local Ulta?’ But to be quite honest with you, we just weren’t there yet, from any kind of perspective, in terms of taking on a new retailer. Launching a new retailer doesn’t mean you just get the purchase order out and there you go. There’s so much planning from an operational standpoint, from a trademarketing standpoint. It is all hands on deck,” said Nancy Twine, Briogeo founder and CEO.
Twine said she was in talks with Ulta Beauty pre-Covid about what a partnership could look like. It was a natural progression following private equity firm VMG’s minority investment in Briogeo in July 2019. Industry sources expect Briogeo to close out 2020 with roughly $40 million in revenue.
“We love Nancy, and she has such an authentic story. Briogeo is a brand we’ve been tracking for quite some time,” said Monica Arnaudo, Ulta Beauty chief merchandising officer. “She’s centered on categories: damaged hair, the scalp — with the skinification of hair and how it is an extension of your skin — and, of course, curly hair and texture. She speaks to all of those customers well. Briogeo will also be the first prestige hair brand that hits all of the key pillars of our Conscious Beauty Program.”
Industry sources added that Briogeo is primed for a sale in 2021, with multiple hair-focused conglomerates circling like Henkel and Wella. The timing is right, as the hair category is at in an inflection point within beauty: According to NPD data, the segment saw 11% year-over-year growth to $232.5 million in the third quarter. Twine would not comment on rumors, only saying that she and the team “have their heads down.”
Ulta Beauty is well-known for its hair offering, making the expansion a smart play, in terms of both sales and customer awareness. Arnaudo said that, at the start of the pandemic, customers were shopping jumbo-size products or essentials to stock up, but now they have shifted toward self-care. “People are leaning in and taking care of their hair, and washing and masking more,” she said. “Interestingly, we’re seeing more [sales] growth in shampoos, conditioners, masks and touchups, but not so much in styling products like dry shampoos.”
Digitally, Arnaudo said 4.9 million shoppers have tried the hair color feature via Ulta’s GlamLab virtual try-on tool, 2.9 million have played with the lash app, and 1.4 million that have experimented with the brow bar feature. Ulta Beauty has not yet added other hair products to the GlamLab app.
Beyond Ulta Beauty’s wide footprint of 1,264 stores, Twine was especially enticed by the salon-store interplay that exists in the retailer. “We are not currently a salon brand. [Selling to salons] is something that’s a dream of mine to do, but Ulta has that built in,” she said. “It’s going to be such an incredible opportunity to test and learn, and also reach a client that we’ve never reached . We are going to educate heavily, showing the client what clean hair care means. And [we’ll prove] that despite having a clean, non-toxic formula, our products will still produce fabulous results.” Twine will educate Ulta Beauty’s field teams and salon associates through various channels including virtual meetings and the retailers’ “Unveiling Beauty” video series.
Arnaudo said brands that have participated in the back bar program have seen sales growth at Ulta Beauty, and that there remains a pent-up demand for the retailer’s services. “We’re super encouraged with how our guests are coming back to the salons. We have double-digit growth in our rebooking rates and an increased average [sales] ticket,” she said. “There is nothing like getting the product in the stylists’ hands. They are educated on it, and they interact with it; they’re a big force for us, in terms of helping our guests when shopping in store.”