Clean beauty is big business.
The clean beauty market is expected to be worth $21.8 billion by 2024, according to market research company Statista, and fittingly, retailers are expanding their reach as customers become more interested in the category. Follain, The Detox Market and Credo Beauty are focused exclusively on clean beauty offerings, and more established players like Sephora are building out their own clean beauty categories to align with consumer values and tap into the lucrative market opportunity. As the number of retailers expand to cater to customers interested in clean beauty, each company is tasked with carving out ways to differentiate themselves from the pack. Here, how the biggest players are going about it.
Follain focuses on a high-touch approach
Founded in 2013, Follain has kept ingredient education — for both consumers and brands — at the heart of its business model, with an aim of positioning itself as a stringent and innovative clean-beauty leader, said Tara Foley, founder and CEO. Since its launch, Follain, which stocks brands like Tata Harper, Josh Rosebrook and Herbivore Botanicals, has expanded to five stores with two additional opening this month in Dallas and New York. Overall it will grow to ten stores in 2019. Industry sources expect Follain to experience 200 percent growth in 2018, according to Women’s Wear Daily.
Follain said the company works with brand founders and its own four-person advisory board, which consists of individuals across ingredient sourcing and supply chains, green chemistry and dermatology, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of ingredients. For example, recent concerns over the common preservative phenoxyethanol led the company to suggest fermented beetroot as a more viable alternative. As such, Follain will no longer sell products that contain the preservative. Foley admitted that this type of natural ferment is currently very expensive, but said that by requiring its brands to use it as a replacement, it will pressure the industry-at-large to follow.
“Taking these proactive steps to make sure Follain is always on the cutting edge of clean is incredibly important to me,” she said.
To facilitate consumer education along the decision-making journey, the company offers up quizzes, a blog and chat capabilities on its website. In-store, products are broken down by category or skin concern, rather than brand. Online, the quiz, for example, asks users their age, the level of oiliness of their skin, the type of moisturizer they like and their top-three skin concerns to receive a personalized recommendation list. The blog, titled Clean Beauty 101, provides deep dives into specific product categories, like cleansers and facial oils, breaking down “good” versus “bad” ingredients and more.
“Making the switch to clean beauty can be a big step for clients. We hold their hand through the entire process,” she said.
In addition, Follain employs a distinct aesthetic in order to “beckon” people into their stores. Outfitted like a bathroom out of a Nancy Meyers film, Follain stores feature marble, white tile, vintage clawfoot bathtubs and brass fixtures and finishes.
“Similar to our digital experience, [our stores] are designed to encourage that exciting moment of discovery for shoppers,” she said. For example, the large basin sinks in every shop make it “easy and inviting” for people to test products while roaming the store.
Credo Beauty looks for unique entry points in order to scale
Credo Beauty builds its consumer experience by offering both clean beauty education and the familiar experience of retailers like Sephora or Ulta Beauty.
“We didn’t feel clean beauty had to be weird and uptight,” said Annie Jackson, Credo Beauty’s co-founder and COO. “You go out shopping with your girlfriends, and you want something fun like a lipgloss, and then if you want more information, our staff is really informed.”
Founded in 2014 in San Francisco, Credo now operates eight stores in New York, Boston and Chicago with four of them offering dedicated Tata Harper spas — other services like lip and brow waxes, mini facials and makeup tutorials are available at all locations. Though primarily a skin-care and makeup retailer, Credo has also added new categories to its offerings that retailers like Follain have not, such as ingestibles and products for vaginal health and intimate care.
To introduce people to the clean beauty lifestyle, the retailer has focused heavily on events by offering two a month per store since launch, Jackson said. Past events have included makeup masterclasses and meetings with brand founders. The stores also offer themselves as rentable venues for events, such as bachelorette parties and fundraisers.
“It creates more awareness [for Credo], and some brand founders also have a fan following,” she said. “It’s always a wild card to see what people respond to, but we will do any events, from brand-founder personal appearances and master classes to general education.”
Like all other clean beauty retailers, education around the topic is also a strong initiative for Credo, and it has found a way to scale its educational programs for customers, employees and brands. Customers can not only speak with staff at stores, but can also reach them through an online chat service. Its blog, Clean Scene, is filled with how-tos and ingredient information. Credo also launched an educational portal accessible only to brands and Credo employees in September, where brands can upload videos about their story, products and ingredients. Employees are encouraged to watch these videos and take follow-up quizzes, in order to take the pressure off of the brands to make in-store educational visits to help employees learn about more brands.
“You have to continue to adapt — adapt or die. So we continuously trying to differentiate ourselves, because people are trying new technology,” Jackson said.
The Detox Market takes a slow and steady approach
Based out of California, where it first launched a pop-up in Venice Beach in 2010, The Detox Market aims to promote the relaxed West Coast vibe through its consumer experiences and with its brand relationships. For example, the brand has taken a slow and steady approach to its retail expansion; it currently has seven locations, with four opening in 2018 compared to last year when it only had one in Santa Monica. While the company declined to say what its revenue or sales are, it did say that sales at its stores have doubled every year for the past five years.
The reason for this slow approach is two-fold, said Romain Gaillard, founder and CEO of The Detox Market. First, the company wants to focus on embedding itself within the community, which can only happen with an in-depth understanding of the neighborhood, he said. But also, The Detox Market has been around since 2010 and has, therefore, had the luxury of time to figure out its retail business.
“Because we started early, we never had to play catch up,” he said. “In the way that retail is now, most people are going online first. People also want a great experience, and you can’t find a good spot or a strong team if you open a store every month.”
In order to embed itself and build a clean beauty community, The Detox Market also relies on events like dinners and workshops, which it has done since the beginning. For its latest store opening in New York City, the retail space includes a dedicated second floor just for events — this model will be repeated for its new Toronto store, which will open in January 2019.
Behind the scenes, The Detox Market also tries to create an atmosphere of collaboration and community. This is what the led the company to start its own in-house content lab in October 2017, Gaillard said. Starting in 2016, the team started to shoot its own content for its social channels and website, which has proved helpful to the company, he said: It allows the brand to be flexible and reactive to what doesn’t look right, while also giving the company a better sense of control over the outcome..
Paradoxically, the slower approach of The Detox Market is the thing that sets it apart, despite the assertion from Gaillard that differentiation is not top of mind for the company. For example, The Detox Market launched a subscription box in October 2017, which sells out “almost” every month. (Detox Market declined to specify how many subscribers it has.) But the company has not had the opportunity yet to leverage the consumer data that is has been gathering, he said.
“We aren’t obsessed about trying to differentiate. When you try to differentiate yourself, you’re just basing yourself on others’ decisions. For us, we are always looking for passion about what we are doing,” Gaillard said.