When Jean-André Rougeot became president and CEO of Sephora Americas in 2019, he was largely seen as a rule breaker industry-wide. In hindsight, his style was perfectly suited to the last two years, as the company made adjustments in response to pandemic lifestyles and racial reckonings.
Though Rougeot is a beauty executive through and through, having previously served as CEO of Benefit Cosmetics and president and CEO of the Coty Division at Coty, he has never been afraid of change. Case in point: Sephora’s partnership with Kohl’s, secured in December 2020.
Kohl’s beauty experience was nascent prior to Sephora coming along, but Rougeot saw the melding of the retailers, which debuted this August, as a step to growth.
“I’ve always said that Sephora has a reach opportunity,” said Rougeot. “We are very good at talking to and selling to consumers that know us — we have over 20 million people in our Beauty Insider program. We have credibility, we do a very good job of reaching out to them and presenting new brands to them, and we have an amazing assortment of brands. But our challenge is: How do we talk to another 20, 40, 50 and 100 million people?”
Sephora has long been known for its urban, downtown and mall-centric footprint, but suburban shoppers want the best in beauty, too. And when Rougeot was looking for a partner to bring that Sephora ambition of latitude to reality, he said Kohl’s quickly led the pack of possible contenders. But its locations weren’t the only thing that sealed the deal.
“We have great respect for our brands, so it was very important to us to find a partner that looked at brands not as vendors, but as partners,” he said. Judging by Kohl’s relationships with Nike, Levi’s and Under Armour, Rougeot found a fit. Sephora is known for its brand building expertise, having found and incubated many of the most exciting brands of the moment, including Tatcha and Drunk Elephant. And at no point did Rougeot want that prestige beauty vision to be diluted.
“I have a lot of respect for our competitors that do very different things. But our lane is a good lane. We’ve been having amazing years — the numbers are staggering. We’re eating market share and winning in a big way because we are staying true to who we are: We’re bringing great brands and great stories to our consumers,” he said.
And the like-mindedness between the companies doesn’t end there, from Rougeot’s perspective.
“Kohl’s is a forward-thinking company. They are committed to the internet — even before the crisis, e-commerce was about 25% of the business. And they’ve made a big commitment to operations, with things like buy-online, pick-up in-store,” said Rougeot. As Sephora has made leaps toward similar goals, Rougeot hopes to enable BOPIS and same-day delivery for orders placed on Sephora.com or Kohls.com to both companies’ stores in 2022.
“It’s a big project, from a systems point of view, and complicated with two big corporations. But I am hopeful. At some point next year, you are going to see a lot of that going on,” said Rougeot.