Kohl’s is refreshing its beauty department and has solicited Facebook and Instagram to help identify emerging and digitally native brands to bring in.
Kohl’s Beauty Checkout, which launched on Monday, is a similar concept to another new initiative called Curated by Kohl’s that also began this month. Beauty Checkout is a quarterly rotation, starting with 13 beauty and wellness brands and will include Bobbi Brown’s ingestibles brand, Evolution_18, collagen ingestibles brand Vital Proteins and clean skin-care brand Honey Belle. The concept rolled out to 200 locations on Monday (in total, the company has approximately 1,150 stores), and included products are available at Kohls.com.
“This is one of our many initiatives centered on ramping up discovery or increasing the amount of newness in our assortment,” said Doug Howe, Kohl’s chief merchandising officer. “Customers have more choices on where they shop, so we want to accelerate the amount of product and newness we offer, and jump on emerging products and trends.”
While Target and even Walmart have invested time and in-store resources to bring exclusive brands and merchandising concepts to its beauty aisles, Kohl’s is only now doing so. Target has established exclusive relationships with buzzy influencer-led brands like Kristin Ess, and recently tested new in-store beauty displays. Walmart also hit refresh on its beauty department in all 4,700 doors and has increased its natural and clean beauty offerings.
Within stores, Beauty Checkout brands are placed together in standalone displays at the front of the beauty department, while online, the assortment has its own landing page. E-commerce makes up 20% of Kohl’s total sales. Beauty Checkout’s tagline — “We’ve checked out the best in beauty, so you don’t have to” — accompanies the assortment online and in-store via a banner, which also the Facebook and Instagram logos. Kohl’s merchandising team wanted to include brands that have built a strong online community on those social media platforms, in addition to those with a “compelling founder story,” Howe said. Evolution_18 currently has over 17,000 followers on Instagram, Vital Proteins has 475,000 Instagram followers, and Honey Belle has 27,000 followers. He added that Kohl’s typically will bring in all of a brand’s products, but Checkout was meant to test the “best of” from any brand.
Trawling through Instagram and social media at-large has become a popular tactic for finding new and exclusive brands, for retailers such as Sephora, Urban Outfitters and Neiman Marcus. While Howe said Kohl’s beauty initiatives are designed, in part, to attract new customers, none of the brands are exclusive to Kohl’s. The next assortment of brands, selected in partnership with Facebook, will be available in spring 2020.
“I’m not confident that it will capture additional market share in beauty, but they will be able to keep their existing customer base engaged,” said Syama Meagher, retail consultancy Scaling Retail CEO. “To focus on engaging Gen Z and younger millennials, Kohl’s must incorporate exclusive brands, in-store and online experiential, as well as new forms of marketing to the younger consumer to show cultural relevance.”
Meagher also viewed Kohl’s new strategy as more akin to what Macy’s has done with its beauty department to try and create an experiential store. Last holiday season, Macy’s worked with Facebook to curate a selection of brands. Kohl’s saw a 3% net sales decrease year over year in its second-quarter earnings in August, down from $4.3 billion. Female consumers comprise 70% of its customer base and beauty represents a “significant long-term growth opportunity,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s CEO, on the company’s latest earnings call. Kohl’s declined to share its portion of beauty sales or revenue.
“This is one of many paths we have with regard to accelerating newness,” Howe said. “Beauty is a category we are investing in and rolling out to more beauty department stores. There are multiple initiatives we are investing in, but broadly, newness is a theme we are [focusing on].”