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On Wednesday, Sephora announced its “CBD Standards,” which sets parameters around CBD potency, ingredient quality, sourcing and testing to reinforce the retailer’s commitment as a trusted resource in the beauty and CBD landscape.
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In order to be Sephora CBD compliant, beauty brands must first qualify under the Clean at Sephora standard, which the company created in May 2018, said Cindy Deily, vp of skin-care merchandising at Sephora. Last year, the company instituted stricter standards for its Clean program, ensuring that products are free from over 50 ingredients versus 13 at launch. Beyond that, CBD beauty products must contain full or broad spectrum CBD, said CBD must be grown domestically, all products must be triple tested by a third party and a certificate of analysis that verifies CBD content must be made available, so that label claims match ingredients.
“Search for CBD on Sephora.com has increased over 1000 times since 2018, so there’s clearly client interest in these kind of products. As customers are looking to navigate this growing category, we saw the need to provide transparency and quality assurance,” said Deily.
As with “clean” beauty at Sephora — Target implemented its own clean iteration last July — Sephora becomes the first national retailer to create CBD guidelines. Deily said Sephora will be intentionally keeping its curation focused. After launching its first CBD brand in stores last July with Lord Jones, Sephora only recently added Saint Jane and Flora + Bast to its national slate. New brand Prima, which launched DTC last June, will be the fourth beauty brand to anchor Sephora’s CBD assortment in 170-plus stores. Online, select CBD products from brands like Josie Maran and Herbivore will be included.
In physical locations, CBD brands will be highlighted in Sephora’s “The Next Big Thing” merchandising display. Digitally, the CBD standards and corresponding product will be featured on a dedicated landing page and product pages. For now, marketing will be focused on in-store support via Sephora’s beauty advisers and sampling through the company’s Beauty Insider program. However, Deily said Sephora’s team is in regular communication with Google and Facebook since online brand advertising capabilities are still limited.
“We’ve felt the need to be selective because it is quite overwhelming and the legal landscape is very complex,” said Deily.
While Prima will be exclusive to Sephora for six months, its other CBD brand partners do have distribution elsewhere. Part of Sephora’s rationale in creating its CBD standards is that other companies do not yet have distinctive CBD assortments. For instance, though Ulta carries Cannuka, the brand is also sold at Space NK, which typically sells much more expensive product. Meanwhile, Sagely Naturals is sold at both CVS and Neiman Marcus.
Beyond the expansive reach that Sephora provides to Prima, its standardization process was particularly attractive to founder and CEO Christopher Gavigan. According to Gavigan, Prima has seen double-digit sales growth month over month since launching online but wants to build an omnichannel business.
“Brands need retailers to hold them accountable for their CBD and testing methods. There is currently no government regulation to show or prove what are contaminated or efficacious ingredients,” said Gavigan.
“There are now hundreds of mislabeled products claiming to contain ‘cannabis’ that contain zero CBD or other cannabinoids. Green-washing risks are confusing the consumer and marginalizing the category,” said Robert Rosenheck, founder and CEO of Lord Jones. “From the start, at Lord Jones we were obsessed with producing products that were clean, green and safe. We wanted to hit precise levels of accuracy when infusing our products, and so we tested, and tested, and tested again. This is the most important piece of the Sephora ‘CBD Standards.’ Now all CBD products at Sephora will be tested for potency as well as microbial and chemical contaminants.”
Without stricter FDA regulation on the horizon, Sephora expects brands to become more accountable about their CBD output and claims, and customers to be more critical of their CBD products.
“There’s a risk with so many new brands and claims of turning consumers off completely,” said Deily. “There has been a tsunami of new CBD brands launching, and this has been going on for over a year. Brand activity in this space has actually made us more conservative.” — Priya Rao
What to pay attention to now
Through its “The Big Find” contest, Qurate Retail Group’s beauty strategy for QVC and HSN has come into focus. The program was meant to find the next “it” brands across five categories: beauty, accessories, apparel and footwear, jewelry and home, but through the contest 18 new beauty brands will be launching on HSN and 16 will debut on QVC. Accessory brands were the second category that saw high success, with six and eight brands making their way onto HSN and QVC, respectively.
DTC-brand Mented already made its HSN debut in January, and Cleo+Coco launched on QVC in February, where it saw its natural deodorant sell out in its first on-air appearance. To build on the contest’s energy, QVC will focus its programming on the initiative on Friday with a Big Find Show. Skin and hair brand Maison 276, clean beauty firm TOK Beauty, hair company Act + Acre and tanning brand Norvell will subsequently launch.
“Across QVC and HSN, we are constantly striving to offer product differentiation within our beauty category. Our customers crave newness and love to discover unique and exclusive items that they can’t find anywhere else,” said Rob Robillard, vp of integrated beauty at QVC and HSN. “The Big Find created the perfect opportunity to uncover some of the latest trends in beauty that fill some of our white spaces. Throughout the search, we went beyond the product to consider the story behind the brand and how each brand could be brought to life. We are excited about the momentum.” — Priya Rao
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