Among the big-box chains, it’s not just Target making a play for trendy beauty startups.
On Wednesday, Walmart officially launched U.K. skin-care startup brand Skin Proud across 3,000 U.S. locations and on Walmart.com. With no DTC site of its own, Skin Proud is working with Walmart as its exclusive launchpad in the U.S. The brand started out on ASOS in the U.K. in April 2020 before moving into Boots. It’s one of 40 new beauty lines Walmart is planning to add over the course of the next year. They include “many exciting indies,” said Paula Ryan, senior merchandising director for Walmart Beauty.
“Our partnership with Walmart is just perfect timing. They’re at a point where they’re really focusing on their beauty offering to their consumer,” said Skin Proud founder Charlotte Knight, who also helms cosmetics brands Ciate London and Lottie London. “They have huge momentum and energy right now around their beauty offering, and they’re forging a path super quickly.” Gen-Z focused Lottie London is another recent entry into Walmart, launching there in June.
With a Glossier-esque pink aesthetic, Skin Proud is an entry-level, vegan skin-care line that boasts edgy branding and a strict no-photoshopping policy for ads. Products include standard skin-care products such as vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serums, as well as more unique creations such as its Frozen Over cooling lotion, which is meant to look like glacier rocks in its container. Prices range from $11-$16.
Skin Proud and Lottie London join a growing roster of buzzy brands entering Walmart. Last week, Walmart added P&G’s new hair care startup Nou to its lineup, following its launch of trendy teen acne startup Bubble. In June, Uoma Beauty founder Sharon Chuter launched her new brand geared toward Gen-Z at Walmart.
According to Ryan, Walmart has focused on “wow-worthy and surprising brands” to get customers excited. The brands introduced thus far have been especially focused on Gen Z, and Walmart has been developing its marketing on TikTok: It hosted a shoppable beauty livestream on the platform in March.
Skin Proud is geared toward both Gen Z and young millennials, said Knight. Its marketing is focused on social media advertising, influencer marketing and out-of-home ads in California, Texas and North Carolina. To get the word out about its entry into the U.S., it’s working with a group of beauty influencers and “dermfluencers,” including Brooke Hyland, Jose Jimenez, Joyjah Estrada, Jasmine Brown, Jade Marie and Swole MD. The brand will also be showcased on a stylish in-store endcap in Walmart’s physical stores.
“Essential” retailers like big-box players and drugstores have also become more appealing to indie beauty during the pandemic, thanks to higher foot traffic than niche boutiques. Walmart has remained resilient in the pandemic with an earnings report yesterday that beat expectations.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with Covid, so we definitely wanted to partner with a retailer that would future-proof the brand,” said Knight. She added that making the partnership exclusive “means that [Walmart and Skin Proud] can pull so many more [marketing] levers together.”
The U.S. is Skin Proud’s second international market; it has plans to enter several additional markets globally over the next year. These include Canada via Walmart, followed by the Middle East in 2022, through a partnership with distributor Chalhoub Group, and Scandinavia.
In terms of international expansion, “the trajectory for Skin Proud is actually faster and higher than Lottie right now,” said Knight. She noted that skin care is easier for securing retail partnerships, because it takes up less physical store real estate than makeup. In addition, demand for indie skin care has gone global.
“It’s always been part of our strategy to roll Skin Proud out into physical stores,” said Knight. “It’s important for skin care to be available in physical stores. People want to be able to educate themselves, look at the packaging and understand the regimen.”