The Lip Bar has been in aggressive expansion mode this year, and its latest, CVS expansion is its largest yet.
On Tuesday, the 11-year-old brand expanded to 3,300 CVS locations, doubling its current number of brick-and-mortar doors to 5,300. Between Target and Walmart, The Lip Bar is already in 2,000 doors. Earlier in the year, The Lip Bar deepened its Target distribution from placement on three shelves to 24, an approximately 700% increase. The Lip Bar has sold through Target since 2018 and Walmart since 2021. Separately, in February, The Lip Bar expanded into skin care with four products: a makeup-removing balm, a cleanser, a serum and a moisturizer.
“One of the big reasons for launching in Target or Walmart is [physical] accessibility,” said Melissa Butler, CEO and founder of The Lip Bar. “If you live in a truly urban environment, you’re more likely than not to go into stores like CVS to purchase everyday essentials. And CVS was a no-brainer because they’ve invested a lot in their beauty programs over several years.”
The Lip Bar will have endcaps in all 3,300 CVS locations from September to the end of December. From there, the brand and retailer will assess the best-performing locations, potentially expanding to more stores and moving the brand into aisle shelves. The brand could also extend into IRL CVS shop-in-shops. The endcaps exclusively house the brand’s best-sellers, including its liquid matte lipsticks and lip glosses.
Butler said The Lip Bar has seen big growth in its retail sales and has been preparing for a large expansion. That’s included upgrading its inventory management systems, focusing on better forecast modeling, and increasing order volumes for its packaging and raw materials. The company also hired an additional finance team member, working under the CFO. The Lip Bar expects to increase retail sales by 30% with the CVS expansion, said Butler. However, she declined to share what percentage of The Lip Bar sales come from wholesale retail accounts. According to Glossy’s 2022 reporting, The Lip Bar has sold over 2 million units and has grown sales by 70% year-over-year over the past six years.
In Sept. 2022, The Lip Bar’s parent company, The Lip Bar Inc., announced that it had raised an oversubscribed $6.7 million fundraising round to further grow its house of brands, including The Lip Bar. In Feb. 2022, Butler launched a new, inclusive, Gen-Z-focused brand called Thread Beauty. It sells multi-use beauty sticks for the complexion and lips for $8 through nationwide Target stores.
While The Lip Bar has undergone a massive growth spurt, so has CVS. The nationwide drugstore chain has steadily improved its beauty positioning and assortment since 2018. At that time, the retailer committed to creating a “CVS Beauty Mark” to indicate that a model in its marketing had not been photoshopped. The company later opened its first BeautyIRL shop-in-shop, offering mini beauty services through GlamSquad and a redesigned shopping space. In 2019, BeautyIRL expanded to 50 locations in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Boston. More recently, CVS began selling custom beauty brand Pure Culture Beauty, which creates personalized formulations for customers based on an at-home skin test.
“The Lip Bar’s continued success and expansion into CVS stores is an exciting representation of the continued demand for a brand that connects with its community of diverse beauty lovers at their nearest convenience. The Lip Bar is already the largest Black-owned brand in its existing retail partners, and we’re looking forward to making history with CVS,” said Lauren DeVor, director of sales at The Lip Bar.
The CVS partnership will receive the same level of grassroots marketing as previous brand milestones and expansions. The Lip Bar gained awareness in 2015 after failing to secure funding during an appearance on the popular investment reality show “Shark Tank.” Since then, the makeup brand has proudly used that moment in its advertising to show how much customers have loved the brand since the early years. In the case of CVS, Butler said she would show on social media the first correspondence that The Lip Bar had with CVS in 2019, as well as her own first reaction to seeing the endcaps in-store. In addition, The Lip Bar will hold a cash and product giveaway with a grand prize of $3,000 for customers who share via social media their lip product purchased at a CVS store.
“The most powerful thing we can do with consumers is let them in on the journey,” said Butler. “Our customers have always been proud of us. They’ve seen us face public rejections and grow in retail, and they remember watching me make lipstick in my kitchen.”