As Black History Month kicks off, Ulta Beauty is upping its commitments to diversity and inclusion.
On Tuesday, the retailer announced a four-pronged approach to combating racial injustice in its environment. It plans to double the number of Black-owned brands in its merchandising assortment, amplify Black voices in media through its new Muse platform, create better in-store experiences for the customer and offer more career advancement opportunities for associates. In total, Ulta is pledging more than $25 million to these pillars, with $20 million allocated to television and digital investments and $4 million to its Black-owned brands via marketing support.
“We have been on a continued journey, [by] celebrating diversity in our stores, [with] our visual imagery, with our brands — and we’ve been doing that for years. Now, it’s really about accelerating and amplifying our efforts even further,” said Mary Dillon, CEO at Ulta Beauty. “This is a good moment for us to tell the world and our stakeholders what we’re doing, what our values are and how they come to life.”
Ulta currently carries 15 Black-owned beauty brands, including Uoma Beauty, Juvia’s Place and recently-added Briogeo. These brands will be featured prominently on Ulta’s Muse: Magnify, Uplift, Support, Empower platform, which will be present on Ulta.com and social media. Muse will also come to life across television channels, including in prime placement and ad spots during “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and “This is Us.”
“We went for really big mainstream placement to say Black beauty and Black beauty founders are an inspiration. That is a story that’s for all people who love beauty and for everybody to see,” said Dillon.
That extends to what is happening in stores, as well, with added marketing support to its existing and new Black-owned brands.
“We’re proud to be the exclusive retailer to many Black-owned brands. The dedicated marketing support to those brands is to make sure that they get the brand awareness and the trial that they deserve. There are so many [beauty] brands out there, but we said, ‘Let’s make sure that these brands are breaking through,” said Dillon. Pattern Beauty’s CEO and founder Tracee Ellis Ross has signed on as Ulta’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, a new position to provide advice and drive accountability for the company.
Both Sephora and Ipsy recently announced revamped commitments to Black beauty businesses. In January, Sephora released its Racial Bias in Retail study and plans to unveil new feedback mechanisms for consumers. It, too, plans to double its assortment of Black-owned brands by the end of 2021 — it currently stocks eight. Ipsy also made commitments to diverse shoppers by adding more Black-owned beauty brands to its Glam Bags, including Fenty Beauty, Pat McGrath Labs and Uoma Beauty. In addition, it’s creating a $1 million fund to invest upfront in product sourcing from Black-owned brands.
On the employee front, Ulta is introducing mandatory quarterly, in-store training for all store and salon associates as of March, to keep its diversity and inclusion efforts ongoing. Dillon said the cost of that investment is another $2 million. Performance reviews for all employees will also include evaluations around diversity and inclusion. In addition, the company is introducing a new Diverse Leaders Program for approximately 30 store associates to receive mentorship from Dillon herself and the rest of her executive team.
“You can start working at Ulta Beauty as a part-timer in high school, or you could start right out of college, and by working hard and continuing to build your expertise, you truly can build a career to be a general manager or a district manager or regional vice president. That excites me, because the notion of employment for everybody is so important,” said Dillon. “We really have a very diverse workforce to start with, and even though we’ve got diversity throughout our organization, we have found a lot of young, diverse leaders in our stores. To me, this is a very exciting pipeline of opportunity for us and a great way to create a career platform for our future leaders.”
Presently, Ulta employs 90% women, 18% Black board members, 13% Black executive team leaders, 6% Black corporate associates and a total of 46% people of color — this number has increased 6% since the Pull Up for Change Challenge in June.