For its latest attempt at cashing in on indie beauty’s rising popularity — a shop-in-shop dubbed “Trending Beauty” — Neiman Marcus deployed a millennial taskforce to sniff out the best products.
The crew of 20 millennial assistant buyers, merchandise planners and coordinators selected from the beauty merchant division was asked to source brands outside of the normal Neiman Marcus arsenal, looking largely to social media for guidance.
“We gave them complete autonomy and empowered them to contact, inquire and test over 300 brands before narrowing it down to the final assortment,” said Kelly St. John, the company’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager of beauty. In the end, they settled on 45 new brands — including HUM, Ouai and Sunday Riley — that resulted in a total of 650 new products spanning makeup, skin care and self care (i.e., home fragrance, supplements, tea and essential oils). The average price point is $51.
Assorted products from Neiman Marcus’s Trending Beauty shop
“They really went after brands with innovative product and formulas – a lot of which were found in the color category,” said St. John, of the group, which was led by buyer Kim D’Angelo. Evaluating each brand’s “principles” was also key, she said, given customers’ increasing concern with how their brands operate.
The effort addresses a critical issue for Neiman Marcus: It has a rapidly aging customer base. At the time of its public offering in 2015, Neiman Marcus pegged its average customer as age 51. This shop-in-shop strategy, along with last year’s exclusive capsule collection with Kendall and Kylie Jenner, show attempts to court a younger consumer.
Launched Friday on neimanmarcus.com and in store at the company’s NorthPark Center location in Dallas, the endeavor was the latest in a string of shop-in-shops the department store has debuted this year, including its natural and organic-leaning Wellness Shop and its ShopTheExpo partnership with Indie Beauty Expo, which spotlights smaller, entrepreneur-led brands.
NorthPark Center is seen as a beauty incubator of sorts for the department store, as it’s the No. 1 door in cosmetic sales. “The customers are beauty junkies to the core, and provide us with an excellent read on new vendors and initiatives,” said St. John. The store’s location — Neiman Marcus is headquartered in Dallas — also allows the company to “quickly take those learnings and make any necessary changes,” she said.
Neon signage inside Neiman Marcus’s Trending Beauty shop
Outfitted with natural wood and steel fixtures, as well as trendy neon signage, the in-store space is meant to stand out from the rest of the beauty department. In addition, open counters and ample product testers encourage product experimentation.
According to St. John, a relaxed and Instagram-worthy space was key. “We now have a dedicated space for bringing new brands to our customers in a way that allows us to be flexible in our assortment,” she said.
Although the company has not yet confirmed more in-store Trending Beauty locations, it’s hoping to launch more this spring, if the first is successful.
When asked whether shop-in-shops were crucial to department store health today, given their recent explosion, St. John skirted past the question, saying only: “It’s important to understand that today’s customer shops in a new way.”