Home décor retailer West Elm is betting on beauty with its new private label line, West Elm Water Street. The bath-focused collection, which debuts on Jan. 9 in its 100 stores and on WestElm.com, builds on the Williams-Sonoma-owned brand’s roots in furniture. It features countertop accessories, vanity mirrors and hampers, but also allows West Elm to dip its toe into a select offering of bath bombs, soaps, and hand and body lotions.
“We thought we had a unique opportunity with our bath collection, because it is often an overlooked area of the home, and we wanted to offer a more comprehensive approach to it,” said Catherine Schwartz, West Elm svp of merchandising. “Yes, we have had textiles before, and that’s an important part of our business, but bath and body products offer something new and different.” The products were created in collaboration with Lightwell Co., a home goods company based in Houston, Texas.
Schwartz explained that the 18 new body products, which range in price from $9 to $22, tie to West Elm’s growing home scent and candle business, and are meant to connect with a newer and younger consumer.
“When we think about customers and repeat visits, we want to have entry price points and get an introduction to the brand without purchasing a $200 light or a $500 piece of furniture,” she said. West Elm previously tried to implement bath products (such as robes, towels and bathmats) in its business for a decade, but it exited the segment in 2015 to focus on a more “cohesive” collection that would include proprietary soaps, lotions and bath bombs, which resulted in the launch of Water Street.
Schwartz was unable to share sales projections for the line, but West Elm has been on a hot streak as of late: It experienced revenue growth of more than 8 percent in the third quarter (its parent company, Williams-Sonoma, had a 3 percent increase). Laura Alber, Williams-Sonoma president and CEO, owed the growth of West Elm to the brand’s mix of furniture with non-furniture, and its variety of price points.
Other retailers not known for beauty have also increasingly begun to offer curated assortments of cosmetics, skin-care and bath products in their stores, such as Madewell and also Forever 21, via its beauty concept store Riley Rose. (Both retailers pushed into the category in October 2017.) West Elm is more of stretch from the aforementioned brands, as fashion and beauty are more interrelated than home and beauty. The draw across the board is the booming beauty market, set to swell to $750 billion by 2024, according to market and industry research firm Inkwood Research. Schwartz said the collection was not only spurred by potential sales data alone, but it was also based on anecdotal information from West Elm store managers.
The bath bombs, lotions and soaps will sit alongside third-party beauty products, like Way of Will’s hand soap and Little Seed Farm’s deodorant cream to encourage a sense of discovery, according to Schwartz. The assortment will be merchandised in a new dedicated bath section in West Elm’s existing bedding shops.
In step with the product launch, West Elm sent 50 influencers custom-designed mailers, which included Water Street product, a Naturopathica beauty routine kit and instructions for a 30-day, one-minute self-care challenge. These influencers will be on-hand to experience a custom Naturopathica spa experience on Jan. 9 in New York City, according to Dru Ortega, West Elm head of public relations and influencer marketing. A first-come, first-served group of 30 Williams-Sonoma Key Reward Members (those part of the company’s loyalty program) in the New York area were also invited to the Naturopathica event.
Water Street will also debut two content videos online: “How to Master Me Time Bed & Bath” and a version of the #askwestelm series called “Bathroom Tips,” through paid Facebook ads and also Instagram ads in a series of canvas, carousel and Instagram stories. While Ortega would not disclose the increased spend of the digital activations, West Elm said it “invested a higher concentration” toward supporting this campaign.
Additionally, as part of the launch, West Elm will be hosting many more customer-facing events across its fleet of 100 stores through its Design Crew workshops program, which debuted in August 2018.
“We think we can show customers how to style some of the hardware and textile pieces of the collection with how to make a spa bath, for a total elevated bath experience,” said Schwartz. “These events are more of an experiential piece of our brands in our stores. They help us to continue to have a direct line to our customers and communicate with them in many different ways.”