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If you’ve been into a CVS lately, you’ve probably noticed that the term “drugstore beauty” doesn’t mean what it used to. Amid the conglomerate-owned giants like Maybelline and Covergirl, you can now find hip indie startups on the shelves. Behind that strategy is Andrea Harrison, the retailer’s vp of merchandising for beauty and personal care. For this episode of the podcast, Harrison talked about how CVS has been experimenting with its new “Beauty IRL” store format, what beauty trends are on her radar and what CVS looks for in startup brands ready to enter a major national retailer. She also talked about what happens when a product sold at CVS goes viral on TikTok.
The new wave of trendy brands:
“At the end of the day, we make our brand decisions based on what our customers are looking for. What we’re finding is that customers are looking for both brands they trust and recognize and brands [that are] different. They’re hearing from these brands in their DTC channels and on social media, and they’re talking to friends who’ve tried them. To serve the beauty customer, we feel like we have to have a balance of iconic and indie to make sure that we are covering all the bases that our customer expects to find as they move through their beauty journey with us.”
On whether CVS sales are impacted by viral TikTok trends:
“When something starts to go viral, this series of text messages rapidly flies around the team so that we can make sure we have the product in the right place at the right time. For example, there have been a couple of really big hits this year. There was the L’Oréal Telescopic Mascara earlier this year, which started to move very quickly. As soon as it was on display in our stores, it was leaving the door. It was just wild how quickly that was moving. Maybelline Superstay powder went viral earlier this year, as well. We see almost an immediate reaction, particularly when it’s kind of a drugstore classic. We’re kind of a go-to [for those products], obviously. And so it’s actually been really fun to watch. It’s probably one of the most fun and unnerving parts of my job, because there’s no way to know what’s going viral next. And so we continue to just stay as engaged and stay as close as we can, and do our best to react to make sure we can service customers when they see something they’re excited about. If they stop in a CVS that night, we want to have it on the shelf.
Almost every time something has gone viral, if we don’t have it in full distribution, we’ll see our CVS.com inventory depleted completely, almost immediately. We’re fortunate enough that, with 8,000 stores, … stores are typically pretty well-stocked to be able to continue to service customers. But it depends on how big the demand is. Sometimes it actually is so big that it impacts supply.”
The Beauty IRL shopping experience:
“We still have a really big focus on our color cosmetics. We continue to evolve and test different brands, outside of our iconic brands. Of course, we also have expanded skin care in those stores, and expanded hair care; we tend to test new brands in that space. So from an experiential standpoint, you might wander through a Beauty IRL store and find an endcap of cleaner products that you might not find at all of our other stores. We’d like to use it as a bit of a sandbox to see what our customers like and what they choose to interact with. And then we decide from there whether or not we would like to scale to other doors.”