Kate Oldham has spent most of her life working at Saks.
Her first job with the company, a sales associate at its flagship store, was supposed to be a short-term way to make money while she searched for a more formal job in marketing. However, she quickly fell in love with the company and applied for its training program, and spent the next two decades working her way up.
As she moved up the company’s food chain, she began to work more in the beauty and cosmetics categories, eventually landing her current role as svp and general merchandising manager of beauty and jewelry. Throughout her time, she has watched these categories grow and evolve, but nothing, she said, has had as much impact as social media.
“We’ve seen, in the last few years, this big social moment, where people are posting pictures and selfies, and they want to look good,” said Oldham. “I think that has driven the makeup business in a way we’ve never seen before.”
In this week’s episode of The Glossy Beauty Podcast, beauty editor Priya Rao talks to Oldham about the ever-changing beauty category, the redesign of the Saks beauty floor and the reason behind Saks’ big bet on hair care. Below are excerpts from the episode, edited for clarity.
The life cycle of beauty trends
“Everything has a life cycle. When I started, it was [all about] the makeup artist. It was really fabulous to see because it was the beginning of a category that didn’t exist, and I loved seeing that, and we leaned into that at Saks. Then there was a designer moment. For fragrance, you’ve seen an evolution of a single fragrance to a whole lifestyle of fragrances. With beauty, Saks’ heritage is in treatments, so that’s never strayed. But I think what happens around the world influences what happens with beauty. There’s always something outside the world of beauty that drives the category.”
The beauty floor as an experience
“[Re-designing the beauty floor] was an exciting project and probably one of the pinnacles of my career, because it was so different. We sat down and said, ‘What in this present world will actually make a difference for our customers? What would make them want to come to a brick-and-mortar store, versus look online or watch a YouTube video and then buy products?’ We really thought about the experience. It was a little sad to move off the first floor, where beauty traditionally is, but we really felt that it was going to be something amazing, and if we were going to build it, people would come.”
Looking to hair as the next beauty trend
“I’m really excited about hair. I love the hair category, and I think women are going to be spending a lot of money on their hair in the next couple of years. People are starting to learn that there are different levels of quality in hair products, and there are new products coming out. New products obviously drive a category, so when you have a breakthrough discovery, like [the need to] take care of your scalp, for example, that drives people to say, ‘What else do I need?’ Also, if you look at what’s happening culturally with places like Drybar, hair is becoming more important. When I was growing up, if you got a blowout, it was a big deal, but now you have people going multiple times a week.”