Ulta Beauty president Dave Kimbell on the coming ‘renaissance in beauty’

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The pandemic has made Ulta Beauty’s most progressive goals tougher to reach, but the beauty retailer’s president, Dave Kimbell, doesn’t want to put them on hold.

“Increasingly, guests of all ages and all types are making choices based on their values,” Kimbell said on this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast.

This is coming to life most dynamically in Ulta’s Conscious Beauty platform, which debuts fully in October and focuses on “five pillars:” “clean ingredients, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable packaging and positive impact,” Kimbell said.

Sustainable packaging is the one Ulta Beauty (and the industry as a whole, according to Kimbell) can flex on most. “We probably have the most runway ahead of us to drive greater change and have a more positive impact as it relates to packaging,” Kimbell said. Last month. Ulta announced that by 2025, half of its in-store packaging will be either recycled, bio-sourced, recyclable or refillable.

As for economic headwinds, Kimbell is optimistic that beauty will enjoy a rebound after the end of the pandemic.

“There will be in some ways I think a new renaissance in beauty, a new resurgence in beauty,” Kimbell said.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

What remains resilient in beauty
“The importance of discovery and exploration from our consumers has not changed. It will be a critical part of this category going forward. While our consumers are demonstrating to us that this current crisis has changed some of their behaviors, they’re also very clear that their passion for beauty hasn’t changed. It might end up looking a little different, but the remain excited and focused on the importance in the role beauty plays in their lives, and how it allows them to express themselves and bring who they are to life.”

Ulta Beauty’s most ambitious goals
“Increasingly, guests of all ages and all types are making choices based on their values. Often that looks like aligning themselves with brands that are doing cool things in the world. That can look a lot of different ways. It certainly can have a sustainability lens to it, but it doesn’t always. It can have local community impact, or health and wellness impact. We thought it was important to highlight those. Those five pillars [of Conscious Beauty] — clean ingredients, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable packaging and positive impact come together in what we believe will be a really transparent, easy way for our guests to navigate our assortment and make choices based on what’s important to them.”

Sustainability as a particular focus
“We have a long road ahead of us. There’s a lot more we collectively, as a beauty industry, can do to improve our footprint, the impact we’re having on the world. The pandemic in some ways has made that a bit more challenging, whether it’s sampling, more use of protective equipment that’s often disposable, having an impact on recyclability and the cost of oil that makes recycling products less economically feasible. One aspect of this we’ve committed to, and the pandemic doesn’t change this, is to improve the overall impact that the products sold at Ulta are having through their packaging.”

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