CEW event highlights the role of brick-and-mortar retail in an omnichannel world

CEW event highlights the role of brick-and-mortar retail in an omnichannel world

At yesterday evening’s Beauty Insider Series event, Reinventing Retail Stores, executives from Ulta Beauty, Walgreens, and Cos Bar spoke on a panel moderated by Jenny B. Fine, editor of WWD Beauty Inc. The group discussed just how their companies are innovating to compete in the current market place.

Opening the event, Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW noted that while ecommerce is growing, retail is still the primary channel where beauty consumers shop. Citing Harris Poll data, Jacobson said that 9 out of 10 beauty consumers shop in person.

“The reinvention of the brick-and-mortar beauty market has been exciting to watch,” Jacobson remarked in a media release about the event. “It’s important to recognize how these retail stores are evolving with the beauty landscape. Our members can learn a lot from these industry innovators and how they’re pushing the needle when it comes to brick-and-mortar stores.”

Business is good

Kecia Steelman of Ulta Beauty, Laurne Brindley of Walgreens, and David Olsen of Cos Bar are all optimistic about the current state of beauty and their respective companies. Olsen, CEO of Cos Bar didn’t elaborate much as his company is privately held.

But Steelman, chief store operations officer at Ulta Beauty shared a preview of the company’s forthcoming quarterly results: for Q1, Ulta will be reporting net sales growth of 32.7%, retail store sales growth of 13.4%, and 52.7% growth in ecommerce. Steelman also announced that Ulta will open its first store in New York City this year at 86th Street and 3rd Avenue.

Brindley, group vice president and general merchandise manager for beauty and personal care at Walgreens, spoke about her company’s plans to grow beauty specifically. She noted that her team will be “accelerating the beauty differentiation program” this year. Currently in place in 2,000 Walgreens, the program will be in 1,100 – 1,200 more stores by the end of the summer, Brindley told the audience.

Seamless commerce  

The common objective in beauty retail now is to create a harmonious, branded shopping experience for consumers across all touchpoints. Olsen outlined how the industry got here, recalling how for a while there was a big push towards ecommerce, then companies were creating multichannel experiences, and now it’s all about omnichannel.

Steelman pointed out that at Ulta Beauty “omnichannel is our best shopper. She want to buy what she wants, when she wants it….You’ve got to be looking at the business as a whole.” She then added that the customer must have the same quick and easy experience with the same brand feel everywhere. The only differentiator she allows for between channels is that “people are in store only.”

Brindley agreed, adding that “the DNA of a business must show up everywhere.” The customer must know that’s it you--your company--at every connection point, she said.

Omnichannel, judging by the panelists remarks, seems to have retailers upping their game everywhere, adding tech tools to the in-store experience; providing more content, tips, and personalized recommendations; and curating the brands they offer more carefully.

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