In pre-pandemic times, beauty retailers doubled as event venues, giving founders the opportunity to meet with customers and demonstrate products via classes. After being one of the first things to go, along with testers, the beauty masterclass has returned with a pandemic-adjusted format.
Credo Beauty, for example, made a big investment in events pre-pandemic, hosting a total of 130 store events in 2019. It began hosting events again once vaccines were rolled out in 2021, and has so far held events at all 10 of its stores with brands including Kosas, Tata Harper, Westman Atelier, Innersense and Ilia. On October 20, it hosted its latest ticketed masterclass with celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno at its Los Angeles location. She led no-contact sessions on fall beauty products and new launches. Masks were required and classes were staggered in three different sessions limited to five people each. On November 4, the Los Angeles location will begin requiring proof of vaccination, due to the city’s new vaccine mandate going into effect.
The event was Denno’s first in-person makeup class of the pandemic. According to her, customers still see value in attending in-person events, which offer experiences “you just can’t replicate virtually.”
“It’s one thing to follow along with a tutorial, even a real-time tutorial, but it’s another to be shown IRL exactly how to use XYZ product or how to hold the brush, and what amount of pressure to apply when buffing your eyeshadow,” said Denno. “Also, choosing shades and textures for someone over Zoom or via photos isn’t nearly as ideal as doing it in person.”
“For now, we’ve kept it to contactless consultations, private shopping and limited-capacity networking,” said Laura Frances, Credo Beauty’s director of marketing.
The Detox Market founder Romain Gaillard said his stores used to frequently hold a wide variety of events, including beauty demonstrations, parties and meditation classes. The retailer resumed events last year, and then stopped holding them again when the delta variant hit.
“I always saw the retail stores as not a place to make a purchase, but a place to discover, connect and bring the community together,” he said. “Now, we’re just starting to schedule some events. Obviously, we’re extremely careful, and we’re looking over the guidelines. But there’s a huge appetite for people to meet in person.”
Brands are also hosting events again at larger retailers.
On October 15, True Botanicals had its first in-store masterclass since the pandemic with founder Hillary Peterson at a Nordstrom location near Los Angeles. The event was held for Nordstrom Trend Week, which attracted 500 people to in-store events before Covid. Pre-pandemic, True Botanicals would host store events on an average of once a month.
With less than 10 people in attendance, the class required masks. Attendees tested products on their hands, rather than their faces.
“We’re still going to keep our events relatively small, which I love, because it lends itself to a more intimate evening where people can get more personalized skin-care advice,” said Peterson. “We’re also more careful in making sure that everyone has their own individual samples of products so that no one has to share testers.”
Brands and retailers are planning to increase their event numbers in 2022, but they’re still remaining cautious about the pandemic.
“The reality is that we have to learn to live with this,” said Gaillard. “It’s not going to go back to where it was before, and so we just need to adapt.” He said the Detox Market is taking it “step by step” and not producing the “multiple events a week that we used to.”
Virtual events will also still have a role in the future.
“We want to go back to at least one event per location per month in 2022,” said Frances. “We are finding that we can also touch more people, who don’t necessarily live close to a store, through virtual events. So we’ll keep working on those, as well — and testing, learning and adjusting as everyone’s habits evolve.”