For indie beauty brands hoping to break into retail, Ulta Beauty is looking at several key categories for what it’s adding to its site and shelves.
On Monday, Ulta Beauty announced the new featured brands in its Sparked program that spotlights four emerging beauty brands per quarter. The featured brands are Gen-Z-focused hair-dye brand Hally, clean skin and hair-care brand Sk*p, retro-style sunscreen brand Vacation, and pop star Becky G’s makeup brand, Treslúce Beauty. As indie brands vie for retailers’ shelf space, Ulta Beauty has launched 10 brands so far in its fiscal quarter starting in February 2022. The brand selection reveals several key themes, with inclusivity and sustainability topping the list.
“The guest who is shopping [for products from] our Sparked brands is very diverse. They are omni shoppers that shop frequently,” said Muffy Clince, director of emerging brands at Ulta Beauty.
Ulta Beauty launched its Sparked program in 2019 to showcase emerging brands new to U.S. national retail. The program features brands on a special table in 107 stores, as well as a designated landing page on its website. It also provides them with exposure in its marketing materials. The previous group of brands featured in the Sparked program were Live Tinted, Sunday II Sunday, Loops and Loli Beauty.
Inclusivity is still a top theme for Ulta Beauty in its brand selection. The retailer took the 15 Percent Pledge in June 2021 to raise its proportion of Black-owned brands to 15%. Launches of Black-owned brands within the past year have included Sunday II Sunday, Home Body, Camille Rose, Black Girl Sunscreen, Black Opal and Mented.
Most recently, Fenty Beauty celebrated its Ulta Beauty launch in March with multiple events attended by Rihanna to drive hype for the new partnership.
“Overall, we’re focused on representation and an inclusive shopping journey for our guests. That’s going to be top of mind for everything we look to bring in,” Clince said. For Ulta, this includes prioritizing “ingredients for all skin types,” inclusive shade ranges and hair products for a diverse range of hair textures. “We want to make sure we have what the guest is looking for,” Clince said.
Sustainability is another key focus as Ulta Beauty works to build up the roster of brands in its Conscious Beauty program. Conscious Beauty launched a year after Sparked, in October 2020. Brands qualify by meeting the requirements of the retailer’s five “pillars,” including sustainable, clean, vegan, cruelty-free or philanthropic.
“The vast amount of new brands we bring in are certified in at least one pillar of Conscious Beauty,” said Clince.
Sk*p, which offers products in paper cartons instead of plastic, was selected for both Conscious Beauty and Sparked, due to its eco-friendly model that does not require a behavior change from the consumer. It is launching in 700 Ulta Beauty stores this month, marking its first major retail partnership.
“We know it is really hard to change the overall guest behavior if you think of refillable options or bars or waterless,” said Clince.
Sk*p was designed to be “an easy switch, whereas trying to change consumers’ behavior will take a lot more time and education,” said Sk*p co-founder Mark Veeder, who previously founded skin-care brand Farmacy. “We need to keep doing that, as well. But I wanted to change the most amount of people that I could in the shortest amount of time.”
In the luxury space, Chanel Beauty launched at the retailer earlier this year, and premium price points are also a priority.
“We see the guest shopping all price points,” said Clince. “One of our secrets to success is having a breadth of assortment at all price points and in all categories.”
While the retailer is looking to add products in all categories, it is still eyeing brands it considers wellness brands, after launching its wellness shop last year. “The lines are continuing to blur between wellness, beauty and self-care,” Clince said.