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In-Store Experience: Beauty Goes Brick-and-Mortar

As the beauty category continues to evolve and grow outside of its typical bounds controlled by retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty, as well as mass merchants and drugstores, brands that were once deemed “challenger” brands (think Glossier or Fenty Beauty) have become household names. And while cosmetics and personal care have particularly seen growth online, brands and retailers are also increasingly tapping into in-store experiences, both permanent and temporary, to connect with new shoppers.

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Glossier’s Retail Return

In 2021, digital native Glossier made its re-entry into the physical retail space with the opening of three new and permanent stores in Los Angeles, Seattle (exterior pictured) and London, after shuttering all its physical stores in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The aesthetically pleasing brand leverages an immersive design and what it calls a “people-centric approach” to beauty discovery at its stores, which includes minimal merchandising, illuminated lighting and shelving in a spacious and industrial-style environment that incorporates its signature light pink hues throughout. Table displays, both encased and open, merchandise the brand’s cosmetics, skincare and brand merchandise, while four-sided, try-on centers offer illuminated mirrors and sinks to apply and reapply various products. 

With each varying slightly, most stores share oversized signage, large props, pillars, seating areas and plenty of unique, funky mirrors designed by the beauty brand’s in-house team. Glossier’s Los Angeles location, however, is L-shaped with massive letters spelling out the brand name on the storefront. The store stretches along Melrose Avenue and West Knoll Drive in West Hollywood, just a few blocks from Glossier’s former L.A. store that closed the year prior. 

A can’t-miss element of the Seattle store includes a unique, forest-inspired boulder art installment outfitted in fake moss, mushrooms, flowers and butterflies.

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YSL Scent-Sation Experience

While not exclusively a beauty brand, luxury fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) also offers prestige beauty and fragrance products under YSL Beauty (owned by L’Oreal). In December 2021, the brand introduced “YSL Scent-Sation,” a tech incubator and in-store experience leveraging neuroscience to provide personalized fragrance advice (see “Activation Gallery,” page 52), first launched at the brand’s YSL Beauty Innovation Lab pop-up shop in a Dubai mall.

L’Oreal’s technology incubator YSL Beauty partnered with neurotechnology company Emotiv to create a branded device that helps shoppers determine their perfect scent suited to their emotions. Shoppers engage in a 25-minute diagnosis wearing the headset with a trained beauty advisor. Matching neuroscience and artificial intelligence with a polysensory experience, the headset captures five different feel-good emotions triggered by 14 different accords, representing 27 YSL fragrances, then translates them into a unique, personalized selection of three YSL scents.

“[This immersive experience is] a huge technological breakthrough that will help decode what consumers want to smell as [they discover]  new fragrances,” said Stephan Bezy, international general manager at YSL Beauty, in a media release. “We’re excited to empower consumers with powerful insights and help make their search for the perfect scent both easier and grounded in how it makes them feel.” 

Since the Dubai pop-up debut, the headset and experience has rolled out to Yves Saint Laurent flagship stores in multiple countries and will be available through 2023.

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JCPenney Beauty

After Sephora ditched its store-within-a-store partnership with JCPenney for Kohl’s, JCPenney developed its own in-store and online beauty concept, focused in part on inclusivity and elevating diverse founders and brands. JCPenney joined forces with Thirteen Lune (an inclusive e-commerce site founded by Nyakio Grieco, a beauty entrepreneur and founder of Nyakio Beauty) and Patrick Herning (the founder of 11 Honore, a luxury plus-size fashion label) to help bring a unique experience to its stores. For Thirteen Lune, this collaboration marked its first brick-and-mortar retail venture. 

JCPenney Beauty, which is available at 10 stores with more rollouts planned in 2023, offers more than 170 brands, 39 of which are from Thirteen Lune, including Buttah Skin, Bossy Cosmetics and Wander Beauty. The store experience features in-line and illuminated displays.

In addition to indie and BIPOC-founded brands, the curated assortment spans makeup, skincare, haircare, styling tools, fragrance, nailcare, and bath and body products at varying price points. Henkel’s Better Natured at-home hair color line, for example, recently made its U.S. brick-and-mortar debut at JCPenney Beauty stores, along with trained in-store beauty experts available to help shoppers select the right Better Natured hair color shade and answer questions. Perfect Corp. technology is also available in-store, allowing shoppers to virtually try on colors before buying.

“Rooted in inclusivity, JCPenney Beauty grew out of direct feedback from our customers,” said Michelle Wlazlo, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at JCPenney, in a news release. “Together with our brand partners, we have reimagined every aspect of our beauty experience — from the highly curated assortment and welcoming space to the integrated loyalty program and all-new e-commerce experience. We are incredibly proud to bring JCPenney Beauty to life in stores and online.”

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