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In-Store Experience: Ulta’s Merchandising Overhaul

Ulta Beauty’s new layout showcases brands as well as categories, while also emphasizing service offerings.
p2pi in-store experience

In 2022, Ulta Beauty began rolling out a new layout that better spotlights mass and prestige brands and emerging categories, while also emphasizing its service offerings, navigation and discovery at dozens of stores. Ulta has said that all new stores and remodeled stores will feature the new layout going forward.

In January, the Path to Purchase Institute visited one of Ulta’s recently remodeled stores in Skokie, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. (See photos in gallery below.)

Upon entering, shoppers are surrounded by both conjoined and freestanding floorstands, merchandising tables and racks, some branded but most outfitted in retailer-led signage promoting current savings events and deals.

Ulta’s last substantial merchandising overhaul came in 2018. The latest redesign keeps some of the improvements introduced then, while taking others to a new level.

While prestige and mass brands are still separated on opposite sides of the store, each section has undergone noticeable enhancements.

Expanded brow and makeup services, offered in collaboration with Benefit and MAC Cosmetics, respectively, feature beauty bars located near the center of the store.

On the prestige side of the store, MAC also secures an illuminated gondola to merchandise its extensive assortment of cosmetics next to a Chanel wall vignette.

Also in prestige, a Chanel-dedicated half-gondola showcases individual tester products from its N°1 De Chanel skincare collection with illuminated mirrors for try-on. Other brands spotlighted in the section include Hourglass, Stilla, Urban Decay and Two Faced.

Decked-out gondolas elevating upscale brands, such as Estee Lauder, Clinique and Lancome, are positioned near the middle of the store to transition shoppers to the mass-market brands on the other side. Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin also fall near this section, sharing merchandising space with cult-classic skincare brand Drunk Elephant with colorful shelving units.

One brand that particularly stands out in the skincare section is Kiehl’s. Garnering substantial space at the back of the store, located between Ulta’s Skin Bar services section and its in-store hair salon, the brand’s extensive product assortment is merchandised on a wall underneath an illuminated and permanent Kiehl’s sign.

Facing the wall is a unique display on one side of a gondola showcasing “Men’s Skincare and Grooming” and resembling a lab, complete with a desk, two lampshades and an enclosed glass case displaying “Mr. Bones,” a skeleton in a lab coat similar to the one Kiehl’s used in its New York apothecary to educate consumers about the brand’s remedies. A shelf on the desk spotlights individual tester products from Kiehl’s, inviting shoppers to “try our best sellers.”

Notable is that many brands and categories that enjoy prime merchandising space via a dedicated endcap display or freestanding table display located up and down the aisles are mostly new and/or exclusive to Ulta, celebrity-backed or have earned Ulta’s Conscious Beauty designation. The latter signifies brands that use clean ingredients, are cruelty-free and use sustainable packaging.

Also present in this store is The Wellness Shop, an initiative that was introduced in 2021 and has rolled out online but only in select stores. Less of a physical shop and more of a dedicated space for self-care items “for the mind, body and spirit,” The Wellness Shop spotlights products such as bath salts and relaxation products like gummies and even sexual wellness products, a category relatively new to the retailer.

With the new layout, mass and prestige skincare brands have been brought together — no longer separated like the cosmetic brands still are. The fragrance section has been moved nearer the middle/back of the store, leaving more space in the front of the store for dedicated brand and product launches across categories.

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