Ulta Beauty, whose bread and butter is product sampling in-store, is offering a blueprint for retailers looking to drive in-store beauty sales during the pandemic.
The retailer is revamping its in-store experience by implementing a wide assortment of social distancing and other safety rules in order to reopen some stores. Ulta closed all of its retail stores on March 19 but has continued doing business through the Ulta Beauty app and Ulta.com, and its distribution centers have remained open.
On May 11, the company will reopen 180 of its 1,254 stores in select states. All of those stores will now offer curbside pickup.
“Throughout the last few months, we have navigated the fluid dynamics of COVID-19 with the safety of our guests and associates at the heart of every decision we have made. That commitment to safety has guided our thoughtful, phased approach to reopening,” said Mary Dillon, chief executive officer. “In the last few weeks, we have introduced curbside pickup in more than 700 locations and this Monday, we will reopen approximately 180 stores in select states. Our focus has been on how to reopen safely – not just when – throughout our preparation and planning to ensure we are confident to welcome guests and associates back to Ulta Beauty.”
Ulta says it worked with government officials and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) to develop best practices such as:
Face Coverings: All associates will wear face coverings in-store; the company asks all guests do the same while shopping.
Social Distancing: Ulta Beauty guests will now find visual cues, such as signage or floor decals, to ensure 6 feet of separation are maintained. Additional measures include limited occupancy, safely-spaced registers with protective barriers, and options for contactless payment.
Salon Service Safety: By appointment only, hair services will be available in select stores. Safety measures for salon services include required face coverings for guests and associates, gloves for associates, increased laundering of capes and aprons, staggered stations to support social distancing, and added sanitization processes.
Testers: Product testers will not be available for use in store. Open product is now for display only and guests will find signage throughout stores reinforcing the new policy. Products remain on display to showcase colors offered only and hand sanitizer continues to be readily available throughout the store.
In-Store Cleanliness: Ulta will have increased protocols for regular cleaning and disinfecting public spaces throughout the day. For guests, additional hand sanitizer stations are installed throughout stores to reinforce best practices.
“We know we cannot do this alone and this journey continues to shed light on new learnings and concerted efforts to keep moving forward safely in collaboration with government and health officials as well as other retail industry leaders,” Dillon added. “It is our responsibility to create store environments that are safe for our guests to enjoy the shopping experience and for our associates to work confidently. We look forward, with cautious optimism, to welcoming all back to Ulta Beauty.”
Ulta is the largest U.S. beauty retailer by store count. In the COVID-19 era, retailers of beauty products are scrambling to find ways to drive beauty sales without the sampling experience shoppers have come to rely on in-store.
Because beauty is such an experential category, many experience-driven beauty retailers will have to be more creative with their digital strategies. It could be an opportunity to provide a new, exceptional level of service for customers who will have to be reached more digitally.