How Ulta is Approaching its New Store Layout and the Holidays
Retail Dive | December 19, 2022
Thanks to a variety of macroeconomic pressures, few large retailers have truly thrived over the past year. Here’s a look at how the beauty retailer Ulta, is experimenting with its store format and bringing holiday cheer to shoppers who might be more concerned about pricing this season.
Historically, Ulta has split its stores into two main sections: mass beauty brands on one side, and prestige on the other. What this created was a clear differentiation between price points, but it also meant that categories such as makeup and skincare could be in multiple areas. The company’s positioning as a beauty retailer that catered to both mass and prestige shoppers was spearheaded by former CEO Mary Dillon. Dillon, who took on the chief role at Foot Locker in September, worked to normalize the idea that brands across all price ranges could be housed under the same roof.
That concept has grown into a new store layout, which was announced in August. The retailer hinted at consolidating categories for new stores that started rolling out this fall, which entails breaking down the stark barrier between mass and prestige. Ulta’s Chief Merchandising Officer Monica Arnaudo, who spoke with Retail Dive about the new layout, said it’s less about mixing mass with prestige, and more about improved navigation and creating spaces to discover.
The latest stores also have a section called “Cue the New,” Arnaudo said, which is a space toward the front of the store where brands new to Ulta are showcased. This is intended to help customers discover new products in a highly visible location. Featured brands are kept in the space for flexible amounts of time before being moved to their main category section.
The retailer has also created what it calls elevated gondolas for brands that have a fairly even split between makeup and skincare products, such as Clinique and Lancôme. These act to bridge the middle of the store together. Service brands such as Mac and Benefit have similarly elevated gondolas further into the store, which offer makeup and brow care services. Another change in comparison to its traditional format is where the checkout is located, which was originally closer to the front of the store. The new layout places it toward the back with an improved display of trial and travel products.
Ulta’s salon is past the checkout in this updated layout, with a more visible menu of services and a dedicated seating area. Overall, the various changes to its new brick-and-mortar locations are intended to help customers have fun while finding products and services more easily.
With price being a pain point for many shoppers this season, Arnaudo says the retailer’s merchandising team has been hard at work with brands to cover a variety of price options across all categories. As such, the company is featuring gift options under $15 and $20 online and in stores. Ulta also started Black Friday sales in November this year, which is earlier than usual, according to Arnaudo. But the deals did not end after Black Friday for Ulta. Shoppers looking for gifts beyond the biggest shopping day of the year will still be able to find easy, well-priced options, according to Arnaudo.