The battle for the beauty consumer continues, as Sephora and Kohl’s share plans to open 850 Sephora at Kohl’s shop-in-shop concepts over the next three years as part of a long-term partnership. This announcement comes on the heels of the Target and Ulta plan to roll out more than 100 “shop-in-shop” concepts in Target stores nationwide and online at Target.com starting in 2021, with plans to scale to hundreds more over time.
Mass retailers like Target and Kohl’s are investing in the beauty category hoping to grow market share. Leading up to this announcement, CNBC reported that Kohl’s planned to at least triple its sales in the category and is planning to work with smaller, indie beauty brands; this relationship with Sephora could certainly provide the accelerant needed to meet that goal.
The store-within-a-store model is a familiar one for Sephora. In 2006, when Sephora announced the partnership with JCP, it had just 120 stores in the US. JCPenney, with its roughly 1,000-door footprint, provided an opportunity for Sephora to scale their physical presence. JCP has struggled with their door count shrinking as Sephora’s expanded. The relationship became tumultuous mid-pandemic when Sephora threatened to pull out of JCPenney stores as they began to reopen in April, resulting in a temporary restraining order. While both parties ultimately came to an agreement, it was clear the relationship was winding down.
“We had a great relationship with J.C. Penney for many years, but in the last two to three years JCP has changed,” Jean-André Rougeot, President & CEO of Sephora Americas, said to WWD. “We will slowly wind down our relationship in the next couple of years in the same time that we are ramping up with Kohl’s.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
“The Kohl’s and Sephora partnership will bring a transformational, elevated beauty experience to Kohl’s from the top global name in beauty,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s Chief Executive Officer. “This new collaboration is an excellent example of two customer-centric, purpose-driven companies leveraging each other’s strengths to make aspirational beauty far more accessible to millions of customers all across the country. It’s an extraordinary time of change, and I am thrilled to partner with Sephora, a brand that shares our values and our passion for innovation and reinvention. Today’s announcement is a perfect illustration of the bold moves we are making at Kohl’s to accelerate our growth and reimagine our future for the next era of retail.”
“At Sephora, delivering a strong client experience through passionate employees is at the heart of who we are, and we are thrilled to find a partner who shares this identity. This is not a pop-up collaboration, but an investment our brand partners can rely on for the long-term; as a company with a history of sustained decades-long partnerships, Sephora has every confidence in the future of this collaboration and the unique experiences it will bring to consumers across the U.S.,” said Jean-André Rougeot, President & CEO of Sephora Americas. “Our partnership will be built on expanding our complementary reach and scale in-store and online, creating customer-centric, prestige experiences, collaborating on new innovations, and living our shared values. We fully believe Kohl’s is the ideal partner to bring this vision to life.”
“I am delighted by this new partnership which is perfectly aligned with our worldwide vision,” said Martin Brok, Global President & CEO of Sephora. “Great brands are always looking for new ways to serve their customers and innovate, even in dynamic times. With Kohl’s we will be able to bring Sephora closer to where our customers want us to be, offering them one transformative beauty experience that integrates our prestige product offering, our values, and our communities, in a place where they come to get inspired and fulfill their lifestyle needs. This partnership also shows our confidence in the future of omnichannel retail and ideally positions both Kohl’s and Sephora to seize tomorrow’s opportunities, today.”
New beauty bedfellows continue to emerge as retail in every form is turned on its head. Wendy Liebmann, CEO and Chief Shopper at WSL, shared why this partnership works for Sephora. “It’s all about survival. Sephora needs to make up for losses as its current store-within-store partner, JC Penney, struggles to survive. And—and as important—it needs to find ways to reach shoppers outside the mall—as malls struggle to survive.”
She continued on why it works for Kohl’s: “It brings great beauty cred to Kohl’s who has always struggled to build a proprietary beauty business. And—as important—Sephora has a best-in-class digital business that can teach Kohl’s a thing or two… or three.”
However, Liebmann thinks there are one or two challenges: Is the Kohl’s shopper ready for Sephora beauty? And are Sephora brand partners ready for Kohl’s?
Richard Kestenbaum, Partner at Triangle Capital LLC, said of the recent strategic partnerships, “The underpinning of the JC Penney/Sephora deal, the Target/Ulta deal, and the Sephora/Kohl’s deal is the growth in the beauty business generally, the need for new modes of selling that retailers and consumers are now open to, and the intensifying competition for legacy bricks and mortar retailers.”
He continued, “It isn’t that this will impact the landscape, it’s that all these deals are a result of how the landscape has changed. The legacy stores need new things that will attract consumers. The beauty retailers understand that it’s no longer a matter of what their selling channel is, they have to be wherever their consumer is, the consumer is the channel. This gives beauty retailers more chances to be in front of their consumer.”
When asked what the relationship means for Sephora’s prestige brand portfolio, Kestenbaum said, “It’s a sign that the way we think about products being defined by the channels they’re sold in is obsolete.”
“The fast-changing landscape of retail across tiers in the US is putting pressure on all players to reinvent their strategy and model and find new growth, both in distribution and value,” Jorge Cosano, Founder & Managing Partner Synchronicity Ventures said.
“In the case of Sephora, there is a combination of factors that are leading them to rethink their retail strategy. Firstly, they are indisputable leaders with urban areas and consumers; but if they want to keep delivering growth they need to successfully penetrate mid-tier markets in suburban areas to grab market share from their main competitor Ulta. Secondly, the struggling situation of their retail partner, JCPenney, has been coming for a long time and finally forced them to look for new alternatives and partnerships. And lastly, the recent partnership between Ulta and Target has probably created a sense of urgency to make a move with Kohl’s despite their relationship with JC Penney. Now it is a matter of execution and seeing if they understand a consumer who is likely different from their core consumer and if they can adapt their value proposition and experience to this new environment.”
Cosano said he is curious to see how Amazon and Walmart will react to these shifts in the new beauty retail landscape and believes they both have massive opportunities in front of them.
“How customers want to experience beauty is shifting,” Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, former co-founder of Glamsquad, and current co-founder and Managing Partner at the investment firm Clerisy, told CNBC.
“The idea of a sales associate spraying perfume on cards and handing them out, and then offering to do a makeover, seems unhygienic or even dangerous to a consumer right now,” she said. “And even after there is a [COVID-19] vaccine distributed, my sense is the consumer’s view of hygiene and shopping for beauty is going to change.”
2 Article(s) Remaining