As a DTC unicorn, Glossier is a beauty industry wunderkind: a community-focused beauty brand born out of the Into the Gloss blog founded by fashion assistant turned entrepreneur Emily Weiss. Glossier-ites had an undeniable visual code: “no makeup makeup”-wearing 20-somethings with perfectly disheveled hair and casual chic clothing that was picked with the utmost care but meant to display a thrown-together aesthetic. A lifestyle vision of beauty painted in millennial pink.
The last few years have not been without its challenges as the company transitioned from scrappy start-up to venture-backed DTC poster child. Prior to company-wide layoffs and Weiss stepping down as chief executive of the brand (to executive chairwoman), Glossier raised an $80 million Series E in June of 2021 at a valuation of $1.8 billion, bringing the company’s total funding to date to $265 million. Like other retailers, Glossier was forced to close its brick-and-mortar locations during the pandemic, but emerged bullish on physical retail, opening four locations in Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles, and its first international outpost in London.
On the heels of Glossier signing Olivia Rodrigo as a brand ambassador, the first signing of the sort in its company history, the brand has announced a new wholesale deal with Sephora across physical and digital outlets—an undisclosed number of Sephora locations in Canada and the US, as well as the Sephora website and app— taking full effect next year. “We are incredibly excited to enter our first-ever retailer partnership with Sephora. They are an iconic, international retailer with an extremely loyal community, and we know our customers want to find us there,” Kyle Leahy, Glossier’s CEO, tells BeautyMatter. “We share the same customer-centric values and are both deeply grounded in the ever-evolving notion of beauty discovery. This marks a new chapter in our omnichannel strategy, and we can’t wait for all that’s ahead in 2023.”
Artemis Patrick, Sephora’s EVP and Global Chief Merchandising Officer, adds: “We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Glossier to Sephora next year. Our top priority is to curate the most exceptional collection of brands that shoppers around the world come to expect from us, as the leading global prestige beauty retailer. As one of the most searched brands on Sephora.com, we know our customers are going to be beyond excited to find their Glossier must-have products online, on the Sephora app, and in our stores.”
For Glossier, it presents a chance for bigger distribution; for Sephora (which Haus Labs is also betting on for its relaunch), it’s bringing a younger customer into its aisles. With the DTC beauty space bursting at the seams with new product releases and brands, there might be something to be said for the return to the good old days of finger swatches and in-store consultations as increasingly discerning consumers desire a product experience before handing over their cash. Glossier reports that searches for the brand’s availability at Sephora (and other retailers) grew by 200% from July 2021-22.
Beyond this announcement, Glossier has plans to open its own stand-alone stores in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Brooklyn, as well as reopening its Soho outpost. The DC location will act as a local community center (complete with the Glossier trademark selfie room), presented with a retro-styled aviation storefront—a nod to the city’s history as an international nexus as well as the iconic Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, located on the DC National Mall. Customers will also be able to purchase a location-exclusive “Glossier Wings” key ring and luggage tag, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting a TBD local organization. “Like all of our stores, Glossier DC will be an engaging retail experience, drawing inspiration from the city and its beloved Air & Space Museum, while offering customers a place to make connections, play with products, and spark conversation,” comments Marie Suter, SVP Executive Creative Director of Glossier. “We can’t wait for our community there to experience the world of aviation and the Jet Age, through a Glossier lens, and truly feel like they’ve been transported up in the sky, inspired by our iconic Cloud Paint."
Beyond the initial business boost, Glossier’s future plans are indicative of a far wider-reaching phenomen. Business of Fashion declared the “direct-to-consumer golden age is officially over,” and indeed the world has changed drastically since Glossier exploded onto the scene in 2014. Launching a DTC brand has become so immensely competitive that operating without any VC is increasingly challenging. Organic growth is still a possibility, but with spiking advertising costs and algorithms favoring the influencer-advertised (which in itself has become big business), can the success story of Glossier ever be recreated? Eight years ago, times were much simpler, not just in the world of beauty but universally speaking. The Glossier-ites of Gen Z are on TikTok, not beauty blogs; they want eco-friendly and aspirational; they are less brand loyal than the generations before them; they want proven product performance and ingredient transparency to back up the shiny exterior. Catering to this elusive creature means carving out a new strategy. And that is exactly what Glossier is planning to do.
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