Directory of Major Malls
Directory of Major Malls

The Beauty of Beauty

By Debra Hazel, President at Debra Hazel Communications

beauty retailIs it the aging of the population? Too much time seeing ourselves on Zoom calls? Or just an excuse to take a small break and do something for ourselves?

Whatever the reason, there has been an ongoing boom in beauty sales and retail space dedicated to the category over the last few years. And the trend shows no sign of stopping. Beauty retailers are increasing their expansion plans, and landlords are more than happy to dedicate more space to boutiques beyond department store and discounter anchors.

Case in point: Macy’s may be closing 150 of its traditional department stores, but it’s making a big bet on Bluemercury, the upscale beauty retailer it acquired in 2015. Plans call for opening 30 new stores and renovating 30 more, and there’s still plenty of room to grow, as the chain hasn’t even broken the 200-store mark.

That dovetails well with the increase in sales among prestige brands.

For the second year in a row, prestige beauty growth in units sold outperformed the mass category, reported Circana.

Surprisingly, a big driver of this growth are the youngest adults — Generation Alpha, Circana said. Perhaps it’s TikTok, the livestreaming from cosmetics companies from around the world or a greater awareness of the long-term benefits of taking care of their skin, but this generation is investing young. (Somewhere, my grandmother, who taught me from childhood to use the best skin care I could afford — and looked 65 well into her 80s — is smiling.)

$430 Billion in SalesIt’s also a huge comeback for the beauty sector overall. Oddly, the pandemic upended the old “Lipstick Index” I once heard Leonard Lauder, now chairman emeritus and former CEO of Estee Lauder, discuss at a conference. During troubled times, he said, lipstick sales always rose. A woman might not be able to afford a new outfit or prestige skincare, but she could pick up a lipstick. During a pandemic, with everyone wearing masks, lipstick sales didn’t make much sense. Sales of all beauty products declined in the first year as stores were shuttered and no one was going anywhere. But the sector came roaring back and in 2022, the beauty market generated approximately $430 billion in sales, according to McKinsey.

Mid- and lower-price points are expanding, too. Ulta, which opened its first stores in Chicagoland in 1990, has grown to more than 1,300 units around the U.S. and is looking at an expansion to Mexico.

And don’t forget Sephora, which came to the U.S. in 1998, then opened in-store shops in JCPenney. When that collaboration ended, Sephora turned to Kohl’s, and now operates branded departments in 850 of Kohl’s 1,100 stores, with plans to expand to all. At the just-concluded Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas, Kohl’s CEO Tom Kingsbury said that Sephora will be a $2 billion business within its stores by 2025. Even better, he continued, is that many Sephora customers are new to Kohl’s and cross-shop other categories, including accessories.

Even the off-price/outlet arena is expanding the space dedicated to the category. Outlet/off-price center Tanger is adding full-price Ulta and Bath & Body Works outposts to several of its properties after opening its first Ulta in 2022.

Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Home GoodsTJX Cos. (parent of Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Home Goods)  has made a major commitment to beauty, expanding its merchandise selection, adding more prestige products — and even selling some at full price — to bring in new customers. Cosmetics were a major factor in the company’s 5% year-over-year sales increase in the all-important fourth quarter of 2023, it reported. And look for even more growth in that sector as department stores (okay, mostly Macy’s) continues to close units. Shoppers will look to TJX’s units for convenience and manufacturers will seek doors for their product. A major clue: a quick search revealed that the company is hiring store associates specifically for its beauty departments.

And we can have a completely separate discussion of the growth of spas into retail spaces around the country. Medtail, which combines medical and retail (and a word only slightly better than “phygital”) has become a critical component of many new and repurposed spaces, as Gary D. Rappaport has discussed in much greater detail here. People may not have purchased lipstick during the pandemic, but all those Zoom calls revealed a need (imagined or real) for skincare, Botox and more.

That’s the beauty of, well, beauty. This particular category needs brick-and-mortar — you can’t get a facial, fillers or makeover online. E-commerce sales in the category continue to grow, of course, but there’s just something about testing a new shade, learning about a new product, and turning to someone else and saying, “What do you think?” Those experiences bring shoppers back again and again to refill an item, try the newest product in the line and remain a part of the community.

That’s exactly what real estate owners want.

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Debra HazelDebra Hazel
President | Debra Hazel Communications

A native New Yorker transplanted to North Las Vegas a few years ago, Debra Hazel is a veteran retail real estate writer, editor and media consultant. She provides comprehensive communications services to retail real estate owners, developers and managers, design firms and businesses allied to the industry.

You can reach her at

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