Retail’s Power Players

Retail’s Power Players – An Evening at the CEW Newsmaker Forum

It was a chilly New York evening, but inside the Harmonie Club at the CEW’s Newsmaker Forum last Wednesday, November 19th, the topic was hot. With Kline’s Kristy Altenburg and Donna Barson among the sold-out crowd, Mary Dillon, Ulta Beauty’s Chief Executive Officer, and Sona Chawla, Walgreen Co.’s President of Digital and CMO, spoke about their business models and winning in beauty. Both women cited technology as a major force that continues to change the state of their businesses, and both are investing in technological infrastructure to enhance the purchasing experience in an omni-channel way, so that their shopper has the same type of experience both in and out of store.

Some quick statistics about these leading national Chicago-based retailers:

Ulta, with 775 locations, plans to open 100 stores per year and, despite a platform redesign including more helpful information on its e-commerce sites, never expects e-commerce to account for more than 10% of its business.

Walgreens, with the acquisition of Boots, will reportedly become the third largest beauty retailer in the world with nameplates that, in addition to Walgreens and Boots, also include Duane Reade,, and

While Walgreens and Ulta are both reaching and maintaining loyalty with shoppers through many common methods such as email, rewards programs, circulars, and various social media, there is more to come—not only from them but also from other retailers. As one of the speakers so appropriately commented, “The beauty retailing experience will change more in the next five years than in the past 100 years.” At Kline we will continue to monitor the fast changing beauty retail environment.

Some new and cutting edge technologies were also discussed, such as the use of beacons and Apple Pay, both of which will be assessed in our upcoming edition of Beauty Retailing USA: Channel Analysis and Opportunities. Beacons are Bluetooth-enabled devices that retailers can use to enhance the in-store shopping experience by communicating with customers in-store to provide messages, coupons, product information, or even locations of products. Apple Pay, which was recently launched, and is appropriate for users of the iPhone 6 or newer, is a different way to pay for purchases in-store without having to take out cash or a credit card. Touted as being a more secure way to prevent theft of personal information, Apple Pay does not disclose the purchaser’s name or credit card information.

An examination of the changing dynamics of beauty retailing across all channels will be included in the next edition of Kline’s Beauty Retailing USA: Channel Analysis and Opportunities, to be published in the spring of 2015. According to the latest edition of the report, specialty stores and drug stores account for 11% and 18% of total U.S. beauty sales, respectively. A deep dive into the fast growing alternate channels for beauty retailing will be published in our new Beauty Retailing USA: Alternate Channel Monitor, with the first half results of 2014 to be published in December 2014.


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