Beauty’s Summer Surge

When we last dove into top beauty brands back in May, the sector was on its way to a full recovery as shoppers ventured out for the first time in over a year and began investing in beauty supplies once again. Now, it seems like the brick and mortar cosmetic chains are positively on fire, with visits to all retailers analyzed skyrocketing in recent months. 

And while the year-over-two-year foot traffic trends for April through June have been very strong, the growth in July visits was truly exceptional. Compared to July 2019, monthly visits to Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Bath and Body Works, and Sally Beauty Supply grew by 20.8%, 20.6%, 19.0%, and 20.9%, respectively. The impressive rate of recovery speaks to a unique combination of likely pent-up demand for specific products like makeup as well as the continued alignment with health and wellness trends and the wider Back to School boost.

From Strength to Strength 

Early weekly visit data for August indicates that the sector isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. Visits to the category leaders over the first full week of August were up significantly, with an increase of 22.8%, 26.9%, 22.2%, and 25.9% for Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Bath and Body Works, and Sally Beauty Supply, respectively. 

And these consistently strong visit levels are happening as several of the beauty leaders are going through major changes. Bath and Body Works, which recently separated from Victoria’s Secret and is now the sole brand to trade under the “L Brand” name, has announced plans to move more stores outside of malls. Sephora and Ulta Beauty have announced partnerships with Kohl’s and Target, respectively, with the first “shops-in-shop” opening this month. Should these strategies succeed in bringing even more customers to the beauty brands, the rest of 2021 looks extremely promising. 

Sephora/Kohl’s and Ulta/Target Partnerships 

Cross-shopping data also reveals interesting background regarding Kohl’s recent partnership with Sephora and Target’s partnership with Ulta Beauty. From June to July 2021, only 14.3% of Sephora shoppers also made a trip to Kohl’s – lower than the 16.0% of Sephora shoppers who visited Kohl’s from June to July 2019. If the new Sephora shop-in-shops manage to convince even a small share of Sephora customers to visit their local Kohl’s, the boost in new Kohl’s customers could be significant. 

On the other hand, a significant share of Ulta Beauty consumers are already patronizing Target – and were doing so before the pandemic. From June to July 2019, 62.1% of Ulta shoppers also visited a Target, and that share climbed to 64.4% from June to July 2021. Given the already high rate of cross-shopping, the Ulta shop-in-shops might be more successful in keeping Target shoppers in the store for longer or increasing the number of visits per customer rather than drawing brand new customers to Target, since so many Ulta shoppers are already regularly making trips to Target even without the new shops-in-shop. 

This indicates a very interesting dynamic difference between the two partnerships. On the one hand, the Ulta relationship with Target seems almost guaranteed to work, as many customers are already used to frequenting both. On the other hand, the Sephora shift off-mall and out of major cities means creating a newer suburban footprint through Kohl’s. While there might be more risk here, there could also be far more upside as the interaction could drive a new and exciting audience to Kohl’s locations. 

Will beauty visits continue to rise? Will the Sephora/Kohl’s partnership bring more Sephora consumers to Kohl’s?  

Visit to find out. 

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