CVS drug stores get serious about beauty

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Personal care Cosmetics

CVS drug stores get serious about beauty
The retailer is looking to make up for $2b of revenue, which the company previously brought in through tobacco sales, with a four-pronged approach that centers on wellness.

Helena Foulkes, president of CVS, set a strategy to regain that revenue by selling more healthy foods, providing thorough health care for senior citizens in particular, opening more CVS branded pharmacies in more markets, and improving upon the chain’s existing beauty and personal care business. 

Power of persuasion
All those years of “healthy looking” FDA-compliant marketing copy have helped shift consumer expectations of beauty and personal care. That sort of claim can make shoppers sceptical of the benefits personal care products deliver.

 So, now shoppers are looking for effective products that also boost their health or at least don’t run counter their lifestyle preferences for fitness/wellness. And CVS seems to be thinking, where better to shop for these products than at an apothecary?

Business acumen
Industry experts, like Jodi Katz of the Base Beauty Creative Agency, saw the opportunity for CVS to use the tobacco-less shelf space to upgrade its fragrance and cosmetics business early on.

Rather than keep perfumes locked up, she recommends that digital technology and luxury selling techniques be repurposed in mass drug store settings “to create innovation and ignite a reason to buy.”

In conversation with Cosmetics Design​ late last year, Katz, president and creative director of the agency, contemplated “If ATMs can dole out cupcakes at all hours and color cosmetics brands are using personalized imagery to showcase product, why can’t drug store shoppers get a spritz-on-the-wrist sample from a fragrance kiosk?”

Such enhanced consumer experience would almost certainly do wonders to boost fragrance sales. And Katz confirms it will take the right brand-retailer partnership to make it happen.

In her view, what it boils down to is this, “Which retailer is ready to take the lead and invest in fragrance innovation and allocate the right kind of space to create a covetable experience? Which marketer is willing to partner with the retailer to support the development of an interactive experience that informs the future of selling fragrance at mass drug stores?”

CVS doesn’t seem to be innovating at quite this level with its renewed focus on beauty. Though, the company does have a plan to get more merchandise in front of cosmetics and personal care consumers.

In the field
The pharmacy chain presently does $3b of business in beauty annually, according to Caroline McMillan Portillo, writing for the Boston Business Journal. That’s a figure the company intends to boost by shifting to a Sephora-ish use of shelf space. “About 2,000 CVS stores will get updated displays emphasizing its different brands, as well as several new in-house brands,”​ McMillan Portillo reports.

The new CVS skin care line Skin+Pharmacy showcases how the company is meeting consumer expectations, associating beauty with wellness. And the new MUA color cosmetics line plays on the appeal of professional-grade makeup.

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