Walgreens acquires a minority stake in online beauty retailer Birchbox

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

image courtesy of Birchbox
image courtesy of Birchbox
As part of the newly announced deal, Birchbox is reinventing the Walgreens beauty department to be more experiential and include more prestige brands. Effectively, the drug store chain and the subscription box company are teaming up on a curated omnichannel cosmetics and personal care shopping platform.

The first 6 Birchbox-branded Walgreens beauty departments are scheduled to open in December of this year in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. And in early 2019, Walgreens will add Birchbox shops to 5 more stores in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami.

“Walgreens is deeply committed to beauty and shares our vision for a different type of retail experience – one that is holistic, seamless and designed to help shoppers make informed, confident decisions. Together we will continue to evolve the integration of our physical and digital shopping experiences,”​ explains Katia Beauchamp, CEO and co-founder of Birchbox, in a press release.

Decision matrix

“In Walgreens, we have found an exciting partner that supports our mission of reaching an underserved customer who doesn’t prioritize beauty,”​ says Beauchamp. “Birchbox has effectively changed the relationship that this customer (who represents 70 percent of the market) has with beauty and increased her spend in the category.”

It’s clear that Birchbox is not only committed to reaching the “consumer who doesn’t prioritize beauty” ​but is also determined to cement a Birchbox system of shopping in the beauty retail ecosystem.

Birchbox wants to look and feel the same by mail, online, and in stores with doors; and the company is taking care to develop shopping experiences that follow the same organizational and decision making logic. This past summer Birchbox updated their site​ for this very reason.

In a fact sheet the company shared with Cosmetics Design, Birchbox describes its merchandising strategy this way: “We’re offering fewer options and better guidance so customers have an easier, more productive experience: rather than organizing products by brand, we’ve designed an intuitive, grid-style navigation framework that intersects steps of your routine (i.e. cleanse, treat, moisturize) with specific goals or concerns (i.e. detox, balance, brighten), so you can just follow the grid to find the right products.”

Curators and retailers

The next phase of the co-creation and influencer collaboration trend is curation. Retailers of every sort are teaming up with bloggers, influencers, and specialized digital marketplaces to create curated beauty and personal care offerings.

“Our customers want to shop the most sought-after brands in a welcoming and accessible environment,” ​Richard Ashworth, president of operations at Walgreens, tells the press; “and the addition of Birchbox to our growing beauty offering is a big step in delivering on our promise to differentiate and elevate the beauty experience at Walgreens. This collaboration will help enable Walgreens to continue to strengthen our beauty offering and build our prestige portfolio.”

The Birchbox beauty departments will be well branded as Birchbox and feature a curated selection of 40+ prestige skin care, hair care, and makeup brands. Birchbox will train Walgreen beauty consultants to help guide shoppers.

“Additionally,” ​the press release notes, “within the Walgreens pilot stores, Birchbox will offer subscriptions to its monthly delivery services of personalized samples and a Build Your Own Birchbox experience (BYOB), which is a signature element of Birchbox’s flagship stores in New York City and Paris.”



Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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