In NYC, Beautycounter is selling product, advancing advocacy, and providing education

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Beautycounter at 51 Prince Street in New York City (photo courtesy of Beautycounter)
Beautycounter at 51 Prince Street in New York City (photo courtesy of Beautycounter)
The direct-sales clean beauty brand opened its first permanent physical store on Prince Street in New York City last month. But the Beautycounter retail story isn’t the story of one more startup getting into brick-and-mortar; founder Gregg Renfrew has created a space that combines experiential retail and conscious business like never before.

In New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, Beautycounter is of course selling its own portfolio of 150 products, ranging from skin care like the No.1 Brightening Facial Oil to color cosmetics and complexion products like the brand’s new Illuminating Cream Highlighter, to hair care and styling products as well as bath and body products like a Body Oil in Citrus Rosemary.

But the store is interactive beyond product samples. “If our mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone, we have to be able to meet customers wherever they are shopping,” ​the company’s founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew says in a media release about the new store.

Advocacy and education

“We know,” ​she adds, “that our story is best told person-to-person, and we are thrilled to add a physical retail store to the progress we've made in educating consumers and advocating for better beauty.”

It’s the advocacy and education elements that make Beautycounter’s first store so distinctive. Consumers are invited to use a phone booth inside the shop to call their government officials and show their support for industry regulatory reform. “A neon sign that reads 'It's Your Call' will point to a custom New York phone booth, complete with a branded 'blue pages' phone book with the names and numbers of every member of Congress. In under a minute, customers are automatically connected and can read a provided script to lend their voices in support of better beauty laws,” ​explains the media release. (Read more about Renfrew’s efforts to update cosmetics and personal care regulations in the States here on Cosmetics Design​.)

iPads throughout the shop let consumers learn more about Beautycounter’s ingredient policy. And there are take-away cards listing 30 ingredients from The Never List, a roster of 1,500+ ingredients the brand doesn’t formulate with.

Mainstream media

The newly opened store is an indication of the clean beauty movement’s growing momentum, as is media attention like the full-page item in this past Sunday’s New York Times business section profiling Renfrew and her 7-year-old beauty venture.

In conversation with David Gelles, Renfrew shared insights into the origins of the Beautycounter concept, her varied experiences as a businesswoman, and how she’s leveraging the direct-to-consumer beauty business to effect (what she believes is) meaningful change in the industry.

“The FDA can be protective of the consumer in certain industries,” ​she says, “but in our industry we are woefully underregulated, and they don’t have the power to recall products.”

And commenting on her brand’s main original business model, Renfrew explains, “We are creating economic opportunities for women, where they have the opportunity to sell a product that they believe in and get paid on the sale of that product.”

Collaborative business

Renfrew recognizes that successful advocacy is a collective effort. And she clearly believes that successful retail can be collaborative too.

The NYC Beautycounter store is giving shoppers so-called clean maps to help them identify and find other local retailers selling safer (according to the company’s understanding) personal care products.

And there’s community betterment built in too. “The theme of ‘cleaning up the industry’ will be brought to life in the store and in the brand's first full marketing campaign around New York City throughout the season,” ​according to the media release. “Beautycounter hosted a subway ‘cleanup’ on October 27 and plans to do more cleanups throughout the neighborhood.”



Deanna Utroske, 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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