With Sluggish Reopenings, Ulta Leans In To 'Conscious' Beauty

Ulta Beauty says it’s finished with its phased-in reopening plans, with adjustments in stores as well as omnichannel sales. It also announced the introduction of Conscious Beauty, a sweeping effort to offer more transparency and choices, including cleaner ingredients, cruelty-free and vegan options, sustainable packaging and what it’s calling positive impact.

In addition to requiring shoppers and associates to wear facial coverings in stores, Ulta is closely monitoring government and health guidance as well as local COVID-19 cases to “inform nimble actions where necessary.” The Bolingbrook, Illinois-based company says it has brought back 50% of workers it furloughed back in April, and that it is permanently closing 19 stores. It reiterated previously announced expansion plans, including its move into Canada.



But some observers see these efforts moving more slowly than expected. “While we believe the fleet reopening is a positive step in the right direction for driving a rebound at the chain, commentary that only about 50% of the furloughed workforce has been reactivated suggests to us that stores are likely still performing below normal productivity," writes  Rupesh Parikh, an analyst who follows Ulta for Oppenheimer. "We continue to assume a slower second-half recovery for Ulta, given the resurgence of coronavirus infections lately and potential depressed demand for makeup with women staying at home more during the pandemic.”

Ulta also detailed its Conscious Beauty effort, which includes an ambitious commitment to make sure that by 2025, 50% of all packaging, including the private-label Ulta Beauty Collection, is made from recycled, recyclable, bio-sourced materials by 2025.

 “As the beauty retail leader, we have the unique opportunity to inspire positive change in our industry,” says Dave Kimbell, president of Ulta Beauty, in its announcement. “Our focus is to educate, guide and simplify product choice and elevate those brands doing good for our world.”

Among the innovations are a Made Without List, indicating that a brand is free of parabens, phthalates and ingredients from some 25 chemical categories. Participating brands can be certified via ClearForMe, regarded as a leading independent ingredient authority, to ensure ingredient transparency. Ulta's cruelty-free pillar includes a third-party certification from groups like PETA, Leaping Bunny and Choose Cruelty-Free.

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