Ulta Tackles America's Joy Deficit

Ulta has built its brand on what’s pretty on the outside. But the company’s latest research reveals that most customers wrestle with inner ugliness, enduring steady streams of negative self-talk.

So, the fast-growing retailer is introducing the Joy Project, with a video and a plan to teach all 53,000 associates to help beauty customers overcome those obstacles.

Based on a sample of 5,000, the research finds that 73% of those surveyed experience negative self-talk, 70% say they often don’t know when they’re doing it, and 91% say the negativity is a primary obstacle to joy.

The Bolingbrook, Illinois-based company is teaming up with Mel Robbins, author and podcast host, for a special associate training program. The company believes that coaching will enable employees to empower Ulta’s customers to ditch their toxic inner critic.



 “At Ulta Beauty, we strive every day to use the power of beauty to bring to life the possibilities that lie within each of us, and joy is a feeling we want everyone to experience when walking through our stores,” said Michelle Crossan-Matos, Ulta’s chief marketing officer, in the announcement. “There’s a joy deficit in our country, which, if left untreated, will only continue to hold people back from living the lives they’ve always wanted.”

While 85% of respondents say they wish they felt high joy in their lives, only 58% report feeling that way.

Ulta is also tapping its influencer networks to bring the joy effort to social media, using the #joyforward hashtag.

The study revealed that teens are more likely than adults to suffer from inner negativity and feel less able to combat the ugly chatter.

Much of the inner criticism focuses on the external, with 82% saying they actively criticize their physical well-being and appearance, and 79% targeting their body image. But 76% also say they attack their worthiness, focusing on success and achievement.

Ulta is better positioned than most retailers to effect change. While ecommerce now accounts for about 20% of its $10.2 billion in annual sales, consumers still want to come to physical locations to sample and experiment with beauty products.

The company, one of the fastest growing, now has almost 1,400 stores in all 50 states and an expanding network of shops within Target locations. Morningstar, citing Euromonitor data, says Ulta now commands a 29.3% share of the U.S. specialist beauty market, making it the largest in the country.

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