Ulta Pivots To Mental Health, Teens

With sales slowing, Ulta is looking for new ways to build customer connections. It announced that the Ulta Beauty Charitable Foundation will expand giving efforts to include mental-health nonprofits, especially those working with teens.

Last year, the beauty retailer announced a broad repositioning, declaring itself a champion of all things joyful. This next step supports that mission, “using the power of beauty as a force for good.”

Since 2016, the foundation has donated $61 million to improve the lives of women and families, and this shift addresses the core belief of many women, which is that how you look plays a significant part in how you feel.

“Well-being and beauty are intrinsically connected and fundamental to who we are as a company,” says Jodi Caro, general counsel and chief risk and compliance officer at Ulta Beauty, in the announcement. “More than 91% of our associates and most of our guests are women. We’re also seeing teens engaging with beauty early on. As the largest beauty retailer in the U.S., we have the power to help shape how young people experience beauty.”



The effort includes the just-launched fundraising program in stores for Big Brothers Big Sisters. That campaign includes 2,000 giveaways for the “littles” participating in BBBS.

Ulta is donating more than $1 million this year to nonprofits such as the Jed Foundation, which deals with suicide prevention; Active Minds, which provides online mental health tools, and Girls Inc., which focuses on confidence and well-being.

Additionally, Ulta plans to give $2 million to support BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. It is also re-upping longstanding support for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The Bolingbrook, Illinois-based retailer is also increasing mental health support for its associates, including financial wellness planning and guidance, annual memberships in a meditation tool, and training on wellness, mindfulness, and inclusion.

With annual sales of $11.21 billion, Ulta serves a broad market of customers, including men. Yet 91% of customers and associates are women, with younger consumers a critical audience.

In the most-recent ranking of teen brand preferences, Piper Sandler says that Sephora, at 37%, still beats Ulta on share of voice, at 31%.

The expanded cause-related mission comes as beauty sales -- long one of the hottest categories in consumer spending -- seem to be cooling off. At a conference for investors last month, Ulta chief executive officer Dave Kimbell warned that sales were moderating. And while the company still expects revenues to rise in the mid-single digits for the year, he noted the slowdown in spending was more pronounced than expected.

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