For new hair care innovation, Ulta Beauty is looking within.
The specialty retail giant is launching Nick Stenson Beauty, a hair care brand from executive Nick Stenson, who heads up Ulta Beauty’s salon business. The brand will be an Ulta exclusive as of its launch on Nov. 27, and will roll out to select doors in the new year. Product prices range from $34 to $44 for full-sized products.
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Stenson, Ulta’s senior vice president of store and services operations, has a long history with hair, having grown up around his mother, a hairdresser of 37 years. “I always found it super interesting that when I was working with different brands and different products, I always liked one product of an assortment, and one product from another,” he said. “I said for many years I was going to create a line of hero products where every product can stand alone. From the professional side, there was something I would crave as having that perfect go-to collection.”
His range includes shampoos, conditioners, a hydrating oil, a root lifter spray, leave-in conditioner, two styling creams, a dry shampoo and two styling sprays. In addition to aloe vera gel — the brand’s hero ingredient, known for its soothing properties as well as a range of vitamins. He also looked to creatine for its defensive benefits, and different superfoods, he said, including kale, carrot and lemon protein extract, as well as jojoba oil.
The brand is in the process of becoming Leaping Bunny certified for its packaging, and boasts certified organic ingredients. “The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t just have a pretty bottle on a shelf that delivers a result. It has to have something meaningful to it,” he said.
Stenson said Ulta’s salon business remains strong. “Coming out of the pandemic, we’re in a healthier position than ever,” he said. “We have hired more stylists in the past two quarters than we have in the past year. Hairdressers are flocking to Ulta Beauty because of the great career opportunities we provide for them, using the greatest products in what I call the biggest waiting room in any salon — over 38 million loyal guests that love beauty come in every single day.”
Adding Nick Stenson Beauty is part of Ulta’s larger effort to foster growth among smaller brands. The retailer also inaugurated its Muse Accelerator program, as well as its own venture capital fund this year. A spokesperson from Ulta confirmed that the retailer did not invest in Nick Stenson Beauty, and despite his affiliation with the company, Stenson had to undergo Ulta’s typical pitching process for new brands.
The hair category, where Ulta Beauty leads the market, is going full steam ahead, said Monica Arnaudo, Ulta’s chief merchandising officer. “People are caring very much about the health of their hair, they’re very much focused on repairing damage,” she said, calling out Ulta’s new brands and interest in bond-building technology as key drivers. “That has been a really great aspect of our double-digit growth within hair.”
Arnaudo said Ulta’s assortment remains unencumbered by macroeconomic pressures, with consumers remaining highly engaged with beauty. In skin care, consumers are shopping across hydration, acne and sun care; makeup has “seen a really good pick-up” across complexion and lipstick and both designer and celebrity fragrances are benefitting from Gen Z interest in the category. “All of our categories still have amazing momentum,” she said. “Beauty is a great sector, and overall, beauty is performing well.”
On the company’s most recent earnings call, Ulta cited a 16.8 percent lift in net sales for the quarter of its fiscal year.
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