By Kavita Kumar
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Melissa Butler started the Lip Bar by making her own natural lipstick in her kitchen in shades complementary to her skin that she couldn’t easily find in stores.
For Regina Merson, it was her lifelong fascination with makeup, inspired at an early age when watching telenovelas as a girl in Mexico, that led her to launch Reina Rebelde, a brand aimed at Latinas.
Marlena Stell quit her job as a music teacher when her Makeup Geek tutorials on YouTube began to take off. She later started her own line with the same name out of her parents’ basement that has since blossomed into a $22 million company.
These are some of the female entrepreneurs behind the eight new cosmetics brands, most of which are geared toward women of color with medium to dark skin tones, soon to be in the beauty aisles of Minneapolis-based Target.
The lineup of 150 products includes everything from bright lip colors, fake mink lashes, bold eye shadows and an expansive range of foundations at prices ranging from $9.99 to $24.99. The other brands are Coloured Raine, Every Hue Beauty, Haleys, Hue Noir and Violet Voss.
They are launching today on Target.com and will roll out to hundreds of stores next month where they will receive prime billing on two prominent displays at the end of aisles to draw more attention.
For most of these brands, which started out online, this will be the first time they will be sold in stores. Like it has with other brands such as Harry’s razors, Target has brokered agreements to be the exclusive mass retailer to sell many of them while they continue to be available on their own websites.
Christina Hennington, Target’s senior vice president of beauty, said Target has been working over the years to ensure its offerings are as diverse as its customers.
“This is the year we decided we need to do deeper work on our cosmetics side of the business in making sure we’re inclusive and we’re finding products that are relevant to our guests that have deeper skin tones,” she said. “As the United States becomes more multicultural and multiethnic, we need to be responsive as a retailer.”
She said Target pursued many of these growing brands that buyers discovered through social media and market research. Others had reached out to Target themselves.
Target first began diversifying its assortment in 2004 when it began selling hair products for different textures. Today, it carries more than 100 brands in beauty and personal care that are designed to meet the needs of diverse customers.
Nevertheless, other specialty retailers and department stores such as Sephora and Macy’s have done a better job in recent years in offering cosmetics for more diverse customers, said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail.
“So this certainly makes a statement of welcome to women of color” at Target, she said, referring to the new brands.
Target already carries Iman and Milani lines of cosmetics, with women of color in mind.
While some parts of the retail industry such as apparel have been struggling in recent years, the beauty industry has continued to see growth, driven in part by multicultural consumers.
The addition of these digital-focused brands is also the latest example of Target trying to stay relevant by adding some of the e-commerce startups that have been disrupting traditional retail, whether it’s Harry’s in men’s shaving, Casper in mattresses and bedding, or Bark in pet supplies.
A lot of the newer up-and-coming beauty brands have built devoted online clientele, especially as they tout products that may be missing from more mainstream offerings.
Stell, of Makeup Geek, said many of the long-established cosmetic companies tend to offer similar products.
“What’s exciting about these digital brands is we’re coming out with different products that may be super bright pigments or it could be an innovative formula,” she said. “We bring something different to the table.”
She has been approached by other retailers over the years, but she resisted for fear her brand would get lost in the sea of products on the shelves.
“I wanted to preserve the specialness of it,” she said. “When we were approached by Target, it was the prefect fit.
I love how they don’t sell a bazillion beauty brands but they still have something for everyone. It’s still accessible. There’s a Target everywhere and the masses can shop there everywhere.”
And, she added, she’s excited about being part of a marketing push that highlights these eight brands together in order to make a bigger splash.