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Brindley: Walgreens is reinventing beauty

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'Beauty Differentiation' concept to reach 1,800 stores

VERNON HILLS, Ill. — Walgreens’ vision to recreate the beauty shopping experience is becoming a reality at many of its stores.


Lauren Brindley

Aiming to be the destination of choice for today’s beauty care consumers, the drug chain will bring its “Beauty Differentiation” concept to about 1,800 stores by end of calendar 2016.

The plan is three-pronged: enticing products, an engaging retail presentation and a level of service not typically seen in your local drug store, including specially trained beauty consultants, said Lauren Brindley, group vice president and general merchandise manager for beauty and personal care at Walgreens.

“This is the first phase of a multiyear, multistage reinvention of beauty at Walgreens,” Brindley said during a tour of the redesigned beauty department at the chain’s store in Vernon Hills, Ill. “The whole idea of Beauty Differentiation is about offering customers the best global beauty brands in a welcoming, accessible and inspirational environment, accompanied with impartial experts and customer care. As a pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer, having extraordinary customer care is fundamental and, we think, a real differentiator for us in the marketplace.

“What we’re trying to do is inject a passion for beauty and elevate and differentiate everything that we’re doing in beauty,” she noted.

That’s evident just a few steps inside the suburban Vernon Hills store.

Customers entering the beauty area are greeted by colorful gondolas highlighting new items, advertised specials, and national and exclusive brands. A wall of stylish, backlit cosmetics displays runs the length of the store and showcases Walgreens Boots Alliance’s No7 and Soap & Glory global brands, as well as such staples as L’Oréal, Maybelline, CoverGirl, Neutrogena, Almay, Rimmel, wet n wild, essie and Sally Hansen.

“We’re lighting the whole of the cosmetics wall,” Brindley said. “That really starts to elevate the beauty area. It’s the first piece of the puzzle.”


Flagship brands No7 (note the testers) and Soap & Glory.


Enhanced signage — including a huge “Cosmetics” banner picturing red lipstick — makes it easier for shoppers to locate product categories, whether it be makeup, skin care, hair care, beauty accessories, scents or personal care items. But commanding special attention on the cosmetics wall are the displays for the flagship No7 and Soap & Glory brands, which began hitting stores in July.

“We’re trying to bring in different brands for different customers,” Brindley said. “As we build our beauty strategy, we want to ensure that we have products for all types of customers, ages and backgrounds so everybody can find something to suit them.”

The No7 and Soap & Glory displays feature something that Brindley described as new to the chain drug scene: test products.

“We’re offering testers in a drug store environment for the first time for both cosmetics and skin care. Customers can test, try, play and explore with the products. It also means our beauty consultants can try the products on customers. This is more like the experience you would find in a beauty specialty store, but we are able to provide the accessibility like no one else can.”

At the Vernon Hills store, the beauty consultant is situated by a glass case housing fragrances and other cosmetics displays. Another linchpin of Beauty Differentiation also is here: the consultation station, complete with mirror and swivel chair stool. The consultants can perform a range of services, from providing advice on skin care, doing mini-makeovers and applying test products to measuring skin moisture and matching skin tone using handheld digital tools like a hydrometer and the MatchMade device. The latter gauges a customer’s skin tone and points her to a matching No7 foundation.


Beauty consultant measures skin tone of Walgreens’ Phyllis Domena with No7 MatchMade device.

“The beauty consultant role is a brand-new job description. It’s focused very much on interaction with the customer. We’ve invested much more in training, tools and techniques. All of these more in-depth services that you would find in a beauty specialty store you now find in Walgreens,” Brindley explained. “This is about helping customers find whatever makes them feel beautiful and understanding what solutions she needs and being able to provide those solutions for her.”

Phyllis Domena, one of Walgreens’ beauty area experts for Chicagoland, said the No7 products and beauty consultants have been a hit with customers. Recently, she said, a consultant at the Vernon Hills store discovered that a shopper couldn’t decide between two No7 foundations, so she called her over to use the MatchMade device to find the best match for her skin tone.

“The customer was amazed that we could sit down and do that with her,” Domena said. “Once they see all of the tools and what we can do, they want to come back and have that expert consultation,” she added.

Shoppers, too, aren’t limited to what’s in-store. Also in the beauty consultants’ digital toolset is a tablet that enables them to search, view and order products available on, but not currently in stores.

“If there’s a product that’s not in the store, customers can order it online or through the register,” Domena said. “And if somebody comes into the store looking for a product that maybe we don’t carry, we can look it up online and see what products we do have that would also be comparable for them.”

Besides No7 and Soap & Glory, Walgreens roster of brands includes Boots Botanics, Liz Earle and Circa. With the Beauty Differentiation stores having about 6% more space for beauty, more brands and offerings are on the way, Brindley said.

“We’re trying to give the beauty shopper what she wants, where she wants it and when she wants it. Customers are becoming ever more demanding, and convenience is becoming more important. And the fact that we all live with our smartphones means that she can really access anything that she wants at her fingertips,” she said. “So what we have to do is make sure that we’re relevant and have the right products that she wants to access at the right point in time.”

Walgreens has supported its new beauty offering through an enhanced marketing campaign, launched in June, with the tagline “Whatever makes you feel beautiful.” Brindley said the retailer already is working on the next stage of the Beauty Differentiation rollout.

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