Birchbox will expand its brick-and-mortar partnership with Walgreens for the holiday season, from 11 permanent locations to 500 pop-ups, according to a company press release emailed to Retail Dive. The Birchbox shop-in-shops will be available in Walgreens stores in 44 states beginning this Friday and run through the end of December.
The holiday Birchbox fixtures will be positioned at the front of the store in a "grab-and-go holiday gifts" format, according to the release, and will include items like Birchbox subscription gift cards, travel-size beauty essentials (in under $10 and under $20 sections), limited edition travel-themed Birchbox Beauty and Birchbox Grooming boxes, and an Advent calendar collaboration between the beauty brand and Walgreens.
The expansion builds upon a partnership that began in December of 2018 and has since grown to include Birchbox grooming products as well. Birchbox CEO and founder Katia Beauchamp alluded to the holiday expansion in an interview with Retail Dive in July, saying a "little thing" would be opening in 500 doors soon. That little thing appears to be their holiday plans.
The 500 pop-ups Birchbox will open at Walgreens are temporary — at least for now. Pooja Agarwal, chief operating officer of Birchbox, said in an interview with Retail Dive that the company didn't yet have news on whether or not it will be staying on permanently in any of the holiday locations, but noted that they "definitely see potential" there.
It could be a logical next step for Birchbox, which has continued to expand its partnership with Walgreens since it began about a year ago. In addition to appealing to holiday shoppers with gift cards (available in all of Walgreens' 8,000 locations) and travel-sized essentials, Birchbox also trained Walgreens Beauty Consultants in August to sell Birchbox subscriptions in 3,000 stores. According to Agarwal, that's led to 15 times more subscribers per month through Walgreens.
While much of the focus is around gifting, as is just about everything during the holiday season, Birchbox is also using the pop-ups to promote self-gifting. For example, shoppers who buy a gift card for a Birchbox subscription will walk away with a box themselves that day, Agarwal said.
"The biggest thing we focused on was creating a complete Birchbox experience within every store, even if it's just one single fixture," she said, though this can be hard to translate to a small physical setting. "We're able to offer some of our full-size products, to offer really amazing giftable box sets, plus, we have an entire area of the fixture, which is really focused on the Birchbox subscription and the best way to gift that to somebody. It's really about being able to bring everything that Birchbox offers in person."
One of the benefits of offering Birchbox at Walgreens is that associates are now trained on the Birchbox value proposition and can give shoppers a more tailored experience, or answer any questions they have about the service, Agarwal said.
Birchbox fixtures in Walgreens also help raise awareness, with signs letting shoppers know they've partnered with Walgreens and that they can sign up for a subscription there. And since Birchbox is so small comparatively, Walgreens' experience was a big win to help the beauty brand train those employees and figure out how to do brick and mortar right.
"It was definitely new for us to be going nationwide, from like, the logistical perspective, but I think it was a really good challenge for us to take on because we're seeing so many direct-to-consumer brands going into physical retail, so we have to figure out how to execute that," Agarwal said. She also noted that Birchbox has a theory that their customers shop at Walgreens, and that is "proving to be true" so far.
"The ability to partner with somebody who knows how to scale and really knows how to do brick and mortar and knows how to train staff is invaluable. That level of experience they just immediately bring to the table — it's so helpful," she added.