Bloomingdale's announced Tuesday that this fall it will launch a "clean beauty boutique," dubbed Wellchemist, at the department store's flagship location on 59th Street, as well as online at bloomingdales.com, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The shop-in-shop will also open at nine other locations in September, including Boca Raton, Century City, Chevy Chase, Fashion Valley, North Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, Short Hills and SoHo.
The department store's latest move in the beauty space is aimed at the natural beauty movement, with Wellchemist bringing in 30 new brands to Bloomingdale's, all of which are free of sulfates, parabens and phthalates, according to the release.
Beauty has become a focus category for department stores lately, with many brands revamping their offerings in the sector with hopes of catching up to the popularity that specialty retailers like Ulta and Sephora have brought to the space.
In recent months, Saks announced a renovation to the beauty department in its flagship store and Macy's brought changes to its own beauty department, bringing in advisers and augmented reality (AR) kiosks where customers can virtually try on products — technology that CEO Jeff Gennette said is now functioning in 50 of the company's stores.
Bloomingdale's new format follows similar lines, with the company touting "highly knowledgeable, brand agnostic staff," as well as in-store events and demonstrations by brand experts to "bring their brand stories to life." That approach to beauty has worked well at Sephora and Ulta, both of which have become well-known for having knowledgeable associates, playful store concepts and robust loyalty programs.
Nevertheless, the renewed efforts of many department stores, not to mention drugstores like CVS, are likely a smart move, especially with the beauty category performing so well when many other sectors of retail are faltering. Even struggling department stores like J.C. Penney have benefited from the sector, with that chain in particular partnering with Sephora for shop-in-shops that have largely been a success.
In addition to the experiential element, Bloomingdale's Wellchemist is also building off of the natural and clean beauty trend taking over the category recently. Natural and clean beauty lines have cropped up at Sephora and Brandless in the past year or so, along with a more transparent chemical strategy announced by Target in January of last year.
"Beauty is a natural extension of the health and wellness movement and Wellchemist is our way of fulfilling this need for the Bloomingdale's customer," Stacie Borteck, Bloomingdale's vice president and divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics, said in a statement. "The boutique will give our beauty shoppers a place to discover and experience the most advanced science-based solutions and clean beauty offerings."