Ulta Beauty has a new way of showing off up-and-coming beauty brands: a platform called Sparked at Ulta Beauty, which launched this past Saturday online and enters select stores on Sept. 22. The platform features "digitally native, and socially fueled beauty brands" that are going into brick and mortar for the first time.
Collections for the program will be "continuously refreshed," according to a company press release emailed to Retail Dive, and will include hair care, skin care and makeup brands. Brands chosen for the program will also have access to Ulta from a mentorship perspective, the company said.
The beauty retailer's first iteration of the program features four brands: Uoma Beauty, Elcie, Zoeva and Love Wellness. A special online and mobile experience for the program is also on the horizon and will launch in the fall.
A battle for emerging brands has broken out in the beauty sector, and Sephora and Ulta are at the front lines.
Sephora has launched a series of merchandising initiatives in stores to highlight direct-to-consumer, digital-first brands, which most recently included Sephora's Next Big Thing, a space dedicated to new makeup brands.
Ulta's Sparked platform seems to be based on a similar concept, bringing in digitally native brands to foster a sense of discovery and, hopefully, drive traffic to stores. That strategy seems to be working, as CEO Mary Dillon specifically called out in May that being the "partner of choice" for DTC brands was driving traffic to stores from consumers looking to try the products in person.
Indeed, the retailer's press release for Sparked pointed to the program as the continuation of a strategy that has been "key to Ulta Beauty's success for the past 29 years."
"Identifying what's next in beauty and growing brands to their full potential is what Ulta Beauty is known for," Tara Simon, senior vice president of merchandising at Ulta, said in a statement. "We have long been the place for brands to grow, including emerging brands, which we introduce to a whole new guest population to ignite their success. Our guests have an insatiable desire to get it first and know Ulta Beauty is the place for new and exclusive products that you just can't find anywhere else."
The strategy isn't unique to the beauty sector — department stores have recently taken a similar tact to get customers into locations, including Macy's with its The Market @ Macy's concept and more recently Kohl's, which announced on Tuesday it would be selling a selection of products from emerging brands through a program called "Curated by Kohl's."