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Elevating beauty: Unlocking the health connection


Anyone without a clear vision of the link between wellness and beauty hasn’t heard CVS Health’s VP/merchandise manager for beauty and personal care Alex Perez-Tenessa describe the synergy.

(To download Special Report: Double Down on Health, click here.)

The health-beauty connection is a driving force for the company as it continues rolling out its new “Elevate Beauty” concept, which is now in about 2,000 of its stores.

“The future of beauty is health,” Perez-Tenessa — who stepped into his current role overseeing beauty and personal care for CVS Pharmacy after 15 years of retail consulting experience at McKinsey & Company — told Drug Store News. “Every piece of customer research and category trend that we look at confirms this.”

With pharmacy accounting for more than 65% of CVS’s volume, getting customers to stop in beauty and buy items to boost the basket is crucial. That mission became imperative to compensate for dollars lost by the health-minded decision to eliminate tobacco sales at CVS in 2014, too.

Presenting beauty as part of the health equation is a natural, Perez-Tenessa maintained. “Many beauty categories — such as moisturizers, oral care and sun care — are truly fundamental pieces of a good personal healthcare routine,” he noted.

But even the more cosmetic beauty categories can play a role in health. Research CVS conducted in conjunction with Dr. Vivian Diller, a psychologist who studies the role beauty plays in women’s lives, revealed that cosmetic products can impact what Diller calls “subjective well-being.” Citing the example of a bold lipstick to provide an emotional lift, Diller said beauty products can help enable physical and emotional well-being.

Alex Perez-Tenessa of CVS HealthThat research fits neatly into CVS’s vision for the beauty category.

Excluding cosmetics, all of the growth in the past three years [in beauty] has been driven by beauty brands and items with a strong “health orientation,” Perez-Tenessa explained. As a response, CVS has doubled the number of health-oriented items in several beauty categories. “In many categories, such as body lotions or oral care, we have been first to market full sets of these items in our stores.”

CVS also is using exclusive brands to stake out a health position in beauty care and help set itself apart from its competitors, through such brands as the dermatologist-tested Skin+Pharmacy, Enlite and premium derm-brand Jouviance. “We want to give our customers better, healthier choices across multiple categories that they can’t find anywhere else in the market,” he said.

Skin care is the anchor of CVS’s healthy beauty strategy. “Skin is the largest organ in the body and needs to be looked after,” he said. “This year, we’ve practically doubled the number of CVS stores that carry CVS’s premium dermatologist brands.”

Among those labels are La Roche-Posay and Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, a highly coveted natural brand that was added to the mix in 2014. At the time of the introduction, Dr. Hauschka CEO Victor Morrison praised CVS beauty advisors for their ability to “prescribe the right skin regimen for each shopper,” he said.

Scalable elevation

CVS’s strategies come to life in its Elevate Beauty department enhancements, which started rolling out to stores in 2015, with an initial 2,000 doors. With a mission to make the shopping experience more enjoyable — especially in the SKU-intensive beauty category — CVS implemented compelling trend stories throughout the space, via signs and displays, enhanced education and improved guidance on shelves. Skin care and cosmetics are the headliners in the reboot.

“Beauty remains a complex and highly sensorial category. The customer needs to be guided so they can find what they want and then be inspired to try new styles to make them look and feel even more beautiful,” Perez-Tenessa said.

skin care signage at CVSAccording to Perez-Tenessa, in order for the changes CVS was making in beauty to be successful, the goal needed to be on driving innovation that was scalable, allowing it to touch the maximum number of stores and customers. “From the beginning, our focus was on scalable elevation,” he explained, “to touch thousands of stores and [more than] 50% of our core customers in a meaningful way.”

So far, the initial results have been encouraging. Stores that have been enhanced with the new Elevate Beauty concept have seen growth of about 3% compared with stores that have not received the changes, he told DSN. Further, “we are also seeing the kind of highly engaged beauty customers, those who like this type of prestige-like experience, grow within our stores.”

So far, stores that have received the new-look departments were largely comprised of CVS’s top beauty doors, but the chain also rolled the Elevate Beauty concept in different geographic areas to provide a true snapshot of shopper interest.

Buoyed by the early results, CVS unleashed a second wave of Elevate Beauty enhancements in 2016. “We are touching more categories and more stores this year,” he said.

Specifically, CVS currently is introducing a consistent prestige design for its cosmetic end caps; has added a cosmetics brush bar; is elevating and expanding the header system to more categories; and has created a high-impulse, front-of-checkout beauty display called Beauty on the Go. “It is getting rave reviews from customers and performing very strongly,” Perez-Tenessa confirmed. There’s also a groundswell of loyalty for CVS Pharmacy’s exclusive brand Makeup Academy — featured prominently near the entry to the department — consisting of brushes and select cosmetics. The look is upscale, and the products are getting positive consumer reviews.

Signage is paramount in beauty, but not all categories respond to a one-size-fits-all approach. Color cosmetics, for example, appeal to shoppers via inspirational messages and are more visual. Clinical skin care, however, requires displays that are more educational in nature. “The customer wants to know why those products are so strongly recommended. Signage is not there to decorate; it is to help the customer, and we are very thoughtful [with] how we use it,” he explained.

Upping the ante on service

The level of service also hits a new zenith in CVS’s new beauty department. “Premium beauty has to come with a stronger focus on service,” he confirmed.

To meet that need, CVS has an amplified Beauty Service program in about 900 of its stores that redefines the role and responsibilities for its in-store beauty advisor position. For years, the beauty industry had struggled with how to balance department housekeeping with attention to shoppers. CVS has found the remedy, Perez-Tenessa explained.

“We have come to the realization that many beauty advisors were spending more time on store tasks than they were helping customers,” he observed. &

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