Retail Channels

Glossier is embracing in-person retail

With its first retail deal and more stores, the beauty brand is entering a new era where DTC is only part of the strategy.

several Glossier cosmetic soft-tubes on square white wooden framed clear glass-top end table beside wall socket inside well lighted room

Glossier is about to start appearing on more store shelves.

The beauty brand that became synonymous with direct-to-consumer is making moves to expand its presence in brick-and-mortar retail. A pair of announcements issued by the brand on Tuesday make this clear:

  • Going wholesale: Glossier signed a deal with Sephora that marks the first time a retailer will sell its makeup. The brand’s Boy Brow and Cloud Paint products are set to land in Sephora stores and on its website in the US and Canada. Products will start appearing in early 2023.
  • New direct in-person store: On Friday, Glossier is set to open the fifth store under its own name in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhoood.

Changing of the guard: It’s an about-face in strategy for eight-year-old Glossier, which forged a new path in cosmetics by selling through its own channels, and gained cult status among consumers in the process. On the way to a billion-dollar valuation in 2019, Founder Emily Weiss made a point of foregoing the cosmetics retailers and drug stores where the largest beauty brands compete for space. Weiss had ambitions to grow by creating a deeper tech-enabled experience, but that was abandoned amid layoffs earlier this year. That set the stage for Weiss’ departure in May. New CEO Kyle Leahy, who brings experience from Nike and Cole Haan, immediately voiced that growth through wholesale and other in-person retail would be a priority. Two months later, it's coming to fruition with an agreement in place.

Key quote: “We are incredibly excited to enter our first-ever retailer partnership with Sephora. They are an iconic, international retailer with an extremely loyal community and we know our customers want to find us there,” Leahy said in a news release. “We share the same customer-centric values and are both deeply grounded in the ever-evolving notion of beauty discovery. This marks a new chapter in our omnichannel strategy and we can’t wait for all that’s ahead in 2023.”

Part of the whole: Glossier follows fellow DTC darlings like Allbirds and Casper into the more traditional retail route. With the expansion of its own stores, Glossier is also joining Warby Parker and Everlane in embracing an omnichannel direct model that moves between both digital and in-person retail. Plenty of other newer DTC brands are embracing a strategy of starting direct with digital, then moving into physical retail and big box stores to get bigger, as well. That was on view elsewhere this week as DTC innerwear brand Parade signed its first retail partnership with Urban Outfitters. At the same time, storied brands are prioritizing direct-to-consumer to reach shoppers on a growing number of digital touchpoints. It points toward a model where DTC is less of a movement, and more of an established operational strategy.

Searches answered: While Glossier is looking to find its footing again, the brand still has plenty of the appeal that made it the balm dotcom in the first place. It was legendary for its ability to generate demand, and that carried over to Sephora even before the deal was signed. The retailer said searches looking for information on whether the brand was available at Sephora jumped 200% in the last year, and shared that it is one of the “most searched” brands not currently available at Sephora.

Year of firsts: To be sure, wholesale is just one channel for growth that Glossier is pursuing to add customers. In other firsts, the brand also signed its inaugural celebrity partnership with pop star Olivia Rodrigo, and helped to introduce YouTube's shoppable Shorts with the launch of its No.1 Pencil.

The bottom line: Still, those are moves from the DTC playbook. Wholesale is a bigger step toward traditional retail. As it enters the store, there’s no doubt that Glossier will be more widely available through Sephora. The beauty retailer has over 500 stores in the Americas, and increased its US store count by 260 in 2021 alone. Glossier is also planning to expand its own stores in the coming year with locations in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Atlanta and its new location in New York’s Soho neighborhood. The test will be whether it can retain its singular status as a business pioneer and it factor with consumers can remain as its products join the brand's distinctive shade of pink in ubiquity.
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