Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble recently made an unexpected foray in the beauty industry with the launch of on-campus beauty concept Glossary. Bookstores on select campuses – College of William & Mary, Tulane University, Emory University, and the University of California at Riverside – will carry prestige brands like Smashbox, Bliss, and Philosophy alongside mass market brands like Burt’s Bees, Cover Girl, and Maybelline.
Consumer need and lack of access is seemingly behind Barnes & Noble’s decision to expand into Beauty, as students on several of the pilot campuses lack access to department stores or Sephora. Lisa Mazzio, Barnes & Noble’s director of merchandise who spearheaded the project told Racked “A lot of our college campuses are in areas where there’s not a lot of competition… Most freshman don’t have cars and transportation on campus to get to the mall. The mall could be miles and miles away from them.” As price and convenience are key drivers of purchases, the new venture could be a success.
However, L2 research finds prestige beauty brands in the U.S. do little to capitalize on convenience and place their products alongside other daily necessities – especially when compared to their European counterparts. For example, while 64% of German brands that provide retail handoff link to Amazon and 43% link to Douglas (a no-frills beauty and fragrance retailer with expansive selection), U.S. prestige brands limit their distribution to Sephora, Nordstrom, and Macy’s. And two of the major enterprises – LVMH and Estée Lauder Companies – have no-engagement policies with Amazon, further driving a gap between convenience and availability.
Creative solutions that merge beauty with frequently purchased categories could show the benefits of meeting the demands of consumers who don’t frequent department stores, and nudge enterprises to alter their distribution strategies.