When you walk into a Belk store soon, you’ll notice something new in the makeup department.
Next week, the Charlotte-based department-store chain is launching its own cosmetics line, aptly called Belk Beauty. The line includes makeup sets in little grey boxes placed in high-trafficked spots throughout Belk’s beauty departments.
The makeup includes cutely named sets, such as a “Blush Your Heart” blush and bronze palette, and “City Palettes” that are named after six southern cities across Belk’s footprint: Savannah, Nashville, Dallas, Charleston, Atlanta and Charlotte. Prices range from $10 to $22. Those in charge of the project say Belk Beauty is a way the brand capitalizes on its “Modern. Southern. Style.” identity.
Adding a makeup line is another way Belk is working to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive retail environment, experts say. Belk Beauty is also a way the retailer is working to eke out bigger profits.
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Belk is not trying to be a beauty expert, according to Christine Woodward, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of beauty and fragrances at Belk. You won’t find an assortment of brushes, mascaras, skin care or men’s products — and that’s why the company isn’t necessarily worried about taking sales away from some of the popular brands it also sells, such as Clinique or MAC.
Belk Beauty instead fills a “gap in our assortment,” Woodward said by offering “southern-inspired” products that are light and wearable. The Charleston palette, for instance, includes warm, bright colors meant to remind the wearer of the sun, beach and sand.
“You start to think ... how are you going to be different? We started thinking about the fact that we are a southern-based company and we aren’t having to look nationally. We really can cater to a specific customer,” Woodward said. “It’s not (meant) to try to change her beauty. It’s to enhance her beauty.”
Belk, founded in Monroe in 1888, was sold in 2015 to Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm based in New York . Since then, the firm has been making a number of changes to get the most out of its $3 billion investment.
One major way Belk has worked to increase its profits has been by expanding its private brands, a term that refers a product made by and offered exclusively by a retailer like Belk. Retailers get to keep more of the sales dollars from their private brands because national-brand middlemen are eliminated. Stores can choose how and when to discount items, and they can roll out new assortments faster.
Belk expanded its popular Crown & Ivy brand to include men’s, kid’s and home products, in addition to its women’s clothing line, last year, for instance. The chain also recently launched three other private brands, including Madison, Wonderly and Lightning Bug. Belk Beauty is Belk’s 14th private brand..
Launching private brands is something retailers are doing more often these days for a handful of reasons, according to Roger Beahm, an executive director of the Wake Forest School of Business Center for Retail Innovation.
“Retailers are highly motivated to sell a private brand because it reinforces a retailer’s name. The only place you can buy a Belk branded product is at Belk,” Beahm said. “It brings in store traffic and drives impulse purchases.”
Private brands these days aren’t a cheap knockoff of a national brand, although they are typically less expensive, Beahm said. Furthermore, retailers realize that young shoppers aren’t as loyal to national brand names like previous generations were.
“Retailers have upped their game with respect to the quality of these brands. They know that a lot of the traditional national brands can’t push the envelope much further in improving the quality and differentiating themselves,” Beahm said.
Belk Beauty launches at all of the chain’s stores across 16 states and online Sept. 19.