Walmart is serious about making its beauty department one of the best in the business. Under the stewardship of Musab Balbale, VP for Omnichannel Beauty Merchandising at the world’s largest retailer, the chain is adding a barrage of new products, exclusives and products for its diverse customer base.
In addition to the recent blockbuster debut of UOMA by Sharon C, Walmart is adding new lines at a blistering pace. A few examples include skin care from celebrity makeup artist Joyce Bonelli; emerging brand Lottie London; an expansion of hair products from Hairitage by Mindy McKnight.
Walmart is also modernizing how it reaches consumers, including a shoppable TikTok live stream it tested last year.
Here, CEW Beauty News talks with Musab about what’s in store for Walmart’s beauty business.
Beauty News: How has business been as America reopens?
Musab Balbale: We are seeing renewed interest in beauty and personal care products. We feel good to be positioned to strongly deliver against those trends.
There are three main trends we see in beauty including the ‘blush’ of beauty coming back—hidden categories [under masks], such as lip and others, where we are seeing a resurgence.
There is an acceleration of consumer focus on wellness—in particular an emphasis on skin care and attention to ingredients. During COVID-19, there was greater consumer need for DIY. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with DIY even as salons and other services reopen—especially nail and hair. Consumer engagement in DIY categories continues to progress strongly.
BN: It seems Walmart is aggressively pursuing new brands, especially those to entice younger shoppers. Can you elaborate?
MB: We are on a new product surge. We are accelerating the work that had begun before I joined and there is a real focus on driving energy in our assortment. The team has done an incredible job moving faster. We will be bringing a tremendous set of brands over the rest of this year and next year.
We are doing it across a number of dimensions. We launched powerhouse brands, such as L’Oréal’s Cell Renewal Midnight Serum, and we are bringing in cult favorites, such as Baddie B Lashes and Packed Party. Our team is bringing in premium brands, such as Rita Hazan hair color, and indie favorites such as Lottie London. We are expanding brands we’ve built exclusively, such as Hairitage by Mindy McKnight, and also bringing in what we see succeeding in the rest of market, such as TPH by Taraji Henson.
One of our unique opportunities is to make beauty more accessible. It feels like a powerful mission and one we can measure on a number of dimensions—saving time, being more convenient and making sure our diverse customers, regardless of race, age, size, religion or sexual orientation, feel at home in our aisles.
BN: How important are legacy brands?
MB: We see broad innovation across the board. Beauty is driven by newness and that is so important from heritage brands, indie brands and the ones we build. We are looking to bring balance, so shoppers find our department enjoyable, more fun and more breathable as they make their way down their shopping list.
BN: How have you changed how brands can reach out to Walmart? It seems you “sell” Walmart to brands rather than the other way around.
MB: We’ve changed the way we talk to brands; we pitch them on our strength of sales and the accessibility we offer. We started to share more about our customers. What I would tell brands is we are incredibly open right now. We want to hear from brands in many ways… RangeMe, email, LinkedIn, DMs, Instagram, etc.
BN: One challenge for brands has been how retailers segmented categories, especially in natural hair care. What changes are you making?
MB: We are pushing forward in our beauty segment and in a number of stores we are starting to collapse products for textured hair and general market into one set. We are beginning to talk about hair from the perspective of texture. I think we are seeing the same thing in color cosmetics. Brands are making sure they expand the spectrum of color needs. Our teams go through detailed audits brand by brand looking at imagery to make sure messages speak to the diversity of people walking through our aisles. Inclusivity has to be integrated into everything we do. We are intentional about building a business that enables small and inclusive brands to succeed.
UOMA by Sharon C. exemplifies where we are headed. It speaks to the diversity and inclusivity that we want to bring to our aisles in an increasingly accelerated way.
BN: You are almost a year into your new role, what surprises you most about beauty?
MB: I am struck by how fast we’ve been able to accelerate. I am fortunate to work alongside a passionate and energetic team. The team is propelling us at an increasing speed. We are evolving how our stores work to bring new brands in at the pace we do. I’m energized by the speed at which we are moving along with our unique physical and digital footprint to reach customers in an unparalleled way.