Walgreens’ minority investment in Birchbox could give each company the boost it needs.

Earlier this week, Walgreens announced a pilot of 11 stores in six cities where it will dedicate a sizeable amount of retail space—400-square-feet to 1,000-square-feet—to Birchbox boutiques. The partnership brings with it 40 premium and indie brands that will be new to the drugstore chain. Among them: Sand & Sky; Wander Beauty; Beachwaver; RMS Beauty; Huxley; Davroe; Acure; IPKN; Embryolisse; Winky Lux and ARROW. Walgreens locations in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and New York City were selected to launch the pilot.

While Walgreens has been steadily polishing its image in cosmetics with its Beauty Differentiation program now on display in 3,000 doors, the chain has faced hurdles in getting even more premium brands into stores. Beauty is big business in Walgreens, estimated to generate 9 percent of overall sales, twice that of many drug and mass merchandisers. “Every time we’ve invested in beauty, we’ve gotten a return—not only financially but also more customers,” says Richard Ashworth, Walgreens’ President Pharmacy and Retail Operations.

Analyst reports have noted that the retrofitted stores have positive same-store sales growth versus declines, and more importantly, gross margins have increased 10 percentage points.

Still, the mass market industry is feeling the heat from Amazon, specialty stores and department stores as beauty customers make it clear they want the stylish brands they see on social media. Lauren Brindley, Group Vice President of Beauty & Personal Care at Walgreens, said the chain has heard the clarion call for new and fresh and has been prepping to deliver that thanks to upgrades over the past two years.

Enter Birchbox, who Walgreens has been in talks with for more than a year, both companies noting common goals. Birchbox delivers buzzy brands—although its entire stable isn’t expected to move into Walgreens, at least for now. MAC, for example, isn’t expected to be in the assortment.

It is no secret Birchbox (and many other industry subscription services) has had challenges in its growth trajectory. However, it cracked into the black last year and secured a reported $15 million investment from Viking Global Investors in May. One issue is that the subscription model is difficult to scale online. To date, Birchbox has two physical stores, one in Soho and another in Paris. The Walgreens partnership can open up thousands of doors to Birchbox, and in-store exposure can drive more people to its subscription service, which currently has 2.5 million active customers. To nudge that along, Birchbox gift cards will be sold at Walgreens. Richard at Walgreens said customer response will determine how far Birchbox can reach, but added the chain has the financial and operational experience to expand.

Walgreens also helps Birchbox unearth more of what Katia Beauchamp, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Birchbox, calls a casual beauty shopper. They like beauty, she said, but they aren’t the ones spending hours experimenting in Sephora or surfing tutorials on YouTube. Two-thirds of Birchbox customers don’t consider themselves proficient in beauty when they sign up for a subscription. But when they join Birchbox their spending on beauty doubles. “Walgreens gives us a way to reach her. We want to be the destination for the casual consumer to buy beauty and we’ve known it wasn’t going to happen as a single channel company,” Katia said.

She said brands were interested in the chance to get exposure to the monumental foot traffic at Walgreens. Channels have blurred, she added.

Walgreens has also shown it can move higher price points. “The customer is ready for this,” said Lauren.

The environment the two powers have constructed is inviting and sets up experimentation along with service from trained Birchbox consultants. The curated assortment includes full-sized skin care, hair and makeup products. To help shoppers easily find what they want, products are merchandised by need, rather than by brand. A grid-style format breaks down key steps in a beauty routine, along with specific goals or concerns. There’s also a Build Your Own Birchbox, a concept pulled from its own stores, where people can select samples. A curated Birchbox shop will be included on Walgreens’ digital properties to further knit together the two businesses.

As Walgreens gets more premium products, Lauren promises mass brands will not be overlooked. “Customers want extended choice, but that doesn’t mean our existing brands are not part of our story.”

Collaborations seem to be the new avenue to build sales. Earlier this year CVS teamed up with Glamsquad and spruced up stores with a concept called BeautyIRL. And, Target teamed up with shave brand Harry’s to sell the brand’s products in stores and online.