Beauty Retailers Reveal What Convinces Them To Carry A Brand
In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 18 retail executives: What do you look for in a brand?
- Ian Ginsberg President, C.O. Bigelow
We are the oldest apothecary in America carried down four generations, a true family business, and are naturally drawn to other heritage brands that come from a family legacy. Aside from the origin story, we also focus on a great ingredient deck, efficacy, packaging, and the infrastructure behind a brand to determine if we can work together.
The best way to approach us is to first learn about the business and understand our customer. We’re storytellers, and brands need to appeal and connect on a personal level because beauty is emotional. You can read our story on the website, follow us on social media, or even listen to podcasts I’ve been on like Fat Mascara and Beauty Is Your Business. Once you do a little research—not just on us, but the industry as a whole—then email and send us samples to try.
Things to avoid. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to understand the market. You can pretty much assume I’ve heard the same story a gazillion times. You’re not the first brand to start in your kitchen, use natural ingredients, or originate because of an ailing family member.
A lot of indie brands make the mistake of thinking they can disrupt an industry they don’t know enough about yet. If your goal is to quickly create a brand and then sell it for a billion dollars overnight, we’re probably not a good fit. We’re seeking brands that genuinely want to cultivate their brand and carry on a generational tradition. It’s like a marriage, we have to share the same values and be a story I’m proud to tell. Then, it’s a win for both of us.
- Tara Foley Founder, Follain
We search with intention and proactively look for the best brands to add to our assortment. To be considered, a product must deliver on quality, performance, and meet our very high safety standards. Brands can read up on our full approval process here.
For brands interested in approaching us, we recommend they spend some time on our site (and ideally one of our stores), getting to know our brand and learning more about our restricted ingredients. If a brand meets our standards and seems like a good fit, the best way to reach us is via firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, we're a small team and receive a ton of inbound, so thank you in advance for your patience!
- Laura Linsenmayer Owner and Founder, ROOTS the Beauty Underground
Due to the high volume of brand submissions, we have to follow a very organized protocol. The best way for the brand is to email hello@ROOTSbeauty.com with a description of their line. We then respond with a detailed outline of the submission process. I test each submission in the order that they are received. This is by no means a speedy process.
I take these submissions very seriously and want to give each brand the attention and respect they deserve. What I look for in a brand is first and foremost the cleanliness of ingredients. Then, it's what I call the "oooh factor.” When my team and I are testing and playing with the product, I am paying attention to our initial natural responses. Are we oooh'ing and ahhh'ing? This is key!
- Romain Gaillard Founder and CEO, The Detox Market
There are so many beautiful brands out there with so many unique stories and paths. Learning about the history and the passion behind the brand is one of our favorite things we do when considering a brand for Detox Market shelves.
Another favorite is learning about what goes into the bottle. Green beauty is now competing with mainstream beauty (and, thus, becoming mainstream as well). There is a lot of marketing about what not to put into a product and how bad certain ingredients can be for us. It can sometimes border on fear.
We want to focus on the quality, the details, and the beauty of what actually goes into the formulation, where and how the ingredients are sourced, and why was this ingredient chosen over that one.
We, of course, look at trends and holes in our assortment, but it really comes down to the quality of ingredients paired with the passion of the brand founders in the end. Our website has a page that outlines the best way to approach us with a brand submission.
One last tip would be for brands to do their research. Know what The Detox Market offers as well as how your brand would fit into the mix. Not every brand fits in every retailer, and that’s OK. It’s better to be with one great partner that believes in your brand than several OK partners.
- Michelle Connelly Director of Merchandising and Planning, Credo Beauty
I look for brands that are filling a white space in our existing assortment. A brand that can clearly articulate their point of difference within Credo in their pitch will definitely get my attention.
Whether brands are able to get in touch via a shared connection or by an email to our submissions address, they should always lead with their best foot forward, including a full brand deck and complete INCIs for the entire range. For Credo, it’s very important that brands have already checked out our Dirty List and can confirm from the beginning that all of their products are compliant.
- Aisha Shannon-Bates Founder, Coil Beauty
When we are looking at a new brand to bring on our site, above all else we look for interest in the brand, whether that be from our own customers interest or just internet buzz. We closely look at ingredients to ensure they are clean, and the brands are dedicated to a high level of quality as well as how the product is packaged. We love truly unique and thoughtful packaging.
In addition, the brands must also be created by African Americans with African Americans in mind as their primary audience. We receive a number of requests for consideration, but the best way to reach us is via our customer service center at email@example.com.
- Amy Jargo Global Category Manager for Beauty, Whole Foods Market
We are always looking for the latest products that will inspire our shoppers. Whole Foods Market shoppers are very aware of the ingredients in their beauty and body care, so first and foremost we are looking for products that meet our stringent, industry-leading quality standards which ban more than 100 ingredients found in conventional body care products.
Our shoppers love trying new and trending products, so we are constantly looking for meaningful innovation across the category. We also seek out brands that share our passion for supporting local communities and the environment. Find information for potential suppliers here.
- Mandy Butera Owner, Wren and Wild
We get approached by many brands in any given month. New brands need to be able to communicate a clear and concise message in order for us to take a look. We require 100% transparency on ingredients, the process of creating product and sustainable modern packaging.
We like receiving emails with an introduction to the brand, the story behind the brand, and links to its website and social media. A line sheet is nice too, so we can see what we may be getting into. I always let the perspective brand know that we have a 60- to 90-day testing period for products to see if we think they would be a good fit for our clientele.
Presentation is everything. I have had some brands throw some miscellaneous samples in an envelope and send it off to our company. Honestly, we don't even look any further into it. If you don't care enough at the beginning of the relationship to make a great impression, you will most likely not be a good partner in the long run.
- Ayana Blue Senior Discovery Manager, The Grommet
We are seeking innovation first within beauty, personal care tools and gadgets. For consumable products, our team is seeking brands that highlight all-natural, organic ingredients, products that feature a hot trending ingredient like CBD, or even a new and interesting way to consume the product. Transdermal patches are becoming very popular and would be an example.
Just as important as the innovation in the product, The Grommet does value the product presentation and packaging. A fresh modern aesthetic is ideal with clear highlighted features. Benefits of the product is something we also give weight to within our evaluation process. The best method for new brands to reach out to The Grommet is through our submission portal.
- JENNIFER FREITAS Founder and CEO, The Truth Beauty Company
First and foremost, it needs to be a product that fills a gap in my offerings or be something that is new to the market. Following that, I appreciate an email introduction that includes a proper media kit, buy-in requirements and reorder terms, a line sheet that shows margins, allows us to order testers and that calculates an order total. It is great if they also advise that there are stock images of their products that may be used for our e-commerce. If my curiosity is piqued, I will then request samples.
- Maisha Harris Founder and CEO, Pink Beaux
After doing my research into the specific ingredients, sourcing techniques testing and quality control practices of a brand, I look for efficacy and the ability to deliver on promises. Next, aesthetic, packaging, and the brand voice is heavily considered.
There are hundreds of beauty products on the market. I want to provide to our customers only the creme de la creme, masterfully-crafted products with amazing ingredients that work and look good on your vanity or in your makeup bag. The best way for brands to approach us is with strong confidence on what they can offer the most discerning beauty connoisseur.
- Lauren Fennema Founder, Confidants
First, I deeply respect people building brands, period. Creating product, especially in today's marketplace, is no easy feat. Keep it up.
As for Confidants, I know my fans are curious about self-care and wellness, natural beauty, non-toxic color/bold pigments, sustainability, ethical practices (i.e. no animal testing), and inclusivity. Confidants adds value by helping fans find emerging brands that align with their personal values, empowering them to invest in products that are more authentic to who they are.
If a product checks the box for my customer's values, then I look into the brand. Do they have an authentic story and are they doing something different than most other brands. That something could be the founder's story, ingredients, inspiration behind the products, price point, packaging. It's kind of a special sauce recipe that's hard to explain.
As for approach, I get cold emails, DMs, and samples. There is no right way to reach out, but, these days, DM'ing may be the best. I can easily dive into the brand, get a feel for who you are, and see fan feedback. If you make a great product, but haven't cracked social, totally get it. I still want to hear from you. I love finding emerging brands that are just getting started or don't know how to market themselves (yet). All I'm looking for is what do you make, does it align with my customer's value, and how is it different.
- Niki Richards Founder, Organa Beauty & Wellbeing
Organa Beauty & Wellbeing’s philosophy around conscious beauty drives us to work with brands that are themselves conscious about their impact on the environment and the ingredients they use. We therefore strive to collaborate with brand partners that are ethical, organic, vegan, cruelty-free. Their products also avoid unnecessary synthetic or toxic ingredients.
A key element to our mission is delivering inspiring and cutting-edge knowledge about beauty and wellbeing. So, brands that can help contribute to developing content is also important to us. We feel it helps our customers make an informed and conscious choice. We love it when a brand calls us or gets in touch via email directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. That goes straight to me.
- Tal Zvi Nathanel CEO and Co-Founder, Showfields
We recognized that for our experience to make sense to the consumer, our members had to share a similar DNA. So, we approached brands that were consumer-centric, design-oriented, and mission-driven.
We wanted a mix of brands you might have heard about, and some that will be brand new and give you a reason to return again and again. Whether a category leader or an emerging brand, all brands at Showfields have a strong voice. We are always committed to bringing new and exciting products into the space, and this is why we are so interesting.
We invite up-and-coming and need-to-know D2C brands through an application process or direct invitation to show up at Showfields across floors of wellness, home and design. Brands are welcome to schedule a tour through this link.
- JULIANNE ROBICHEAU Founder, Eco + Amour
First and foremost, we look at the product ingredients because it's the most important factor. If those look good, we try to fill gaps on our shelves. What are we missing? We do love supporting local so that's another key decision maker. And because our main thing is product refill, we love brands that are open to having their product in bulk.
As for getting in touch with us, we're all about sustainability, so we appreciate when a brand reaches out by email before sending samples. If we know from the get-go that we won't be stocking them, they just wasted product (packaging, transit, etc.) sending it over to us. If a green skincare/haircare/home product/wellness brand is open to doing refill, they should definitely get in touch with us.
- Madeline Alcott Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Petit Vour
I first look to see what makes the brand unique from our current selection. It's a combination of their formulations and brand aesthetic that are key to a brand's success with our audience.
The best way for a brand to approach is to email email@example.com and include their social media handles, website, and anything that can further present their brand's significance.
- Sarah White Creative Director, The Girl Floral
There are many factors that go into choosing the perfect brands. First off, two of the most important things are branding and packaging. We like to ensure that the brand aesthetic also fits into the rest of the lifestyle shop in terms of colors and packaging style, etc.
Secondly, we take a look at the ingredients to ensure that our products are clean. Fragrance is an important ingredient that must meet high standards to be considered as we prefer organic and essential oil-based products.
Another factor we like to consider is location. We carry many local and Canadian-made brands that we are proud to have on our shelves. The best way for a brand to approach us is by email or even Instagram message. That way, we can see if your branding matches ours right away. Lastly, we love receiving samples of new products to try out and ensure we are obsessed before bringing them to our customers.
- Sal Martorano Co-Founder, The Gathering Shops
We’re seeking emerging brands that want to be involved in a collective. We don’t want to carry what you’ll find in the large department stores. Well-known brands don’t need our help or marketing. They also don’t need to be introduced to new customers, but indies do.
The Gathering Shops uses an “it takes a village” approach. We consider ourselves the best of three worlds: brick and mortar, e-commerce and experiential marketing. That’s why we’ve created a platform where, for a small monthly fee, brands that work with us will be able to reach certain milestones in their business objectives sooner than trying to do it all on their own. We provide staffing, marketing and event support under one umbrella.
For example, we handle various aspects of marketing, including Instagram or Facebook ads, which a lot of newer brands can’t afford. We regularly have in-store events and encourage brand founders to get involved and even contribute ideas, which we’ll work with them to execute.
We collaborate with influencers and bloggers that we already have established relationships with and send them products. We then capture the social media momentum created online and carry it into our stores via live activations and product demonstrations. Our monthly fee is essentially an access point. Brands can use The Gathering Shops as their own store. In addition to selling in our shops, products are also sold on our e-commerce site.
The way we see it, we benefit from a brand’s originality, and they benefit from our support capabilities. That’s why it’s a collective effort. When someone is doing something interesting or new, a crowd forms around that curiosity. We capitalize on that gathering, so to speak, to educate and entice consumers. What we don’t want is brands just shipping us products and, then, sitting back and doing nothing. This is why the fee incentivizes founders to be more active participants because there is a vested interest.
The best way to reach out to us? If possible, visit our stores and come see what we’re all about. Next, start your profile on our website and tell us about yourself. You can also email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re actually getting ready to devote an entire section to beauty and wellness because it’s so popular, and CBD brands are high on our radar. In fact, we want to be one of the first to aggregate CBD brands. We consider indie brands like four-leaf-clovers. They’re unique and truly one-of-a-kind, just like their founders. We want to showcase the products and people that are not only different, but making a difference. If that’s you, come visit us!
If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to email@example.com.