Checking In With Credo Co-Founder And COO Annie Jackson

Since its inception in 2015, retailer Credo has been at the center of the clean beauty movement.

This year, that movement has experienced major shifts. It’s been challenged by a vocal group of cosmetic chemist and influencer critics for fearmongering, among several issues, and made substantial inroads in the mass market. Amid the shifts, Credo isn’t staying still. With its Sustainable Packaging Guidelines mandating vendors reduce single-use items, virgin plastic and non-recyclable materials, the retailer has been at the forefront of calling for brands to do better for the earth. In 2021, Credo eliminated single-use plastic items such as sheet masks, wipes, pads and sample sachets.

It also continues to bolster its selection with compelling budding beauty brands. Today, Credo carries more than 130 brands online and at its 10 brick-and-mortar locations. Recent exclusive brand launches include Dr. Elsa Jungman, Klur, Clean Circle, Everist, Common Heir and Naturally Drenched. As a result of its selection and distinct positioning, Credo won a 2021 Beacon Award. 

“Credo is a clear winner in its specialty,” said Margarita Arriagada, former Sephora chief merchant and founder of luxury cosmetics brand Valdé, when announcing the retailer’s win. “The commitment to its long-term vision, strategy and execution is not only clear and cohesive but exemplary. The rigor to educate both customers and brand community alike is evident. It is considered the gold standard in curating the best beauty assortments that are clean and sustainable for customers and the environment.”

Beauty Independent touched base with Credo co-founder and COO Annie Jackson to discuss what indie brands should know about entering retail, a beauty category she views as gaining momentum and the debate around clean beauty. 

Credo co-founder and COO Annie Jackson

How did pandemic shift to digital change Credo’s strategy? 

For any retail business, pandemic or not, digital is an integral channel. Our focus, no matter what is happening, is the omnichannel experience for our customers and how we can optimize how our customers shop with us. The beauty of digital is you can mine for information much more quickly and assess results and change tactics almost instantly.

What pandemic-era operations and marketing changes will be here to stay? 

The post-pandemic world will continue to challenge retailers on how to continue to get better and better at the convenience of shopping and personalization. We have this wonderful nexus of behaviors happening, this desire to invest in your health and support brands that are mission-based, combined with needing to meet the customer where they are and quickly.

Credo is getting back to in-store events. Why is it the right time for events to come back?

I think everyone would agree that we are learning to live our lives with the virus among us. As soon as indoor mask mandates are lifted in the cities where our stores are located, we will resume services.

What white spaces do you detect in the market? 

Color cosmetics continue to gain traction. We are seeing so much activity and innovation in this category right now and, when you have a customer that has been with us for some time and has built-in trust based on their experience with skincare in our store, the natural transition into the ever-growing color brands has been really fun to see. The brands that consumers most resonate with have a strong brand positioning and make it clear that they’re both good for you and efficacious.  

Why is Credo a good partner for indie beauty brands? 

We are proud of our extremely talented merchant team, which has a tremendous amount of experience. Coupled with the fact that we believe that every brand we work with is our partner and we want to collaborate and learn from one another, I think it provides a completely different experience than you would get with another retail partner. 

What specific initiatives of yours help brands drive sales at Credo?

When Credo launches a new brand or product, we provide robust 360-degree marketing. By providing dedicated and customized programming for each brand, it helps to increase brand awareness, while also ensuring sustained sales and exposure. With a very experienced merchant team, we provide more guidance on scale and retail business practices than most retailers share with brands.

What should small brand founders know before entering retail partnerships? 

Do the math beyond the first purchase order to ensure the levers that you need to pull to drive the business is something you can fund. Have enough capital to have a solid NPD calendar. Ensure the door count is something you can handle alone if you are not investing in external sales support. Make sure the partnerships you form are something you can maximize without spreading yourself too thin.

How can a brand set itself up to be successful in Credo? 

The playbook is really straightforward: Pay attention to the above learning lessons and be flexible. Test and learn with everything you do.

Tell us about the Credo for Change BIPOC mentorship program.

We have a cohort of 13 very passionate founders and the session is hosted every year from August through December. The curriculum is comprised of speakers on different topics (i.e., retail 101, branding, finance, legal, business strategy, etc.) culminating in an investor pitch day. We do also divide up the cohort among a few of us at Credo for one-on-one time and, if necessary, then network on their behalf based on their needs. I believe that our Credo team finds this program as valuable as the entrepreneurs in the program do.

There’s a lot of debate around clean beauty. What’s something you wish more people would understand about the position Credo takes on clean beauty?

Clean beauty is about safety, sourcing, sustainability and ethics, with the through line being transparency. And it is not only about a restricted substance list. The brands Credo carries are in this for these reasons and putting in the hard work to create brands with these values. We aim to effect positive change across all beauty brands by having these conversations. These are complex issues and not a marketing term for us.