Follain Set To Open 10 Stores Starting With Dallas, Seattle And Bethesda Locations
After focusing for more than a year on building sales via clicks, clean beauty retailer Follain is returning to its origins in bricks with three store openings slated for the second half of this year and up to 10 total by the end of 2019.
In the summer, Follain locations will debut in Seattle and Bethesda, Md., at open-air retail and dining destinations University Village and Bethesda Row. A Dallas unit in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood is scheduled to follow in the fall. The stores will each occupy around 800 square feet.
“Customers that shop both in store and online are true evangelists not only of Follain, but of clean beauty, and they spend the most money, too. It was time to get back to supporting those customers,” says Tara Foley, founder and CEO of Follain. “There are lots of things you will never be able to do online that you can do in the store. For instance, you can wash your face with the products and really experience the ingredients in the store. We are excited to get back to that.”
Online shoppers were critical in directing Follain’s geographic decisions. For upcoming stores, it chose areas with high concentrations of e-commerce customers. The retailer also considered its competitive set in potential markets and opted for markets Foley described as “underserved” by green beauty retail. Finally, demographics were taken into account. Follain seeks out educated consumers with appetites for clean beauty. “We are calling that clean beauty readiness,” notes Foley.
Follain is pursuing a regional strategy with new stores. The Seattle store precedes future stores in the Pacific Northwest, and the Bethesda store is serving as Follain’s entrance into the Mid-Atlantic region, where its units could multiply. The retailer closed a round of funding last year for an undisclosed amount from institutional sources to finance store expansion. Prior to that round, it raised $3 million in venture capital funding in 2016 and $750,000 from angel investors in 2014.
Follain is maintaining design consistency as it stretches beyond its current store base consisting of two Boston locations and a seasonal branch in Nantucket, Mass. Its spaces resemble bathrooms shoppers aspire to have in their houses replete with sinks, bathtubs and shelves stocked with eye-catching beauty items. Slight store design changes are being made, however, to improve traffic flow such as rounding the edges of countertops. Large digital screens are being incorporated into locations to engage shoppers with Follain’s video content.
As the number of stores swells, hiring store staff is a big job at Follain. Foley details the retailer tends not to recruit people who are perennial retail associates. Instead, they often have had 9-to-5 or gig economy positions outside of stores, and a passion for health, wellness or sustainability that draws them to working at a Follain store. The retailer begins searching for store employees by connecting with relevant bloggers to spread the word about opportunities and garner recommendations.
Once they’re hired, store associates will have to familiarize themselves with a selection of 75 brands, including bestsellers May Lindstrom, True Botanicals, Josh Rosebrook, Vintner’s Daughter and La Bella Figura. Skincare is the dominant category at Follain. Foley points out that the store is hunting for innovative products in natural haircare and styling products, and color cosmetics to bring into its selection. She continues that she’d like SPF in formulas when possible.
“Skincare-makeup hybrids perform really well for us. Women want to invest in their skin, which we love, and are interested in extending skincare into makeup,” says Foley. “For instance, serum foundations and any kind of BB cream or tinted moisturizer [is popular] – and let’s add SPF to that. There’s not enough of that in the clean beauty world right now, and we are hoping to see more come out soon.”
Even as Follain spreads stores, its direct-to-consumer operation is fueling growth. Foley says, “Our e-commerce is going to far outweigh our stores as part of the business. It already does, and we are starting to really figure it out online.” With e-commerce surging, she projects Follain’s revenues will climb 200% this year.
Meredith Mahoney, formerly vice president of lifestyle brands at home furnishings and decor e-tailer Wayfair, has joined Follain as president to keep the company’s e-commerce enterprise humming. “She’s helping us on the digital side of the business to continue to grow it,” says Foley. “It’s growing really well right now. We just need to make sure we’re handling it in the right away, and she’s an expert at that.”
At the moment, Follain’s website contains the same products as its locations, but Foley says it could adjust store assortments for regional differences as it picks up on local customer habits. The retailer has dabbled in its own products with Refillable Hand + Body Soap and a holiday bath and body collection in collaboration with Osea, Organic Bath Co., Rica and Farmaesthetics. Foley suggests it could launch further products, but not immediately. Instead, she relays Follain’s emphasis is on responding to customer needs and increasing the reach of clean beauty.
“While clean beauty is growing, only a small portion of the country and the world is tapped into it, and we want to grow that,” says Foley. “We want it to be ubiquitous, and we really believe Follain is the right brand to help it become ubiquitous.”