Honey Belle Joins The Bath Products Assortment At Ulta Beauty With Colorful Loofah Soap
Ulta Beauty’s new honey, Honey Belle, isn’t an expensive date.
The brand developed to suit founder Iris Cherng’s meager college budget has stepped into bath accessories sections at the specialty beauty retailer’s stores across the country with $8 loofah soap in three scents: lavender rain, eucalyptus peppermint and green tea cucumber. Honey Belle joins a burgeoning clean beauty selection at Ulta Beauty that includes Hand in Hand, Little Barn Apothecary, Mad Hippie, Juice Beauty and Teami Blends.
“I’m really hoping that this will provide a lot more opportunities for us. In the beginning, I was a little bit disappointed that they picked out three of our soaps. If I were to choose, I would’ve picked our facial products, but I’m hoping this will give us more exposure as a brand and potentially get us a lot more interest and buzz from other retailers,” says Cherng. “Then, if this loofah soap does well, maybe Ulta will consider bringing in the rest of our line.”
The loofah soap adds visual and functional product differentiation to the retailer’s stocks. It’s made by dipping Honey Belle’s coconut oil and glycerin soap formulated for sensitive skin into a loofah that comes from the gourd plant. As the soap vanishes from use, the loofah stays intact and can be upcycled. “I use that to scrub my shower, sink, body and dishes,” mentions Cherng.
Honey Belle has amassed retail partners in a short time. While the brand started in 2013 after Cherng took cue from her holistic doctor parents and whipped up natural creams to address her psoriasis, it didn’t pursue wholesale distribution until last year. Forever 21 promptly scooped up the brand for its e-commerce business and that move led to Honey Belle rolling out to Forever 21-owned Riley Rose locations. Outside of Riley Rose, Forever 21 and Ulta Beauty, the brand has entered around 200 gift shops, apparel stores and e-tailers.
Honey Belle has had to adjust to fit the wholesale model. It’s pricing structure originally didn’t account for retail margins. To do so, Honey Belle has increased prices. Its Foaming Facial Soap, for example, has gone from $8 to $12. Ingredient price inflation has also caused product price hikes. To ease customers into the higher prices, Honey Belle introduced them over Black Friday, when it’s supplying them a healthy discount before switching over to elevating pricing.
“One of our biggest missions is to make natural and organic products more accessible in the market. I feel like I can easily price the oils at $80, and people would still buy them, but it’s not what I’m about.”
Cherng emphasizes Honey Belle maintaining affordability was a crucial objective as it boosted prices. “One of our biggest missions is to make natural and organic products more accessible in the market,” she says. “I feel like I can easily price the oils at $80, and people would still buy them, but it’s not what I’m about.” Cherng continues, “Our customer ranges from anywhere from 16 to 35, and most of them are either in school, working or young moms that want to save money and still get a very quality product.”
Honey Belle has modified its packaging and production, too. Initially, Cherng and Calvin Hang, Cherng’s boyfriend and co-owner of Honey Belle, sold the brand’s products primarily in-person. As retail became a bigger portion of the brand’s business, they realized its story had to be told without them present. Honey Belle inserted educational panels on packages and graphics that popped like leaves and coffee beans on its Matcha Green Tea Scrub and Coffee Facial Scrub boxes, respectively.
To help scale up for Ulta Beauty, Honey Belle turned to an outside manufacturer. “It was not only a clean and certified facility, but the people at it seemed like they really cared about brands, and they have a passion for growing brands versus, ‘Oh, it’s just a sale,’” says Cherng. “That was really important for us. The whole company has a vision.” She notes Honey Belle retains control over ingredient sourcing.
Now, Honey Belle is busy making sure its launch at Ulta Beauty is successful. It’s attempting various initiatives to drive shoppers to check out the soaps available at the retailer. At the moment, it’s running a promotion in which buyers of Honey Belle products at Ulta Beauty can enter to win $200 Amazon gift cards by following the brand on Instagram, and sending proof of their purchases and Instagram handles to it. In the past, the brand has experimented with similar promotions incentivizing purchases at retailers by promising dollars at Honey Belle’s online store equal to the dollars spent on Honey Belle products elsewhere.
“It was not only a clean and certified facility, but the people at it seemed like they really cared about brands, and they have a passion for growing brands versus, ‘Oh, it’s just a sale.’ That was really important for us. The whole company has a vision.”
“We’ll try something and maybe it doesn’t turn out so well. Then, we try something else. A lot of it is trial-and-error, especially because, as an independent brand, we don’t have a big marketing team,” says Cherng. “It’s all organic.”
Honey Belle is on pace to generate $2 million in sales this year, and there remains plenty of retail expansion possibilities for the brand to advance revenues. Hang points to Whole Foods and Target as goal distribution partners for the brand. Honey Belle aims to stretch abroad as well.
Closer to home, Los Angeles-based Cherng’s dream is to open a Honey Belle retail destination. She foreshadows, “It wouldn’t be just a normal skin boutique, but something that has skin, something that has yoga, something that offers a café for people to juice up at and that creates a space to unite the community.”