Natural Grocer Erewhon Gravitates To Small Brands As It Builds Its Beauty Selection

The beauty selection at Erewhon isn’t about the big guys.

Brandie Rossi, regional director of nutrition and assistant director of stores for the Southern California natural grocer, describes herself as a truffle hunter of the health and beauty aids trade. She’s been known to travel hundreds of miles to check out obscure brands at far-flung farmers markets to consider for Erewhon, which is multiplying doors and recently planted a fourth location in Santa Monica.

“I don’t want to have things on the shelf that you can get anywhere, that would be too easy,” says Rossi, estimating small brands constitute three-quarters of Erewhon’s skincare and body care collection. “We will take a brand that has been producing out of the kitchen. If they aren’t sure about how to get into a store, I’ll find them business insurance and help them get in touch with someone who’s done small-batch labeling.”

Erewhon

Rossi is responsible for supplements, skincare, oral care and more housed in eight bays stretching across 7,000 to 10,000 square feet at Erewhon stores that occupy around 30,000 square feet. She discloses the section accounts for 10% to 15% of total store revenues and its sales have been rising 2% to 10% monthly.

To illustrate the growth, Rossi points out that $7,000 in nutrition, personal care and beauty sales were rung up during the opening day of Erewhon’s Santa Monica store this month, compared to $632 on the opening day of its Venice store three years ago. The natural grocer is heading to downtown L.A. next, and Rossi anticipates it will add locations in other L.A. neighborhoods after it opens in downtown L.A.

“We are definitely gaining momentum, and I think it’s mostly because we offer a culture, not just a store,” reasons Rossi. “Anyone can put up a sign up that says organic market. What we offer is an entire universe for you to dive into and become a part of.”

Erewhon is expanding the beauty universe customers can dive into within its locations. The grocer recently installed beauty bars with eight brands, including nail product line Lauren B. Beauty, organic makeup specialist Inika, beauty supplement purveyor Health Kandy, and skincare brands Alitura Naturals, Gaffer & Child, Luxe Beauty and Chandanni. The bars are 3 feet wide by 8 feet tall.

ErewhonCarlos Hernandez

“Our beauty bar covers you inside and out,” says Rossi. “At the beauty bar, we can show people that these are the best things to put on your skin to keep it healthy to go with the best things that you are putting in your body. I felt it was part of the health and beauty arena we didn’t have.”

Although not all the brands at the beauty bar or in Erewhon’s beauty and personal care section generally are local, Rossi is drawn to local companies. Lauren B. Beauty, Alitura Naturals and Gaffer & Child, for example, are based in the L.A. area. Rossi is also interested in products from practitioners across various fields. Chandanni Miglino, founder of the Chandanni, is an Ayurvedic practitioner.

“Erewhon still has a boutique farmers-market feel and shopping experience with so much personal service that it is great for brands like mine that are smaller and looking to make an impact, not just trying to push product or just stick[ing] you on a shelf and forget[ing] about you,” says Lauren Berkovitz, CEO of Lauren B. Beauty. “It is all about convenience in our fast-paced world, so how wonderful is it to be able to go get lunch, your groceries, and luxury beauty products in the same spot. Erewhon does a great job of thinking outside of the box and offering a positive experience.”

Like at farmers markets, the people behind the brands talk to shoppers at Erehwon. The natural grocer is a huge proponent of in-store demos. “The biggest thing is to be present. Expect to sell your brand,” says Rossi. “We expect you to become part of the culture, so you understand customers. When customers see you on a regular basis, it becomes second nature to them to support you because you are a part of the culture.”

Alitura Naturals

Erewhon is continually vetting brands for its beauty and personal care assortment. Among the new skincare entrants are essential oils-driven brand Fleur 333 and Kailo Organic Chakra Therapy. Rossi details that brands pursuing Erewhon receive a list outlining over 40 banned ingredients, and the natural grocer adheres to 140 integrity standards, too. Lately, it has been reevaluating brands that have been acquired by large conglomerates.

“We are really, really, really strict. It’s very, very, very hard to get into Erewhon. It’s not like, if you have an organic product, we are going to put it right on the shelves,” says Rossi. She doesn’t shy away from brands that have a presence on Amazon, but stays away from brands that have spread across many natural food stores such as Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market and Lassen’s.

Erewhon receives up to 600 submissions a month from health and beauty brands. “Don’t think that because you don’t hear from us in 24 hours that you won’t hear from us. We don’t have a 200-member product discovery team. We are working with less than six people,” shares Rossi. “Don’t give up. If you are a small company that thinks you really have got something, keep submitting.”

Feature image photo credit: Carlos Hernandez