Long the domain of the upscale department store, the personal cosmetics consultant is moving into more Target stores. Yes, Target, the retailer more commonly associated with weekend family trips for shampoo and dog food. The chain began testing “beauty concierges” in some Chicago stores last summer and has slowly been expanding the service to stores in Los Angeles, suburban Washington, D.C., and, next month, Minneapolis-St. Paul. The goal is to have the consultants in 200 stores by year’s end, about 11 percent of the retailer’s U.S. and Canadian locations.
The cosmetics consultant is an established fixture at department stores such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Saks and Dillard’s, but she—yes, the field is dominated almost entirely by women—is migrating to less-rarefied retail locales. The pharmacy chain Duane Reade in New York City has a “Look Boutique” with consultants in about 20 stores.
What does a Target beauty concierge do? Here’s the official job description from Target’s PR machine: “Serving as a trusted expert, the Beauty Concierge provides guests with personalized, detailed and unbiased information about beauty and personal care products offered at Target and acts as a knowledgeable source of advice in what can sometimes be an intimidating department.”
There’s little doubt that the ever-growing array of ointments, unguents, sprays, creams, lotions, tinctures, powders, and perfumes is a prime reason the sellers of personal beauty products have decided it’s wise to install an employee in the department. And, arguably, the personal touch and encouragement of someone who knows what she’s doing can help goose sales, either by preventing a frustrated shopper from walking out empty handed or by steering a potential customer to a higher-priced product.
The beauty concierges also help with Target’s goal of increasing its sales mix from household staples—food, cleaning supplies, toilet paper—to more discretionary purchases such as cosmetics. The beauty products business, which features several exclusive brands, has been one of the store’s top-growing categories in past quarters. In a 2011 call with analysts, Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel explained the strategy:
“And it’s really about engaging the guests, getting her more comfortable shopping our stores more often, building loyalty and trust on the need side of the business, on the frequency side of the business, and then we will continue to market to her all the other great things that we have throughout the store. So the food is a planned trip, and then the less-planned trips, she will experiment and she will spend more time on the other side of the store as we begin to market those categories more aggressively to her.”
And, Target hopes, she may also decide to try a new color of lipstick, helped by a personal consultant. No appointment necessary.