In August some not-so-good beauty news broke, with closures (Farfetch Beauty), bankruptcies (Biotech firm Amyris, which shuttered Costa Brazil and Onda), and shake-ups (Brooklyn’s Shen Beauty moving online).
Yet the beauty space has never been more crowded. Isn’t someone you know starting a line? As soon as a product goes viral, 14 dupes are immediately spawned. But where are the shoppers who aren’t looking exclusively for trending lip gloss going? It’s closer than you think, and it’s not always happening online.
Call them the Neighborhood Wonders: select beauty retailers that balance familiarity with global curation, a physical location (no more than five branches, usually accompanied by a robust digital and social operation), hyperpersonalized service, and the one unsexy thing no overnight sensation can claim: trust.
“You can get a serum anywhere,” says Natalie Gee, “but the reason you come to us is personal.” Gee Beauty is a mom-and-daughters operation, with mom Miriam and daughter Stephanie running the Toronto location (they were the first to carry Le Labo, Dr. Sebagh, and Tata Harper in Canada) and daughters Natalie and Celene spearheading Miami, where they’re expanding their in-house makeup line in Neiman Marcus this fall. Theirs is an 18-year commitment to making successful recommendations. As Celene puts it, “Everyone wants a little zhuzh to feel inspired.”
Cayli Cavaco Reck, whose Knockout Beauty has grown to four locations in New York and Los Angeles via “high-high-touch service,” says she is in a monogamous relationship with her clients. “People come to us because their friend has seen amazing results. They’ll say, ‘I want what she’s having,’ ” she says. “But we don’t work that way. We can get you her result, but we’re going to take a different route to get there.” Knockout’s ability to decipher hard-to-navigate (and super-pricey) skincare brands like MBR, Environ, and the new line Editrix is part of what has kept customers coming back.
The luxury, says Dara Kennedy, founder of the 12-year-old Ayla in San Francisco, is the longevity of a place rooted in integrity. It also comes down to balancing the edit: Such places are incubators for discovery (Dr. Anna Gold tinctures, Manasi 7) and also champions of products that have worked well for years.
When makeup artist Jenn Streicher moved from Hollywood to Westchester during Covid, she decided to bring clean, woman-owned brands to Scout, a jewel box of a shop in Pound Ridge. “I carry all the stuff I love so I won’t feel I have to sell something,” she says, citing Ilia, Westman Atelier, and Dr. Loretta as personal staples. Her new shop, Duchess, in Bedford Village, has a larger space for pop-up services such as lash lifts and facials, as well as community events.
Cultivating customers who feel a sense of belonging is critical for Thirteen Lune co-founder Nyakio Grieco, who highlights brands by Black and brown founders and is “prioritizing a historically overlooked community, one that is a massive beauty customer but has not been served at shelf or had equity in the industry.” At her space in L.A.’s Larchmont Village she creates intimate experiences, including a Damone Roberts brow studio and a residency for Tracee Ellis Ross’s Pattern, and introduces in person game-changing products like Buttah’s Vitamin C Serum. Here, Greco says, her customers “can celebrate beauty in so many diverse ways.”
Sometimes it’s simply the option to pop in that makes an impact. “You’re not going to go to your derm every week, but you could come to a store every week,” Cavaco Reck says. Not every interaction with a client, she points out, is about a sale. “Sometimes it’s just to be supported or have someone say, ‘You’re on the right track.’ ”
This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Town & Country.