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Studex kiosk
The Studex kiosk at CVS. Photo Credit: Reddit

Leading Retailers Invest in Beauty Services as Pandemic Wanes

During the Covid-19 pandemic customers relied on curbside pickup, buy online, pick up in store and home delivery to shop for essentials while physically distancing from others. And although retailers were quick to offer and expand these services, they are continually looking for new ways to engage with shoppers in store.

Challenging mall-based Claire’s and Banter by Piercing Pagoda, several national retailers have been adding services and experiences like ear piercing. After a successful pilot in four stores in 2018, CVS began offering pro-level piercing in partnership with Studex when it expanded Beauty IRL, its interactive beauty department. The offering is now available at 400 locations.

In March Five Below became the latest to pilot ear piercing at 150 stores of its 1,200 stores as part of a plan to triple its U.S. store count and double sales and earnings.

ear piercing

Photo Credit: Five Below

Ear piercing was introduced at Target in December 2020 at several stores in Minneapolis and the test was so successful that it was recently rolled out to nearly 200 stores with plans for further increases before the end of the year. In partnership with Rowan, an ear piercing start-up, Target offers piercings performed by a licensed nurse. Appointments are booked via and piercing is free with the purchase of jewelry ($65 – $135/ pair). An online lookbook offers styles at various price points, but earrings are chosen at the appointment, which includes a skin and ear assessment, numbing cream, jewelry, piercing by a registered nurse, aftercare instructions, a goodie bag, and access to a helpline staffed by nurses for follow-up care. Monthly subscription boxes are also available for purchase.

Target Rowan partnership

Image Source: Target

In addition to piercings, Target is further expanding services by teaming up with Clockwork to launch MiNiCURES, 10 minute manicures performed by robots. For $8 (subsequent visits are $10) guests can book and pay for a manicure online at one of 6 Target locations, including 2 in California, 1 in Minnesota and 3 in Texas.

Target Clockwork partnership

Image Source: Target

Customers place a finger into a Clockwork machine resembling a printer, which uses cameras, data and algorithms to create 3-D images of the nail. Algorithms dissect this information to determine how to pipe the polish onto the nail and the speed in which to do so. These photos are catalogued and robots use the data to improve their techniques.

While the service does not include cutting and shaping, only polish, nail files and polish remover are provided if needed, and plans are in the works to add additional features like top coats.

Target has been focusing on expanding its beauty offerings, with Ulta Beauty shop-in-shops. We wrote about this strategic partnership in 2021, ‘The Beauty Battle: Sephora @ Kohl’s vs. Ulta @ Target’, and the benefits these partnerships bring to the retailer and customer. With plans to open an additional 250 Ulta Beauty locations within Target stores, manicures and piercings will enhance its assortment helping to make it a beauty destination.

So what can retailers look forward to by adding experiences and services?

  • Increased store traffic: Services such as manicures and ear piercings drive traffic to stores as there is no virtual option that can substitute. This provides an opportunity to create an experience, engage with customers, and encourage subsequent visits for future services.
  • Customer conversion: In the case of ear piercings, it’s a chance for retailers to convert consumers, especially younger ones, as piercing is often used to celebrate and mark milestones for kids and tweens. Creating a connection to consumers helps establish customer loyalty.
  • Exclusive items, only available in-store: Retailers can highlight products that are only available at the physical location versus online. Shoppers can look forward to shopping exclusive collections the next time they’re in store.
  • Extreme convenience: Robot manicures provide an additional choice to customers, somewhere between a full-service manicure at a salon and a do-it-yourself manicure at home. And while MiNiCURES may not replace a traditional manicure, they are another option that retailers can offer time-starved consumers who desire quick and contactless experiences or while shopping for detergent, dog food and juice boxes.

McMillanDoolittle can help you shape your customer experience across the digital and physical worlds and win in today’s challenging retail landscape. To learn more about how our team of retail experts can help your business stay ahead, simply contact us.  If you’d like to stay up to date on our latest retail insights, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn.

Felicia Greenbaum

Felicia is a Business Manager who has been with McMillanDoolittle for over 15 years. She provides comprehensive planning, organization, and administrative support for the entire team. Her responsibilities include general office management, bookkeeping, data management, IT support and coordinating events and special functions.

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