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CEW Newsmaker Forum Presented Ulta’s Chuck Rubin

By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: February 17, 2012

Jill Scalamandre, chairwoman, CEW, and CMO, Chrysallis, with guest, Chuck Rubin, president and CEO, Ulta Beauty.

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Rubin acknowledges that some of the beauty brands they offer can be bought elsewhere, but that Ulta's strategy is not predicated on price but is based on having a great looking store for women that offers product assortment, as well as events that are fun and enjoyable.

Customer Relationships Are Key

Rubin noted that of the mass products sold at Ulta, most of them tended to be the upper level brands, and he noted that Ulta tailors the experience of the store, including brands and services, to what the customer wants. “We tailor the experience to what the customer wants and also enhance brand equity of the brands we carry. Clearly, the prestige/professional part of our offering is growing more than our mass,” said Rubin, who noted that the industry is looking at Ulta as an avenue to reach a consumer. He emphasized, “It’s how we select products and provide services. How we do it is more important than the specific products. Through all our products, we are seeing growth and market share growing.”

Rubin also noted that newness is a driver for Ulta stores. “The newness is a real engine for growth and is more crucial for today than it was 20 years ago. Our business is not about price, it’s a transactional business,” said Rubin. He noted that business has been good across the board, with prestige skin care and fragrance all very good. The two main components of the business, said Rubin, are the everyday business and the seasonal gift giving. He added that the mix of skin care, makeup and appliances adds interest, saying, “It’s the functional products, as well as the fun products that count. These are what keep women in Iowa locally tied to what’s happening in fashion."

When asked if he had had a particular success with a recent brand, Rubin cited the Justin Bieber fragrance. “This was exciting for us because it was new. We had a full size cutout of Justin Bieber in all of our stores and we girls from 8 to women of 65, wanting to pose with the life size cutout. This is an example of what we do, taking a Bieber cutout to give a little excitement to the environment,” said Rubin.

The Ulta team is said to be very collaborative and showcases innovation with their product launches. Rubin addressed what key drivers drove their innovation. “Part of our success goes back to the focus on our customer, the offerings and how we present them. That focus is the driving force. We’re just under $2 billion in revenue and are very nimble. In the long term, this positions us well with all of our guests and brands. We’re straight talkers with good integrity, and we don’t beat around the bush, which has done well for the company,” said Rubin.