Inside Chemist Warehouse’s surprising new luxury brand, Ultra Beauty


industry rivals: preferring to create an environment where anyone can buy at the high-end without feeling overwhelmed in often extravagant bricks-and-mortar locations.

The new business’ stores have been opened within Chemist Warehouse locations, stocking cult beauty brands such as Byredo, Olaplex, Malle, Juliette Has a Gun, and Frederic Male, and range from small store-in-store models, to larger dedicated underground presences such as Ultra Beauty’s Edgecliff store. 

Ultra Beauty brand manager Anthony Pecora told Inside Retail the business has been in the works for several years, and grew out of the admission that, despite being one of Australia’s biggest retailers, luxury brands were hesitant to be stocked at Chemist Warehouse.

“Quite a few luxury brands felt that they wouldn’t be able to execute their default brand message and experience in the Chemist Warehouse environment,” Pecora said.

“So from the last few years we’ve basically built [Ultra Beauty] from the ground up, and we’re going after the premium beauty market. But, importantly, we want to provide premium beauty for every Australian, not just the cool girls.”

The business hasn’t “officially” launched yet according to Pecora, who said that while a launch may come later this year, he isn’t sure it’s necessary.

“I think the modern consumer wants to feel empowered in discovering something new, so we don’t necessarily want to shove it down anyone’s throat,” Pecora said. “But, we might do something in September.”

Creating a space for all beauty customers

Beyond the beauty and branding, inclusivity is a major part of Ultra Beauty’s mission, Pecora said. The business wants to be accessible to the traditional beauty consumer, as well as her partner, mum, dad, brother, sister, and grandparents. 

“There are a lot of retailers that aren’t overly welcoming to every Australian, so we want to make a space that is welcoming to everyone,” Pecora said.

“There are some retailers out there that go really soft and girly, and go a bit over the top [in their store design]. We don’t want people to feel like they need to dress a certain way or have their hair done and have a full face of makeup on before they come in store or they’ll get judged. 

“We want them to feel comfortable to come in to Ultra Beauty whenever they can – they could be coming home from yoga, or about to pop in to the supermarket.”

And, due to the fact that the business isn’t basing its physical stores’ design on the assumption that its main customer will be a 20-something female, Ultra Beauty has seen a surprising level of comfort from its male customers: its sales of men’s fragrances, for example, are growing at an exponential rate.

Ultra Beauty to hit 30 stores by 2024

Ultra Beauty has only nine stores at the moment, but is expecting to hit 30 stores by 2024 and has its sights set on launching in New Zealand and Ireland in the coming years.

The biggest roadblock to the business’ expansion is getting teams of builders together to get to work, with the continuing pressure on the construction market causing delays in many projects around the country.

“We’ve got another 20 or so stores that are effectively ready to go, but because of [the lack of] building resources and whatnot, we’re being realistic – they’ll probably launch over the next 18 months,” Pecora said.

“Chemist Warehouse as a group currently has the largest number of projects on the go then we’ve ever had before, so it’s a really exciting time.”

Having more stores will be important for Ultra Beauty because, while online shopping works for customers that already know what they want, the business is hoping to serve as a place where newer customers can feel comfortable asking questions, and learning about the different products they may want.

“Most people are comfortable buying online, so my challenge is getting people up off the couch and into a playful environment where they can feel welcome,” Pecora said.

“[Buying beauty] online can be a big risk, and it’s not something that can be returned once you’ve tried it, so the reality is that we need to create a modern space that allows people to feel comfortable to try products.”



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