Photo Credit: walmart.com
Wal-Mart and beauty? It might not be the most obvious combination, but more and more consumers are heading to the grand poobah of big boxes for their cosmetic needs. The store has taken note, reworking its web presence and brick and mortar locations, with online specials and tips from beauty experts along with expanded beauty spaces in stores. Caveat emptor: women don’t shop at Wal-Mart for the ambiance or customer service experience. Forget about flattering lighting and pretty bags from iconic department stores. Women shop at Wal-Mart because they are watching their bottom line, and with the chain’s new focus on beauty and health, the selection is better than ever with aggressive pricing that’s hard to beat. The days of mishmosh megabrands are long gone; sure, all of the old standbys from L’Oreal and Maybelline are still there at rock-bottom prices, but there is a greater sense of focus in the beauty department along with quite a few surprises.
In the spirit of reinvention, Wal-Mart has revived Hard Candy, a brand that changed the way women thought about cosmetics in the 90s with confection-colored nail, lip, cheek and eye color. What’s better than reconnecting with a beloved beauty brand? For starters, Hard Candy’s cult polishes were $12 a pop back in the day, and now they retail for $5 at Wal-Mart. Better still, the renewed line boasts over 250 products with packaging that strikes the perfect balance between edgy and sweet.
Online shoppers enjoy free shipping on Hard Candy orders, and all health and beauty purchases are eligible for $0.97 flat rate shipping. Borrowing a page from its big brother Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart has introduced value bundles, multi-packs of favorite products at significantly reduced prices. The selection is truly staggering. A recent visit to the website yielded over 260 choices of mascara, an array both delightful and overwhelming. Original articles like “Mascara 101” help shoppers sort through their options and find the right fit. Wal-Mart tapped beauty expert Carissa Passerella for their “Ask The Expert: Beauty Made Easy” blog. Recent entries have covered everything from reviews of specific products to trend tracking and technique lessons. An online community section allows customers to ask questions and exchange tips, and Carissa chimes in often to share her suggestions. The customer reviews of specific products are tremendously useful, and it comes as no surprise to find a number of shoppers who are seasoned beauty junkies, drawing comparisons between their Wal-Mart bargain finds and beloved prestige brands.
Another great feature for online shoppers is the integration of the Allure Readers’ Choice Awards. Winners from the last three years are designated with the Allure Readers’ Choice emblem. Thousands of devoted readers of the premier beauty bible can’t be wrong, with a quick scan revealing fan favorites from Neutrogena, John Frieda and Olay. In-store and online, savvy shoppers watch for Rollback savings, Wal-Mart’s short-term price reductions on popular items. In the beauty department, Rollbacks can translate to savings of 10-30% on everything from hairdryers to sun block.
Long before anyone had coined the term “recessionista,” the smartest beauties were mixing high-end and mass-market brands. Now those strategies have become a way of life for most women, and Wal-Mart is certainly keeping up with the times.