CVS: Creating 'Wow' Experiences in Beauty & Personal Care  11/20/2017

CVS Pharmacy’s Maly Bernstein, VP of Merchandising, Beauty, Personal Care, Photo & Money Services, and her staff were recognized as ECRM’s 2017 Merchant Team of the Year for the beauty category for their excellence in sourcing, merchandising, and supplier collaboration.

ECRM discussed these three areas with Bernstein, to highlight the strategies and successes that earned her and her team the award.

ECRM: What is your leadership philosophy to encourage your team to be their best?
Maly Bernstein: Starting my retail career in the book industry, I learned early that “it’s not about the product you sell, but about the story you tell,” and as WWD recently captured, “[I don’t] like to do anything half-hearted”. I believe in creating “wow” customer experiences that excite customers, brand partners, colleagues, and inherently differentiate CVS Pharmacy. I aim to inspire my team in thinking about what could be possible, and they continually inspire me with what is possible – taking ideas to the next level for customers.

ECRM: What are your team’s strengths, and what characteristics do you attribute to their success in today’s turbulent retail environment?
Bernstein: At CVS Pharmacy, we look forward to leading the next revolution in beauty. To achieve that I believe takes a team with a vision, guts and grit. These are the reasons why I am proud to be a part of the team at CVS Health and to lead our team in beauty and personal care. Together, we’re dedicated to helping our customers on their path to better health across all aisles of the store. As her emotional health can be as important as her physical health, we are focused on giving our customers guilt-free offers, stress-free access to buzzworthy products and healthy alternatives, and fun me-time in beauty. Our K-Beauty pop-up shops in Times Square and Columbus Circle are examples of this total vision! Knowing our customer goals, my team inspires me with what we could do differently, bigger, bolder…everyday!

ECRM: How do you keep tabs on emerging product trends to help in your sourcing efforts?
Bernstein: At CVS Pharmacy, we are dedicated to helping our customers find the latest beauty trends and innovations affordably in our stores. We appreciate that two thirds of in-store beauty purchases are influenced by social media and over 80 percent of our top beauty customers keep up with what’s hot in fashion. As a result, we’re committed to bringing in beauty innovation fast from new buzzworthy Indie brands like WunderBrow exclusively in-stores at CVS or Flawless “the gold standard” in facial hair removal, from Iconic brands like Revlon’s ColorStay Exactify liquid liner with a wheel tip, and more and more from ingredient-led brands like being the first to carry Burts color cosmetics in stores or expanding our assortment of naturally inspired hair care. We keep up with beauty trends and innovation so that we can keep up with our beauty customers, constantly giving them the “new news” they crave.

ECRM: Can you give us an example or two of some recent successful products you have brought into your category?
Bernstein: Our recent partnership with Alicia Yoon, one of Korea’s most notable and influential beauty experts, to develop our K-Beauty HQ is an example of bringing a major global and social trend to stores ahead of the typical timing that trends hit the mass market. The K-Beauty HQ was developed in response to the changing needs of CVS Pharmacy shoppers – many of whom turn to our stores for the best in beauty and health and want their products to merge those categories.

Curated in partnership with Alicia - who is also the founder of Korean beauty site, Peach & Lily - the extensive collection now features almost 170 innovative, eye-catching products, with a large selection of hand, body and lip items being added just last month. The products in K-Beauty HQ include a wide range of both healthy skincare and playful beauty options, inspiring customers to enjoy trying something new, knowing our team and Alicia’s team chose each one for not only its high-quality formula and approachability. The success of K-Beauty HQ further establishes CVS Pharmacy as the leading accessible health and beauty destination.

ECRM: How are you leveraging digital in your merchandising efforts?
Bernstein: Our beauty team closely collaborated with our marketing team, digital team, and brand partners to launch our educational beauty campaign, #LongLiveSkin, encouraging everyone to SPF yourself! The multi-platform campaign is aimed at increasing awareness around skin the importance of proper skincare and sun safety.

Each year, the cross-functional effort has been brought to life on signage in-stores and in our digital customer interactions, sharing facts and tips on sun protection and skincare. We featured advice-sharing videos online and on the radio to encourage skin health conversations and we offered special weekly offers on sun care and skincare in support of skin health. We also engaged beauty influencers to spread the word and encourage health in beauty. This is an example of how we are helping our customers on her path to better health across every aisle and leveraging digital to do so.

ECRM: What is the ideal you try to attain in your relationships with suppliers?
Bernstein: We thrive on partnering uniquely with brands that partner uniquely with CVS, in pursuit of a shared vision to reinvent beauty for all! In particular, we want to partner disproportionately with brands that bring game-changing guilt-free offers, stress-free access to buzzworthy products and healthy alternatives, and fun me-time to life for our beauty customers.

ECRM: Where do you see your category heading over the next three to five years?
Bernstein: Eighty percent of CVS Pharmacy customers are women and we know those customers are busy – with often the only time dedicated to herself being those few minutes in the beauty aisle while waiting for her prescription to be filled. We realize that her time is at a premium and it’s our mission to ensure that precious time is well-spent in our stores. And that’s why we’re focused on guilt-free, stress-free me-time Beauty when she wants it, how she wants it, where she wants it.

Wayne Bennett

Senior Vice President, Retail

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