If you’re looking for PaintLab founder and CEO Karina Sulzer on the weekend, there’s a good chance you can find her at your nearest Walmart.
“I go to Walmart every weekend and really study what consumer habits are like,” he said. With a brand known primarily for its false nails in trendy and colorful designs, it focuses on the nail products that customers buy.
On a recent weekend, “I was there for about eight hours, to the point where I told the [worker], ‘I swear, I’m investigating. I’m not just a creepy person,’” she said.
Sulzer began preparing for PaintLab’s debut at Walmart after the brand was selected in August to be one of five members of the big-box retailer’s Walmart Start beauty accelerator program. It is the third brand in the program to enter Walmart stores thus far, following custom hair care brand The Hair Lab and affordable fragrance startup Dossier. The Pardon My Fro hair care brand is set to launch around Valentine’s Day, and Undefined Beauty is still working with the retailer to set a date.
Independent beauty startups are “a big priority” for Walmart, said Creighton Kiper, Walmart’s vice president of beauty merchandising, noting that new fashion brands are especially important to the young millennial and Gen-Z demographic.
“We know that our younger customers are some of the top beauty enthusiasts. They love to discover and spend more, and they are really invested in this category,” she said.
While Target has long been considered a go-to for finding up-and-coming new brands, Walmart is aiming for that status among Gen Z. According to a 2022 Morning Consult survey of more than 2,000 Gen Zers, Walmart ranked sixth. most favorite brand, with 80% favourability, beating Target, Nike and Apple.
Diversity is also key to attracting the younger generation, Kiper said. “Every day new hair types and new skin types are born. We know that more than 50% of Gen Z customers identify as multicultural. When you look at Walmart, the next big brands sit in that domain,” he said.
Walmart Start brands join 100 new beauty labels added to Walmart’s selection last year, following 69 that launched at the retailer in 2021. Strong-performing brands debuting in 2022 include influencers Brooklyn and the skincare brand created by Bailey’s Maesa, ITK; AF94, Halsey’s About-Face broadcast line; and Dossier.
As for the growth of Walmart’s brand list this year, “We don’t see [it] slowing down,” Kiper said.
Walmart’s big bet on beauty includes developing its line of brands on all fronts. Price points range from affordable to luxurious: Under the retailer’s SpaceNK partnership, launched last year, it sells luxury brands Goldfaden MD, Philip B, Slip, and Lancer, among others.
Meanwhile, for PaintLab, all products will cost less than $10. The brand’s self-adhesive nail designs, eye decals and colorful lashes will be on full display in just under 1,000 brick-and-mortar stores. Designs will include several Walmart exclusives.
“When you’re walking around, you can’t help noticing us,” Sulzer said. “It’s going to be a scene.”
Prominent display cases are one way Walmart supports accelerator brands. It also offers educational and networking opportunities for participants, including talks and classes. The retailer focuses on crucial issues for startups scaling their distribution to a big box store for the first time, such as supply chain, quantities, forecasts, and package sizes.
Mega conglomerates already familiar with these issues have also worked with Walmart to launch new brands. But independent beauty brands have different points of attraction for the retailer.
They have the “nimble and nimble” advantage, Kiper said.
For example, PaintLab’s five-person team is “able to deliver a collection within a few weeks” of spotting a trend online, Sulzer said. Gen Z members of his staff monitor nail trends on TikTok and Instagram. The brand created a set of shimmery pink hairpieces, responding to Hailey Bieber’s summer nail craze with the “glazed donut,” for example. They also quickly detect when the brand’s products go viral. Sulzer said a set of checkered nails had a “crazy week” of sales in August 2022, when a TikTok post about them by influencer Ché March (42,300 followers) garnered 4.7 million views and more than half a million. I like it
Kiper added that independent brands are also “generally very close to the customer,” thanks to their extensive research, such as Sulzer’s on-the-ground observations. Skincare brand Bubble, for example, conducts extensive surveys of thousands of Generation Z consumers.
Walmart plans to continue the accelerator program for another year, with details on opening applications soon and more details to come, Kiper said.