WOONSOCKET, R. I. — Andrea Harrison is making a difference for her company and for consumers by helping guide CVS Health’s response to cultural shifts in the conceptions of how beauty is viewed through the lens of wellness and health.
That response is multifaceted, addressing everything from the unrealistic and harmful beauty ideals promoted by digitally altered marketing images to the “pink tax” that results in women often paying higher prices for personal care products than men pay for comparable items.
“As America’s leading healthcare solutions company — and one of the largest and most trusted beauty retailers in the country — we’re passionate about beauty and the important role it plays as a wellness destination,” says Harrison, who for the past two years has served as vice president of merchandising for beauty and personal care at CVS Health. “We know that our customer defines ‘wellness’ as so much more than traditional health care. They see wellness as holistic and inclusive of things like appearance, beauty, mindfulness, nutrition and, of course, personal care.”
Harrison continues to explain that customers shopping CVS Pharmacy are more health-focused than ever. “Customers today are smarter and savvier regarding what’s in their beauty and personal care products, and they are constantly trying to find ways to make selections with that in mind. From a retail perspective, we’ve seen that they want three things — brands, experience and service. They want to shop high-quality beauty in convenient retail locations where they already shop, and they are more focused than ever about finding solutions that meet their unique needs.”
As part of that search, Harrison says consumers are looking for the places and brands that support them and lead with a shared purpose. The CVS Beauty Mark initiative, introduced in 2018, has similarly buoyed the company’s health positioning with consumers. “We’re thrilled to see how the CVS Beauty Mark has resonated,” Harrison says. “We made a commitment to transparency for all our beauty imagery so that customers can identify what has been retouched and what has not when they walk through our beauty aisles. Driven by data that connected the propagation of unrealistic body images to negative health effects, the CVS Beauty Mark is our pledge to pass on a healthy self-image to the next generation.”
In May 2021, CVS Pharmacy announced that it had reached its goal of 100% Beauty Mark compliancy in its beauty aisles, meaning all imagery produced by and for CVS is labeled with the CVS Beauty Mark watermark or as “digitally altered.” “We’re proud to have had the opportunity to partner with some of the world’s largest beauty brands to redefine industry standards, and it’s inspiring to see how we’ve driven a marked shift in the beauty industry,” Harrison says.
Meanwhile, CVS Health recently announced that it is slashing prices on its store brand tampons, menstrual pads, liners and cups products by 25%. It’s also paying sales tax for menstrual products on customers’ behalf in a dozen states while working with organizations to eliminate such taxes.
“On October 11, timed to coincide with the International Day of the Girl, we announced our commitment to address period poverty and the actions we are taking to provide more accessible menstrual care options,” Harrison says. “This commitment is part of our new enterprise initiative — HERe, Healthier Happens Together — which is rooted in providing easier access to services and products that help support women’s mental and physical well-being.”
Additionally, in July CVS Pharmacy piloted a new Skin Care Center format that uses a shop-in-shop beauty experience to introduce shoppers to skin health innovations. “This concept was developed to help consumers address their individual skin needs with tools, education and products previously encountered exclusively in prestige beauty retail locations,” Harrison notes.
The pilot built on the extensive track record CVS Health has leading the industry with health-driven moves in beauty. In 2019, CVS completed the removal of chemicals of concern from nearly 600 CVS store brand beauty and personal care items. CVS has also removed oxybenzone and octinoxate from nearly 60 store brand sunscreen products under SPF 50. And in 2020, the company launched a SkinSAFE partnership designed to help CVS Pharmacy consumers identify “sensitive friendly” beauty and personal care products, formulated without the most common allergy-causing ingredients.
CVS Pharmacy’s intention to be a leader in the beauty space is reflected in the product assortment offered in its stores, including its private label offerings.
“When most people think of a ‘store brand,’ they think of products that are created as a cheaper alternative to national brands or a comparable option to national brands,” Harrison points out. “Our store brands are where we lead, not follow. We are constantly identifying ways to expand our selection of exclusive brands and products that not only meet each customer’s diverse needs and lifestyles, but also offer value, innovation and better-for-you formulations.”
Those same priorities are reflected in all the company’s offerings in the categories Harrison is responsible for.
“When it comes to our beauty aisles, we are dedicated to offering a selection of products that meet the specific wants and needs of our customer by creating a mix of classic and new, socially driven brands making their mark in the evolving landscape,” Harrison says. “Along those lines, we’re introducing an inclusive beauty and personal care brand by CVS Pharmacy that is launching in stores and online starting this November. The brand is all about self-expression and embracing individuality with self-care essentials that customers can have fun mixing and matching. Stay tuned for more to come on that soon.”
Harrison adds that CVS develops and enhances its offerings based on what its customers say they want.
“We continue to observe customer insights and evolve our offerings to ensure our assortment meets the needs of all our customers, while also encouraging discovery, as we know beauty needs to inspire our customers and get them excited to explore.”