Skincare Gets a Pandemic Boost, and Tula’s Record Monthly Sales Are Proof

Personal care brand relies on DTC channels to overcome coronavirus challenges

tula products
Tula's successful launch of a new product, a sunscreen gel, is part of its success story for April. Tula
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Key insight:

Beauty brand Tula Skincare is on track to have the best sales month in its history, even in the midst of the pandemic.

Year-over-year sales for April are up five fold, and nearly two times what they were in March, according to CEO Savannah Sachs.

That growth, fed by consumers’ focus on health and the brand’s digital strategy, comes despite the fact that the stores of its retail partners such as Ulta and Nordstrom remain shuttered.

“Tula is benefitting from a shift in consumers’ focus to health and wellness,” Sachs said. The rise in sales is also because Tula was well positioned digitally heading into the pandemic, as DTC has always been the brand’s largest channel, she explained.

Notably, the skincare company is backed by a network of influencers that Tula built via recruiting, based on a revenue-sharing model more akin to Avon, but with a technological bent. (Think the Mary Kay lady, but instead of driving a pink Cadillac, she uses Lyft or Uber and has a mobile device at the ready.)

Sachs noted that Tula is seeing a strong return on investment on its paid channels, including influencer marketing, not to mention a healthy return on ad spend by capturing elevated online demand with paid marketing. Just this year, the skincare company began testing OTT advertising, with promising results, particularly tied to news network programming, she said.

As a result, Tula is not just seeing increased demand from existing customers but also attracting new ones.

Tula is also benefitting from consumers’ embrace of the no-makeup look, a trend that is more relevant than ever as people work from home. “It’s clear consumers are staying home and investing in their skincare routines,” Sachs said.

With quarantine orders in place across the country, you might say the skincare effect is replacing the lipstick effect.

“It’s a way to indulge in an affordable way, and it feels good,” Sachs said. “It’s a sensible and economic way to invest in your health and happiness, and people are looking for routine and ritual in these uncertain times.”

That’s seen in significantly higher basket sizes than before Covid-19, even though the brand is not offering any promotions. The company is finding that shoppers want a complete skincare routine with multiple products, with a regimen in the morning and then at night, Sachs said.

Tula even decided to proceed with releasing a new product, a gel sunscreen, which was the most-requested product in a poll of Tula’s audience. It has become Tula’s strongest product launch, contributing to the brand’s success in April.

“We want to make sure we are relevant to consumers and everything they are going through right now,” Sachs said, “and offering products that work, no matter the situation they’re in.”

Although the timing was not ideal, Sachs said the company proceeded with the launch by emphasizing the importance of wearing SPF indoors as well as outside.

In this case, it meant educating consumers on the protection an SPF product provides from blue light, which can also emit damaging rays. “It’s not just sunscreen, but skincare,” Sachs said.

In addition, Tula boosted sales by repurposing its field team, which under normal conditions is sent to stores such as Ulta to educate shoppers on the benefits of its products, to become digital skincare advisers instead. The company was already contemplating the move, Sachs said, but Covid-19 sped up the timetable. Within one week, the team pivoted to online chat, replicating the advice they would typically provide in a physical store.

“We’ve been able to keep our team whole, and not do layoffs or furloughs,” Sachs said. Such decisions are driven not just by the need to survive, but also by making near-term adjustments that are in line with the company’s mid- to long-term goals, she said.

Regardless, while the pandemic has accelerated the ecommerce revolution, Tula is ready to rebound when brick-and-mortar reopens, Sachs emphasized.

@RichCollings Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.