Winky Lux, a 5-year-old direct-to-consumer beauty brand, wanted to find the right retail partner to bring the company’s products to the masses.
While the brand already has wholesale relationships with companies like Sephora, Ulta and Nordstrom, Winky Lux decided to partner up with Target to bring 68 of its 150 product line to Target stores and website. Winky Lux will have an end-cap experience, similar to other Target-DTC partnerships, that uses neon signage and a huge lipstick facade to tell the story of the brand and attract customers to the space.
“This is a very special relationship and we aligned on what our core values are,” said Natalie Mackey, CEO and founder of Winky Lux. “It had to be the right time and a place where our customer could really access the brand and a place where our brand could be properly represented. We knew we had to do [this] with a retailer [who] could touch our customers.”
Although Winky Lux already has existing relationships with other major beauty retailers, Mackey said those experiences are more on-the-go, with less of an emphasis on showcasing the Winky Lux brand. Target also represents a chance to acquire more customers not concentrated on the coasts—and sits high on the list of retailers Winky Lux customers have asked for “multiple times,” said Mackey.
“Ulta and Sephora are great for brand building, but they are much more of a big special treat than a part of your everyday life,” Mackey said. “It’s not a daily thing whereas a Target customer is going in very frequently and that’s part of [their] day-to-day life and we believe we could better serve our customer by being there.”
Winky Lux now joins a slew of other DTC brands that have found success on Target shelves. Brands like Native, a natural deodorant company and Harry’s, a men’s shaving brand, have used Target as a means to test retail and create special end-cap experiences to capture a customer’s attention.
Winky Lux’s entry into Target comes at an interesting time for the retailer as well. In the company’s fourth quarter earnings report, Target stated beauty sales were up 7%. Mackey said Target was the right retailer to raise brand awareness and give Winky Lux a “big splash moment.”
“Harry’s built a shrine to the brand [in Target],” Mackey said. “That’s why we did that too. A mass retailer like target allowing a neon sign—[that’s a] really big step for a mass retailer to take [and] a big movement in a different type of direction.”
The two companies will also exchange nonindividualized data. Winky Lux will share data about its customers like how often they shop for tinted moisturizer, for example, so Target can stock it as well.
Winky Lux’s entry into Target comes at an interesting time for the beauty brand. Originally founded in 2015, Winky Lux was bootstrapped for its first two years in existence, and then raised a $2 million seed round in 2017 and a $6 million Series A in 2018. The brand plans on becoming profitable this year and with no plans to raise additional capital—a story not heard often in the DTC world.
“What’s right for us this year is making sure we have operational excellence and we can provide a good core of the company to the customer in a way that can be scalable,” Mackey said. “As opposed to throwing money at acquisition.”
And even though beauty’s a space where brands can become billion dollar businesses, Mackey said it takes time and requires building consumer trust. She said it’s a different situation when brands go from $500,000 to $1 million that’s a big more manageable as opposed to trying to grow from $20 to $60 million—and ensuring all operations and logistics remains stable.
“It’s great when you can have growth but the idea you need to triple every year is a bit wild,” Mackey said. “Historically, it takes intimate relationships and it takes a lot of trust over a long period of time.”