Walmart launches beauty accelerator, Walmart Start

Dive Brief:

  • In a bid to discover up-and-coming beauty brands, Walmart will launch a beauty accelerator program dubbed Walmart Start, according to details emailed to Retail Dive.
  • Walmart will choose five beauty brands to receive various resources and operational support to help prepare them for a potential product launch in store and online, the company said.
  • The company said it will take applications from Feb. 18 through March 7 and the selected brands will be announced in May. The beauty brands are expected to launch in Walmart’s stores and online at some point between December of this year and March 2023, according to the company’s website.

Dive Insight:

To discover “the next big names in beauty,” Walmart is launching a startup accelerator program with the aim of debuting the brands on Walmart’s shelves. The experience includes a virtual classroom series, access to a brand management consultant, training on Walmart’s ad platform Walmart Connect, and mentorship and networking opportunities.

The company’s goal is to launch all participating brands at its stores, though that opportunity is not guaranteed. For brands that do launch at Walmart, the businesses have a chance to be offered in 1,000 to 3,500 stores. The accelerator is “specially focused on preparing brands to execute a potential 1,000+ store and online launch at Walmart in the next year,” according to details emailed to Retail Dive.

Beauty brands in the hair, skin, cosmetics, nails, fragrance and beauty accessory categories are all eligible for the accelerator, if they have a physical product that is ready to sell and be distributed in stores. While the program is meant to find up-and-comers, startups have to be prepared to scale, with Walmart warning brands should already have the “manufacturing, supply chain, and financial capabilities that can support a potential launch in 1,000 to 3,500 stores.”

Beauty accelerators have become a popular way for retailers to broaden their assortment and keep a pulse on innovation in the segment. Target’s Takeoff program hit its fifth year in 2021 and like Walmart’s, it focuses on launching new brands in Target’s stores. Earlier this month, Target announced it was adding 40 new brands to its beauty lineup, and that included several graduates from the Takeoff program, including Sassy Hair and Undefined Beauty. That’s in addition to Target’s other efforts in the beauty category, which include a shop-in-shop partnership with Ulta at hundreds of its stores.

Category players like Sephora and Ulta have their own brand accelerators as well: Ulta in February announced plans to launch a brand accelerator focused on early-stage BIPOC beauty brands, while Sephora’s “Accelerate” program in recent years has also shifted to emphasize founders of color.

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