Activation Gallery: Drugstore Beauty

Drugstore beauty is known for its affordability and access to mass brands, but in recent years the channel has veered into the prestige and indie beauty territory with elevated merchandising, marketing and expanded assortments.
Jacqueline Barba
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a store shelf filled with books

Drugstore beauty is known for its affordability and access to mass brands, but in recent years the channel has veered into the prestige and indie beauty territory with elevated merchandising, marketing and expanded assortments — particularly in emerging subcategories — while often still maintaining that value price point. Channel leaders CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Rite Aid have led the charge, driving competition with retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty. To view more drugstore beauty activations, Path to Purchase Institute members can visit the image vault at

a display in a store

Walgreens devotes significant space in its beauty walls to No7 and Soap & Glory, own brands via parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance and its Boots beauty business. Additionally, “plant powered skincare” from the Botanics own brand receives similar treatment in-line as part of the beauty department gondolas.

a cake sitting on top of a building

Rite Aid’s “Store of the Future” redesign, introduced in 2020 in tandem with its integrated brand refresh and RxEvolution strategy, makes the beauty department one of the stars of its revamped concept stores while offering a larger product assortment. Located near the entrance doors, the beauty department, which offers a shopping experience resembling a combination of Ulta Beauty and a medical spa, is identified by a commanding ceiling fixture outfitted with lights and hanging green plants that give the area a natural feel and illuminated aisles.


graphical user interface, text, application

CVS Pharmacy tapped Nyma Tang — a popular beauty influencer, activist and long-standing CVS Beauty Mark partner and supporter — as its first Beauty Inclusivity Consultant to reflect its ongoing commitment to transparency and equity in the beauty aisles. As part of the collaboration, CVS launched a dedicated “Beauty Influencer Picks” shop on its website, which spotlights Tang and her monthly beauty picks and populates commissioned YouTube tutorial videos. Since 2018, CVS has enlisted more than 600 influencer partners to share more than 50 million impressions of unaltered social media imagery.

a bunch of different items

CVS leveraged the pandemic in an April circular to dangle a free “Beauty Unaltered” face mask to ExtraCare loyalty members with the purchase of $10 worth of cosmetics from Markwins International’s Wet n Wild and Physicians Formula. The feature highlighted the purchase incentive alongside multiple products from the brands elevated as “New to CVS.” (Beauty Unaltered represents CVS’ marketing guidelines and depicts the CVS heart-shaped beauty mark to signal an image has not been materially altered.)

a group of people sitting at a table in front of a store

Rite Aid lobby and gondola displays are positioned on the floor, some serving more as product showcases than primary merchandising units. The display assortment even includes an upfront gondola display stocking a slew of miniature personal care and cosmetic SKUs, such as facial cleaners, makeup setting spray and dry shampoo, while reminding shoppers to “Bring home your favorite beauty Minis.” Signage in the department calls out “Natural Beauty Products” and identifies particular “free-from” ingredients lists.

graphical user interface, application

CVS has grown its footing in an emerging category with the recent launch of its first men’s grooming private label, Goodline Grooming Co., spanning cruelty-, paraben- and phthalate-free skin care, beard care, shaving, and bath and body SKUs. Employing a “Look Good, Be Well” trademarked tagline, the brand boasts it was built “For Guys, By Guys” (a CVS trademark), while its packaging flaunts a blue and white, modern barber shop aesthetic.

a large machine in a store

Walgreens showcases major beauty brands, including Coty Inc.’s CoverGirl, with dedicated sections of its beauty walls. Within their space, the brands leverage product glorifiers as well as backlit promotional signage.

graphical user interface

CVS has increasingly put its weight behind celebrity-backed brands, such as Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty cosmetics brand, which expanded its retail footprint by launching across more than 3,000 CVS stores and in October 2020. In stores, a dedicated, account-specific endcap merchandised the assortment, depicting a digitally unaltered image of Barrymore herself. On the day of the launch, Barrymore visited a CVS in New York for a photo-op. Select locations, including a store in Manhattan, also decked out their windows in colorful clings that depicted Barrymore.


Earlier this year, CVS began merchandising multiple new and exclusive shades of L’Oreal USA’s Brilliant Eyes shimmer liquid eyeshadow on an account-specific shelf display positioned in the cosmetics aisle. With names such as “moonstone,” “seeing stars” and “meteor shower,” the SKUs were presented under a “Star-gazing in paradise” message. The exclusive shades are also available on


Walgreens elevated “Beauty must-haves” from Procter & Gamble’s Olay in August, running a three-day exclusive savings event that promoted special deals on select products. In some stores, table displays were set up near store entrances and the beauty department showcasing a few encased Olay SKUs next to a corrugated, account-specific standee depicting a QR code that linked to a live Olay chat bot and fliers promoting the event.