Look Inside CVS' New BeautyIRL Store-Within-A-Store

Jacqueline Barba
Associate Editor
Jacqueline Barba profile picture

CVS/pharmacy recently debuted a new store-within-a-store beauty experience dubbed BeautyIRL (which in social media lingo stands for “in real life”) aimed at elevating the category as well as encouraging discovery of new products and trends.

More than double the size of CVS’ typical beauty department, the concept takes a page from Ulta and Sephora's playbook, aiming to provide beauty buffs an expanded assortment of trendy products as well as some beauty services. 

Only four stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida house the new format. P2PI recently visited the Andover, MA, location. Here’s what we found:

An "express beauty bar" powered by on-demand beauty service Glamsquad and staffed with Glamsquad professionals offers services including blowouts, dry styling and braids, as well as a 30-minute makeup refresher and skin care services such as face masks. (The Florida locations are additionally piloting manicures.)

An Essie nail polish illuminated display connects to the BeautyIRL bar.

Merchandising space is devoted to more than 30 indie beauty brands including Storybook Cosmetics, Luxury Lab's Doll Face and Zoella.

Additional key elements of the BeautyIRL experience include:

  • A #NowTrending wall showcases socially relevant indie brands including Karity, The Creme Shop, TPG Growth's e.l.f. and KF Beauty’s Wunder2.
  • An expanded Korean beauty assortment includes SKUs “handpicked” by brand Peach Slices and merchandised on an illuminated gondola display.
  • Illuminated displays for brands like Peripera and CVS’ recently launched, exclusive K-beauty-inspired brand from Kiss Products, Joah.
  • “Brand boutiques” that are dedicated to single brands at a time, presented as “the iconic brands CVS/pharmacy customers know and love,” including L'Oreal's NYX.
  • The “CVS beauty mark” watermark, which identifies promotional images that haven’t been materially altered as part of the retailer's recently launched “Beauty in Real Life” campaign.
  • A custom hair color mixing machine, dubbed “Polly,” powered by third party e-commerce company eSalon. On-site eSalon color consultants are available to assist shoppers in determining a desired shade and operating the mixing machine to dispense the custom color immediately.
  • “Test-and-Play hygiene bars,” offering mirrors and disposable applicators allowing shoppers to try on makeup before buying.
  • A “Wonder Wall” boutique merchandising trial- and travel-size beauty products, inviting shoppers to create their own bag of beauty samples.
  • A “bath cart” display set up like a shopping cart stocking a slew of bath bombs, soaps and other products shaped like sweet treats such as donuts and ice cream.
  • Signs attached to in-line displays touting CVS’ recently-revamped Beauty Club loyalty program.
  • An expanded accessories assortment including bags and jewelry such as earrings, presented on an in-line display targeting shoppers with sensitive ears using a “1 in 3 women suffer from metal allergies” message. Claire’s accessories (among others) also enjoy in-line merchandising space in the department.
  • LED screens positioned on the #NowTrending wall, endcaps and throughout the beauty department. The screens play videos promoting various products and brands such as CEI Holdings’ Essence Cosmetics.

This redesigned in-store beauty department is part of a broader initiative to go beyond traditional drugstore beauty offerings. According to CVS, BeautyIRL will rollout to more stores as well as online in 2019. The retailer has already begun integrating the concept on its website (

Path to Purchase Institute members can view the complete photo audit of the BeautyIRL store at Members also have access to more than 3,400 images and 400 articles of marketing and merchandising activity at CVS, along with a full Retailer Profile outlining the chain’s operations and strategies.