By Melissa Fares
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Online cosmetics retailer Birchbox made its debut inside several Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc stores across the United States on Thursday, one of many e-commerce companies expanding its physical presence to better connect with shoppers and drive sales.
Birchbox, which has two of its own stores in New York City and Paris, is among the many direct-to-consumer brands that are going brick-and-mortar as well as online to increase shopping options. Even Amazon.com Inc purchased Whole Foods, with about 500 stores, for $13.7 billion in 2017 to boost its grocery business. Walgreens would help Birchbox better serve "casual beauty customers" who are not a focus of the industry, Birchbox Chief Executive Katia Beauchamp said in an interview at a Duane Reade drugstore in Lower Manhattan. It is one of six Walgreens outlets that are part of Thursday's launch in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minneapolis' Mall of America.
Birchbox is targeting customers who do not regularly buy beauty products, Beauchamp said. "We kept saying that this customer - the 'casual consumer' - doesn't have a home, so let's build her a home."
"We have huge aspirations about digital and physical coming together," she said. "We think that the opportunity to serve the everyday consumer is a very big opportunity and we're looking at where and how fast can we do it."
Birchbox, which has a subscription-based model, said it will offer fewer options and more in-store direction and guidance so customers can discover skincare, makeup and hair products from more than 40 prestige brands quickly and easily, including COOLA, Sand & Sky, Wander Beauty and Beachwaver.
In 2019, New York-based Birchbox plans to enter five additional Walgreens stores in Dallas, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles in a major push to give customers a more hands-on experience in buying physical beauty products.
Walgreens also has been trying to boost sales through its prescription-only pharmacy business in partnership with supermarket chain Kroger Co as well.
(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)