Ulta Beaut
y was founded over 30 years ago with a bold vision to disrupt and change the beauty industry. The brand’s ethos is to provide consumers access to all beauty price points from value to prestige across many beauty categories. CEO of Ulta Beauty, Dave Kimbell, has ushered in a new era for Ulta Beauty by leading with heart and humility, conviction and collaboration. In his first year, he rallied the company around a Bigger, Better, Together approach with a focus on the human connections both with employees and customers. In an interview with Kimbell, he shares thoughts about this new era and reflections on the past year.

Mary Dillion passes the baton to Dave Kimbell

Last June, Mary Dillion, former CEO of Ulta Beauty, stepped down and passed the reins of the company over to Kimbell. The success of transition does not only come from Kimbell’s experience having worked at the company at that time for over seven years in several executive roles but is attributed to Dillon’s transition process. Kimbell said, “Mary was an exceptional leader and had such a major impact on the business. She set up an excellent transition by preparing the company for this moment of moving the business forward.” Kimbell discussed that he was so grateful for having the opportunity to work with Dillion and feels he is not stepping in her shoes, as those would be too big to fill, but is working towards building the business from where she had left off.

The pandemic has reinforced the need for human connectedness

Looking back over the past year, Kimbell said, “I think we all learned more in the past two years than we learned in the past ten years,” referring to the pandemic’s impact on retail, the supply chain disruptions and the major shifts in consumer demand. He shared his philosophy, which is: “Leading with the heart, care, compassion, empathy and inclusion are more important than ever.” There is an innate human need to connect, support and engage with others, especially in times of stress and difficulty as consumers and employees have experienced over the past couple of years. Kimbell discussed the importance of needing to understand what is going on in the consumers’ own lives and the lives of the Ulta Beauty team members as they face professional and personal challenges.

Key formula for success

Kimbell discussed the key to Ulta Beauty’s success, attributing much of it to the founding principles of the company; establishing a highly engaging, inviting, and inclusive environment that provides all price points for customers. The three core drivers that have allowed the company to lead the beauty industry include being in the beauty category itself, creating great environments for shoppers and being committed and invested in employee culture. The beauty category has been strong throughout the pandemic, especially with consumers’ focus on health and wellness. The environment at Ulta Beauty provides access to a wide range of beauty products across many price points. Investments in teams and culture with a focus on taking care of each other, according to Kimbell, “Allows each associate to bring their best to work every day.” Ulta Beauty is doubling its DEI commitments in 2022 to keep the company energized, creative and dedicated to leading in this critical space.


Ulta Beauty at over 100 Target


Under Kimbell’s leadership as CEO, the company had the official launch of Ulta Beauty at Target, bringing its one-of-a-kind prestige assortment across the country to more than 100 Target locations. The partnership with Target has allowed shoppers and beauty enthusiasts better access to Ulta Beauty. Kimbell said, “We can attract new members to our loyalty program as 30 million guests walk through a Target every week and it provides our Ultamate members easy access to buy from our Ulta Beauty at Target stores.” Both companies worked collaboratively to create a shopping experience that reflects the brands. Kimbell added, “We are really pleased with the execution of the design that has created an experience that beauty enthusiasts love.”

Ulta Beauty’s strategy shows strong results

Ulta Beauty’s third and fourth-quarter earnings from 2021, the time when Kimbell became CEO, beat out estimates delivering sales increases of 29% and 24% respectively. Recent 2022 first-quarter earnings also showed strong sales growth of 21%. Kimbell has no intention of slowing down and in fact, the company raised its guidance for the full year, bumping up the initial sales increase estimate of between 3 and 4% to a new projection of between 6 and 8%. Kimbell stated, “There is strength across the beauty category, a wide range of demographics and across all shopping channels (digital, physical stores, salon services) and the partnership with Ulta Beauty at Target which continues to drive customer experience and revenue growth.” Kimbell’s vision is to be the most loved beauty destination for guests, an employer of choice for its workers, and the most admired retailer for partners, communities and investors. Ultamate, the company’s loyalty program, currently has a record-high 37 million active members.


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