By Lauren Zumbach
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Barry Beck, one of the founders of beauty business “Bluemercury.” This article takes a look at the various forces in the beauty industry driving sales online and what is taking place at brick and mortar locations.
When Barry and Marla Beck launched Bluemercury in 1999 as an upscale, neighborhood alternative to the department store beauty-buying experience, they had to convince brands and investors to sell beauty outside the mall.
Even their company’s name, a combination of Marla’s favorite color and ancient Roman messenger god Mercury, a nod to their focus on giving customers quality beauty information and advice, wasn’t an immediate hit.
Today, the company, which has rapidly expanded since Macy’s bought it for $210 million in 2015, has nearly 140 stores and another 40 are expected to open this year.
Barry Beck, founder and chief operating officer, sat down with the Tribune to talk about why Bluemercury is opening stores when so many retailers are closing, why you won’t find them on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and how a company that wanted to fix the department store beauty experience wound up becoming part of one. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How long did it take to go from the idea to the first store?
A: The original idea I had was to bring these brands online, it was going to be an online-only business. The problem was nobody was shopping online. This was the first internet boom. My initial investor was Steve Case from America Online (now AOL) and they only wanted pure internet plays. I said guys, clicks and bricks is the future. They were dead set against (stores), but we needed it. We bought the first store, named it Bluemercury, opened a second store in Washington, D.C., but it was really the third store, in Philadelphia, that changed everything.