Many shoppers whooped with delight late last year when Ulta Beauty and Target announced a deal putting the cosmetics retailer inside more than 100 Target stores. Investors were also pleased—both brands saw share prices rise.
Much of the credit for the partnership can be traced back to Shelley Haus, who joined Ulta in 2014 and was promoted to chief marketing officer two years ago. As the beauty retailer looks to the future and how shoppers will be spending, it’s pursuing a road map that includes virtual services and a hefty brick-and-mortar presence in Target, which as an essentials retailer did not close during the pandemic.
“The ability to innovate in that way, given the ways the consumer and industry have changed, is something we're extremely proud of,” says Haus.
She and her team of 130 are already looking ahead with other initiatives at Ulta, such as continuing the company’s work in diversity with its recent commitment to the 15 Percent Pledge giving shelf space to Black-owned businesses.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There is nothing in life that can’t be undone—except having kids. The point of that advice is don’t be afraid to make some changes in your career. There are time periods where it won’t work out but you can always course-correct and to know that makes things feel a little less scary and a little less risky.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest risk I took probably was leaving PepsiCo. I left to take a few months off and think about what I wanted my next chapter to be. People looked at that and thought ‘That’s kind of crazy.’ I was working so much and so intensely for so long. I knew I wanted to make a change in my career, but I couldn’t take a moment to decompress and think of what that could be. To take a step back and take four months off and use that time to reflect and think and get back in touch with my creativity was a big risk at the time. Luckily, it worked out great but that felt a little scary. It was 100% the right thing to do and is what started to set me up for the next steps that led me here.
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing and why?
I might do something in interior design and maybe with interior design and TV, like being the host of an interior design show. I love interior design it keeps my creativity flowing and it’s something I view as analytical. You’re envisioning the future space of something and putting the pieces together to get there.
What should the industry do to encourage more women and people of color into its ranks?
Two things—one is exposure. Exposure to what exists in marketing and for underrepresented groups, both women and ethnically diverse, sometimes they’re not exposed so they don’t know they can use their creativity. For instance, in amazing ways in the marketing industry or there are these amazing strategic and analytic roles in marketing. One of the things we do is give exposure—mentorships, internships, working with different groups to bring groups in and even help them understand all the amazing things in retail, beauty, marketing and advertising.
The second one is seeing and showcasing other people like them that have succeeded, Mary Dillon [outgoing CEO of Ulta] is a perfect example. She talked to us about the possibilities of having a family. She has four children and an amazing career at the same time and she’s showcasing what’s possible, doing that from the standpoint of being a first-generation college graduate. Seeing those possibilities in other people is inspiring to set the example and show others it can be done.
Which campaign or other piece of work have you seen in the last year that you wish you had done?
One is the Google work. They had some tremendous ads about the context of people searching, what they were looking for at the time. It tied in so beautifully with the hyper-relevance of society with where we were with COVID and social justice and the political environment.
The other was Dick’s Sporting Goods’ most recent campaign that featured the female leaders.
I was really impressed with the idea behind elevating female voices and leadership behind the scenes but also how that translated to how they were thinking about the impact they want to have in sports and their commitment there.