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DTC Brand Dime Makes Brick-And-Mortar Retail Debut At Ulta Beauty

For its first move into physical retail, fast-growing direct-to-consumer brand Dime is heading to Ulta Beauty.

Slated to be in 540 of the beauty specialty chain’s stores by March, it will roll out to more than 100 locations on tables dedicated to the Sparked program for emerging brands on Feb. 4. Adhering to Ulta’s Conscious Beauty ingredient, packaging and impact criteria, the clean brand’s initial assortment at the retailer will contain eight products, including $36 Restorative Night Cream, $36 Dewy Day Cream, $38 Luminosity Eye Serum, $30 Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $38 TBT Serum, $48 7 Summer Perfume and $48 Dans Les Bois Perfume.

“It’s no secret that Ulta is one of the largest beauty retailers in the world and, from the start of Dime, Ulta has always been our goal,” says Baylee Relf, a master aesthetician who founded Dime with her husband Ryan in 2018. “The second they believed in us, our mission and what we’re doing, we were so excited that they decided to take a chance on us, and we couldn’t be more excited to explore our connection with them.”

Muffy Clince, senior director of merchandising for emerging brands and initiatives at Ulta, indicates the reaction Dime has received on Ulta’s website, where it launched in October 2022, has persuaded the retailer it will be productive in stores. In a statement, she says, “From the modern branding to the clean and conscious composition of Dime’s skincare offerings, it was evident that this brand had potential to expand into stores and become discovered by even more Ulta Beauty guests. At a destination offering mass skincare essentials and luxury products, Dime stands out with its transparency and approachable price point, creating a unique offering for our skincare and self-care enthusiasts.”

Ryan, who was previously in business development at packaging firm CasePak and co-founded contract manufacturer SMPL Manufacturing in addition to Dime, chimes in, “Ulta really fit our customer demographic as well, and we love what they were doing with Conscious Beauty. We felt our standards were in line with theirs, and the customer that shops at Ulta is in the sweet spot for us.”

Dime packages its products in glass and formulates with ingredients that have low hazard ratings as deemed by the Environmental Working Group, an organization that ranks ingredients based on data availability and suspected health, ecotoxicity and contamination concerns. Ryan says the EWG Verified logo will be on display at Ulta on fixtures featuring Dime merchandise and mentions third-party validation has helped build consumer confidence in the brand. In the beauty industry, EWG is a controversial voice that’s been criticized for fearmongering.

Discussing the relevance of clean beauty today, Baylee says, “Customers are demanding more transparency in ingredients. They really want to know more about what is in their products and what it is doing. We take clean claims very seriously and know everything about the ingredients going into each of our formulas. Our audience is only getting smarter about ingredients.”

Beyond clean beauty and EWG verification, the Relfs underscore their experience in the beauty industry is important to consumers seeking authority. They joke they may be the only couple whose pillow talk tends to veer toward discussions of skincare ingredients. “I never want people to doubt what they are putting on their skin,” says Baylee. “We can provide education that people are wanting because we are a professionally founded brand. They want something they can trust and that they know the person behind it is going to be providing good ingredients and quality products.”

Since the pandemic hit the United States, Dime’s sales have accelerated at a compound annual growth rate of 108%, and the brand has crossed a nine-figure sales total. After kicking off with an eyelash serum and mascara, it benefited from beauty consumers hunting for better-for-you skincare online during the pandemic, when it ramped up marketing focused on influencers with a wide array of followings, from some 500 to over 1 million, and discovered strong interest among women aged 30 to 55 years old particularly in the Midwest and Texas.

“It’s women who want to take charge of their skincare routine and get results, but they don’t want to break the bank doing so,” says Ryan. “We have easy-to-understand solutions at an approachable price point.”

Dime’s sets have been central to its easy-to-understand approach and customer acquisition strategy. The Works bundles six of its skincare bestsellers for $180 or as low as $114.75 on subscription. A two-product Serum Set is priced at $60 or $42.75 on subscription. As Dime gets underway at Ulta, the retailer is bringing in its perfume set priced at $28. The set houses sample sizes of the brand’s five bestselling perfumes: I Love Your Smell, BabyTM, Lovely Sweet Dreams, Malibu Night, 7 Summers and Dans Les Bois.

To date, Dime has relied heavily on Meta platforms for marketing. The brand has 331,000 followers on Instagram. To support Ulta and broaden its reach, Dime is diversifying its marketing mix by experimenting with TikTok, YouTube, direct mail and connected television.

Across its product range, Dime has 48 stockkeeping units priced primarily from $18 to $58. At the end of 2020, the brand ventured into fragrance with a skin-centered philosophy. Designed to be hypoallergenic, its perfumes use organic sugar cane alcohol and purified water, and they’ve been a tool to draw new customers to the brand. Ryan says, “We tapped that consumer looking for an awesome perfume that cares about ingredients and what they’re putting on their body.”

However, he stresses that Dime is a skincare brand, not a perfume brand, and will be diving deeper into anti-aging skincare. In its anti-aging products, the brand gravitates to clean alternatives to potent skincare actives. For example, Dime’s TBT Serum has bakuchiol, an ingredient derived from the babchi plant that it describes as a “clean retinol alternative.”

“As a brand, we are all about innovation and disrupting the market with clean technology. We believe in clean alternatives,” says Ryan. “We don’t believe in retinol. We believe it is too aggressive for the skin’s barrier lipids, and we don’t understand the long-term consequences of high-intensity retinol.”

In 2022, Dime received funding from private equity firm Trilantic North America. Along with the Relfs, Mitch Casey is a co-founder of the brand. Ryan Relf and Casey are also both founders of venture capital firm Slapjack Capital. For the moment at Dime, Ryan says, “We don’t plan on taking any more investment. The plan is to grow from the investment we have and see where the next few years will take us.”

Speaking of where the next few years will take the brand, Ulta is currently its main distribution priority, but it expects to establish itself in the spa channel, beginning with an affiliate-style effort. Relf says, “A big pillar for Dime is we want to get to the point that, when people think of Dime, they think of us as the clean solution for skincare professionals.”

Of possible distribution partners outside of Ulta and spas, he says, “We are keeping the options open in the coming year. We want them to be organic fits for us. We don’t want to force it, and there is international expansion we want to eventually get into, too.”