If you tossed Ulta, Urban Outfitters, and Nyx into a cauldron and mixed them up, the resulting potion would be Riley Rose, the new beauty concept store brought to you by Forever 21. The brand just opened its first store in LA’s Glendale Galleria mall, with a website launching in November and 10 more store slated to open cross the country before the end of the year.
The store, which has a hot pink logo that borrows heavily from Barbie, was conceived by Linda and Esther Chang, the daughters of Forever 21’s founders. The two have long been involved with the marketing and visual merchandising at Forever 21, but they felt that something was missing in beauty.
“We felt there was a hole in the market for a beauty and lifestyle brand that really catered to our generation, the Millennials as well as Gen Z, so we felt like, ‘Hey, let’s do it,’” Linda Chang said at a launch event at the store last Thursday evening. “We’ve been fortunate to travel around the world and see a lot of products and different concepts, and we felt like the US was missing some of this stuff.” (Forever 21 has a beauty department and will continue to sell the category, though the brands are different than what’s carried at Riley Rose.)
The aim was to offer a variety of products besides beauty — there’s a candy section, small housewares, stationery, and small accessories like socks and phone covers — and to prompt discovery of new brands. According to Chang, the store carries approximately 200 brands, about 80 of which she estimates are beauty. She says that brands will rotate in and out based on popularity and to provide constant “discovery” opportunities for customers.
The collection of beauty brands is quirky, with a lot of indies in the mix. Prices range from $3 for a sheet mask up to just over $50 for some skincare, though most seemed to be in the $10-to-$30 range. Quite a large section is dedicated to K-beauty: You can find Missha, Goodal, CosRX, Thank You Farmer, Tony Moly, and Huxley, to name just a few, as well as multiple sheet mask brands scattered all over the store.
The hair section features Briogeo, R+Co, Living Proof, Gnarly Whale, and more. The makeup section has shelves with testers dedicated to Laura Geller, Stila, RMS, Lime Crime, Lottie London, Winky Lux, Korean brand Touch n Sol, and a small assortment from Surratt Beauty. At the ends of the makeup aisles, Riley Rose curates products in different themes, like glitter. There are natural brands scattered throughout the store, too, and a small section of bath products, including beautiful soaps from Mistral. Perfumes from Demeter, Pinrose, and Ded Cool and nail polish from Floss Gloss and Nails Inc. round out the beauty assortment.
The non-beauty sections were even more fun. Several shelves of candy included gummies in all shapes and flavors, chocolate bars in fun flavors like s’mores, Asian candies, and a big assortment from Dylan’s Candy Bar. Need a mug? There were several with unicorns and mermaids emblazoned on them. You can also get rose gold kitchenware and Bkr bottles. The stationery section was loaded with glitter pens and pretty journals, and a wall of phone cases rivals the selection at Charming Charlie.
The whole place is made for Instagram, from the tub full of bath bombs to the selfie wall of pink neon. If you tag Riley Rose, your images will come through a live feed that is on screens in the store. You can find iPads with beauty tutorials on vanities in the center of the store.
According to Chang, the full assortment of products that you’ll find in stores won’t be available online once the site goes live because the company wants to encourage people to come to the stores for the experience and to play. “We’re going to rotate the brands based on what we see emerging, and if sales are good, we’ll keep them,” Chang says. “But it’s about the newness.” Chang says she can see eventually opening “hundreds” of Riley Roses.
Beauty is booming, with retailers like Ulta and Sephora leading the pack for an ever-hungry customer base that wants the newest and coolest beauty products. And department stores like Nordstrom have been implementing creative strategies like a K-beauty pop-in concept and a section devoted to natural beauty brands, while individual brands like Nyx are successfully opening brick-and-mortar stores at malls all over the country. Riley Rose has definitely been paying attention, and it quite possibly upped the game for getting young people to come to the mall and buy stuff. —Cheryl Wischhover, senior beauty reporter