From ballgowns to budgets for beauty, everything really is bigger in Dallas — as artist and creative director Donald Robertson can attest to.
The onetime New Yorker moved his family from Los Angeles to Dallas during the pandemic, after falling in love with the town during store events at Forty Five Ten, the concept store in the city’s tony Highland Park neighborhood.
“Nobody knows about Dallas or Highland Park because there’s no tourism,” he said. “When we moved here, someone told my wife, you’ll need two ballgowns a season. That was a quote. And sure enough, she had to buy two ballgowns for the season because they have so many events and fundraisers. People really do get decked out.”
The third-largest city in the state with a population of more than 6.5 million people in the greater Dallas-Forth Worth metro area is a hotbed of activity for luxury-loving consumers. According to Circana, prestige beauty sales in Dallas are growing 17 percent, faster than the rest of the U.S. Also, Dallas is the fourth-largest U.S. market within prestige beauty, generating $814 million in retail sales in 2022.
So what’s driving the beauty boom?
It’s the influx of new residents due to the pandemic, the glamourization and renovations of malls and shopping centers, and a reason to go out again with social happenings and events throughout the city.
“The Dallas luxe beauty boom (and all other things luxe) has been driven by, for one, the oil boom (that is, the higher price of oil),” says Wendy Liebmann, founder and chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail, noting that means more money in the city and the market.
“Second, several high-end malls, specifically Northpark and Highland Park Village, have been renovated, remixed, and seriously glamorized,” she continues. “New luxury fashion brands, like Dior, which replaced Ralph Lauren at Highland Park, have driven sales of more luxe everything, including beauty. And, of course, as the world has opened up, the well-dressed have had more occasions to dress up and go out.”
Northpark Mall, which houses Neiman Marcus, and Highland Park Village, the home to boutiques like Bluemercury, Dr. Barbara Sturm, and Le Labo, as well as designer shops like Chanel and Hèrmes, and a membership-only social club called Parkhouse, is bustling like never before. And due to these store attractions and the influx of new residents, parking has become gruesome.
“Dallas women take so much pride in their routines,” says Dallas resident and cofounder of UBeauty, Tina Chen Craig. “I remember when I learned that Dallas sells more luxury skin care per square foot than anywhere else in the country. The women are very well-versed in beauty products and don’t just go for the name brand. They want something that shows results.
“Dallas people are very loyal,” she adds. “They look things up, study it, and they’re not just blindly following trends. Dallas is a top-three market for us and it’s not just because I live here.”
Take Nancy Carlson, a partner at Dallas-based Carlson Capital LP, and an avid proponent of discovering new brands. “If Joanna Czech recommends something new or I read about something new, I’ll definitely try it,” she said. “If something in the stratosphere makes a difference that is going to be effective, and make my skin look better, then I’m probably going to be OK with the price.”
It’s an attitude that’s driven demand for luxe lines like RéVive, whose top-sellers include a $60 lip balm, a $600 volumizing serum, and the $1,500 Peau Magnifique, a four-week treatment regimen which is said to replicate the effects of more invasive cosmetic procedures. Recently, the brand held a pop-up at Northpark Mall in Neiman Marcus. The space was parked looking out toward the mall with a large installation shoppers couldn’t miss. During the pop-up, the brand saw a 220 percent increase in revenue, had 245 customers during the two weeks, and performed 112 express services.
“Dallas feels like a real renaissance for luxury,” says Elana Drell Szyfer, chief executive officer of RéVive. “What we learned about the Dallas luxury skin care customer is that 80 percent of them are buying product, but they’re also getting some kind of service.”
RéVive used to only have a large East and West Coast concentration where they did business. But now most of its accounts, including Neiman Marcus, its heritage account, Bluemercury and Cos Bar, are number-one doors in Dallas for the brand.
To that end, events are incredibly important to the Dallas consumer. There’s a certain flakiness that can be had on the East and West coasts, but in Dallas, the customer always shows up. Jamie O’Banion, Dallas-based CEO and founder of BeautyBio, shared an example of a Nordstrom event where the brand transformed the entire handbag section and built an immersive BeautyBio space.
“The Dallas customer loves the high-touch experience,” she says. “It works well for us as a brand. You can get a facial at a spa at our same retailer and then take our tools home.”
Drell Szyfer adds there’s a country club culture in Dallas, which provides a concentrated customer opportunity, and a lot of brands will do private events at these spaces to attract new consumers.
That said, retailers also see the importance of events in Dallas and partner with brands to create intentional experiences. For example, the Bluemercury Dallas location is the retailer’s top event store with a clientele willing to sit down and be educated by the experts in-store.
“The person who lives in Dallas is generally educated on skin care treatments and plastic surgery,” says Dallas resident Leigh Quilhot, senior director of merchandising at Bluemercury. “They have a great relationship with their dermatologist, so in skin care or hair care, for example, they’re very engaged with products that extend and amplify treatments.”
Bluemercury’s events run the gamut from makeovers with Chantecaille to skin care events with Augustinus Bader, and hairstyling with Dyson. “We’ve sold more Air Wraps at our Dallas location than any other location,” Quilhot adds, of the $599.99 hair tool.
Meanwhile, during the pandemic, an onslaught of industry beauty folk migrated from New York and Los Angeles to Dallas.
“Now that I’ve moved here, I’ve learned Dallas is the best-kept secret in America,” says David Olsen, managing director of Highlander Partners and CEO of RMS Beauty. “It’s an easier place to live compared to New York City or L.A. Likely, a lot of brands are here because there are the non-sexy beauty things happening in Dallas and Texas. For example, There’s FusionPKG packaging, which has been here a long time and is used by hundreds of top brands. There’s also manufacturing and 3PLs [third-party logistics] all over Texas. So for businesses that want more centralization of operations and potential margin improvements, Dallas is more business-friendly.”
Adwoa Beauty founder and CEO Julian Addo agrees. “From a business standpoint, it’s a major city, and it moves like a major city, but it’s not as expensive,” she says. “We are located downtown; we have two spaces overlooking the skyline of downtown Dallas. I would probably not be able to do this in NYC or L.A., especially when we first started. So Dallas is cost-effective even though it’s gone up quite a bit. There’s no state income tax and it’s a great place to do business because we can get our shipments anywhere in the U.S. in two to three days.”
Jack Black, which was born and bred in Dallas in 2000 and acquired by Edgewell Personal Care in 2018, is the official men’s skin care brand of the Dallas Cowboys, so they invest a lot in local partnerships. “A lot of companies are moving here,” says Gabi DeLatin, head of marketing at Edgewell Personal Care. “We’re also seeing just north of Dallas, a lot of companies moving to Frisco. So beauty companies have a lot of space to build and plant their headquarters.”
And while the Dallas customer is highly invested in skin care, makeup and hair care, there is a lot of growth potential in wellness, even though wellness culture is minimal when one compares Dallas to New York and Los Angeles.
“Clients ask me what functional medicine doctors I recommend in Dallas,” says Joanna Czech, facialist, founder of her eponymous skin care brand, and owner of Joanna Czech Studio in Dallas and New York City. “They ask me about health and wellness, and, honestly, we don’t have enough yet here in Dallas. There are many amazing plastic surgeons in Dallas and women from other parts of the world travel for it specifically.”
Bluemercury is also seeing the rise of wellness in its Dallas location. Last year, the retailer launched The Cache, its emerging brands platform that includes companies with limited distribution that are identified as ones to watch.
“The Cache in Dallas is our top store for those brands,” says Quilhot. “The Dallas customer doesn’t just want the brand that everyone else is purchasing. We’ve seen a demand for items like Higher Dose sauna blankets, which is pretty niche. Things like beauty tools and supplements require someone to be really engaged and knowledgeable about beauty, which speaks to the level of awareness of that consumer.”
Speaking of awareness, the Dallas customer’s style and look has changed in the past few years. “The reason why people come to see me is because we are all about looking natural in my practice,” says Dallas-based dermatologist Flora Kim. “That trend is becoming much more dominant in Dallas. Before, it was about exaggerating your features, but there is a new appreciation that beauty is not confined to one particular look.”
During the pandemic, L.A.-based celebrity makeup artist Kira Nasrat relocated to Dallas and has fully embraced the scene. “People in Dallas love to put effort into their appearance,” she says. “They always have on a beautiful face. Their hair is perfectly volumized and done. They always have a manicure and a pedicure. They’re going to their local Sephora, Bluemercury, Neiman Marcus and for their Dr. Barbara Sturm facial.”
And speaking of Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based retailer was founded in 1907 and has four stores across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “DFW continues to be a key market for our business,” says Tatiana Birkelund, vice president and general manager of beauty and jewelry at Neiman Marcus. “We see a lot of excitement and interest in fragrance. Also, the personalized experience is as important as the products themselves, as our customers want to feel they are at the center of the process.”
Circana reports that similar to the total U.S., in Dallas, higher-end products are outpacing the overall prestige beauty market. This is driven particularly by consumers who are increasingly opting for higher-priced luxury fragrance brands and premium hair products. In fragrance, artisanal brands, which typically command a higher price point, have a greater presence in Dallas and are also outperforming the remaining U.S.
Top European designer brands, which also tend to have an above-average price point, are growing in Dallas at a faster rate than the remaining U.S. And growth rates in Dallas are stronger than the remaining market in makeup and skin care, with specific strength in the luxury sector.
“The Dallas consumer is looking for the most efficacious skin care possible,” says Dallas-based Kelly St. John, founder of KSJ Collective. “She’s not as concerned with hyper-clean. Although it’s always shocking to me how many people don’t know about Credo or Detox Market. But Dallas isn’t driven as much by that. They want to be educated, but at the end of the day, they want a product that is of the highest standards from a technology perspective.”
Cos Bar has seen that kind of appreciation for luxury beauty, too. “Our Dallas location is a top door for us,” says Oliver Garfield, CEO of Cos Bar. “We opened Dallas at the end of 2018 and in year one, it was the best store we’ve ever opened in terms of volume. It’s been like a rocket ship ever since. The Dallas customer doesn’t often ask how much something costs. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about value, but they’re about discovery across all categories.”