What a difference six months makes.

From 2012 to 2019, Ulta Beauty was expanding at breakneck speed and opening between 80 to 100 new stores every year.

Last year, the largest specialist beauty chain in the US announced it would be taking its first steps towards international expansion, starting with neighbouring Canada.

The company has temporarily shelved the plan to focus on the US market through omnichannel capabilities, loyalty and personalisation programs and market share growth in core categories.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also affected planned store openings in the US this year, which have been reduced from an initial 75 to 30. Ulta has also shuttered 19 poorly-performing stores.

The cost of curtailing its Canadian ambitions is expected to be about US$55 million. But Ulta believes the pause is temporary and continues to look to international markets to provide long-term growth opportunities.

According to CEO Mary Dillon: “We anticipate Covid-19 will influence longer-term market shifts and create new real estate opportunities, supporting our ambition to ultimately operate between 1500 to 1700 Ulta Beauty stores in the US.”

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