Tara Simon, Ulta Beauty

Tara Simon, senior vice-president of Merchandising, Prestige Beauty at Ulta Beauty speaks to Caroline Neville MBE, president of CEW, about sitting up front in the beauty industry.

What are the most significant changes you’ve noticed in the beauty industry since starting at Ulta Beauty?

So much has changed since I joined Ulta Beauty back in 2012. The emergence of digitally native brands and the power of beauty influencers are the most significant changes I’ve witnessed.

Could you briefly explain the Ulta Beauty business model?

Our model is a combination of all things beauty all in one place. This includes cosmetics, fragrance, skincare, hair care and beauty services. We bring amazing brands – from entry-level to the height of luxury – and products together in a way that you just can’t find anywhere else. Ulta Beauty presents our guests with a true beauty experience, with more than 1,200 stores and on ulta.com.

What was the thinking behind adding luxury brands to the Ulta Beauty offering?

We want to provide our guests with exactly what they are looking for. Over time, we saw more and more interest from our guests in luxury brands, so we continue to make it happen. Adding Chanel Beauté to our assortment was a meaningful accomplishment.

How does Ulta Beauty communicate with its audience?

We are reactive to our guests’ needs, and available to them through multiple touch points. It begins with the in-store experience and guest engagement with our retail associates. We are also there for our beauty-lovers via social media and our own channels as well as our collaborations with beauty influencers and our brand partners to create customised experiences that we know will resonate with our guests.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I was so honoured to receive a CEW Achiever Award in 2018. It was a real high point in my career, and I am so awed still to have joined the list of strong female leaders who came before me.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve received in your career so far?

The most valuable advice that I have used throughout my career was from my mum, which she shared as I started at the University of Texas at Austin. I was overwhelmed by the number of people in my business-school classes. She said: “Honey, just sit up front, pay attention and take copious notes.” I am still a ‘sit-up-front’ kind of gal, and I translate this into my approach to business by being highly engaged and collaborative, no matter what I am working on.

Who or what most inspires you in the beauty industry?

I continue to be so inspired by the entrepreneurial females who founded and built their own brands. A few long-time favourites that I respect so much are Wende Zomnir of UrbanDecay, Maureen Kelly of Tarte and Jamie Kern Lima of IT Cosmetics. These ladies are the OG, but I love most recently seeing the next generation of brand-builders such as Kylie Jenner.

What do you consider as the biggest challenge facing the beauty industry today?

Our guests have an insatiable need for newness and what is on trend. Meeting this need can be a challenge. And, while her never-ending quest to ‘get it first’ can be daunting, it motivates us to continue to win with more product exclusives and early lead launches.

Which three items/products can you not leave home without?

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum, IT Cosmetics CC Crème, and Tarte Shape Tape Concealer.

How do you start your day? 

With 15 minutes of meditation, an almond milk latte, and a daily workout at 6:00 am.

What was the title of the last book you read?  

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

How do you switch off?

By keeping my phone out of sight, and enjoying the company of my cherished friends and family.