ULTA Beauty Competitors and Alternatives

An Overview of ULTA Beauty

ULTA Beauty has emerged as one of the largest beauty retailers in the United States. With over 1,200 stores across 50 states, ULTA offers customers a wide selection of cosmetics, fragrance, skincare, bath and body products, salon styling tools, and more. From mass to prestige brands, ULTA aims to be a one-stop shop for all beauty needs and budgets.

Founded in: 1990
Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas, United States
Industry: Retail – Beauty, Cosmetics
Current CEO: Dave Kimbell
Annual Revenue [2023]: US$ 10.208 Billion 
Employee Count: ~ 37,000
Website: ulta.com

Several factors underlie ULTA’s revenue growth. The company has invested significantly in omnichannel integration, with customers able to shop online and in physical retail spaces seamlessly. Partnerships with influencers and brands have heightened ULTA’s profile with younger demographics. Brick-and-mortar expansion continues as well, bringing the ULTA shopping experience to new communities.

With proven financial results and continued plans for expansion, ULTA Beauty finds itself in an enviable position moving forward in the competitive beauty marketplace. The company’s broad selection, one-stop-shop model and stellar customer experience will likely fuel additional growth in sales and profits in coming years.

ULTA Beauty’s Main Products and Services
Cosmetics, Fragrance, Skincare, Haircare, Nail Products, Tools and Accessories, and Salon Services
Brand Portfolio of ULTA Beauty
Ulta Beauty Collection, about-face, Dolce&Gabbana, It Cosmetics, Lancôme, MAC, Morphe, OUAI, PAT McGRATH LABS, PEACH & LILY, Too Faced, Tula, Clinique, Chanel Beauty, Fenty Beauty, etc
Competitiors of ULTA Beauty
Sephora, Sally Beauty, Amazon, Target, Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, Costco, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Kohl’s, Beauty Brands, JCPenney, Bath & Body Works, Douglas, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Neiman Marcus, The Body Shop, Bed Bath & Beyond

However, there are several noteworthy companies that also provide strong competition as ULTA Beauty competitors and alternatives. By examining brands like Sephora, Sally Beauty, CVS and Walgreens, consumers can weigh different options for purchasing makeup, hair styling tools, nail polish, perfume and more. This overview will compare key players as alternatives for beauty product shopping beyond just ULTA Beauty.


Sephora has emerged as a major competitor to ULTA in recent years. With over 400 stores across the Americas, Sephora targets the premium cosmetics shopper. It offers prestige brands not always found at mass retailers, as well as extensive beauty services like makeovers. Perfumes and Cosmetics categories have been key performers, with revenue rising by 17% in 2022, boosted by a strong performance from Christian Dior and the success of Fenty Beauty.

This positions Sephora well with beauty enthusiasts seeking high-end, on-trend products. However, Sephora’s narrowed prestige focus can alienate budget shoppers. Still, with innovation like virtual try-on technology, Sephora threatens ULTA’s dominance. Digital offerings include Pocket Contour, beacons for personalized notifications, Sephora Flash for fast shipping, and the successful Virtual Artist app using augmented reality.

Sally Beauty

Sally Beauty distinguishes itself by catering to salon professionals in addition to retail consumers. With a massive selection of salon-quality hair, nail, and beauty products at affordable prices, Sally Beauty appeals to beauty enthusiasts and novice users alike. It has carved a niche providing products to equip salon businesses. This B2B element creates steady revenue on top of consumer retail.

Sally Beauty stands out not only for its product assortment but also for its commitment to DIY education. The DIY University by Sally Beauty provides hands-on tutorials covering various topics, including the latest trends in hair styling, hair color, and nails. Moreover Sally Beauty’s new concept store, Studio by Sally, leverages technology and a DIY-centric approach to enhance customer experiences, combining in-store and online elements to empower customers in their DIY hair journeys. However, Sally Beauty lacks prestige brands offered at Sephora and ULTA. Its price-driven assortment may not attract brand-conscious shoppers.


Amazon is quickly becoming a beauty destination with its vast and rapidly expanding assortment of mass and prestige beauty. As an everything store with unrivaled selection and convenience, Amazon makes beauty shopping effortless for its Prime members. In the second quarter of 2023, Amazon sold almost $1 billion more in beauty products compared to the same period in 2022, allowing it to gain share.

In 2022, approximately 1/5 of global shoppers bought cosmetics from Amazon. While traditionally focused on mass-market and indie brands, Amazon is gradually entering the luxury beauty market. For Instance, In June 2023, Amazon Beauty has launched its Global Beauty Store, featuring a curated selection of over 60 international beauty brands and 5,000 products, providing customers access to a diverse range of premium and exotic beauty products.

However, Amazon has room to improve in providing an engaging, personalized beauty shopping experience. ULTA’s physical stores and beauty expertise still give it an edge over Amazon in aspects like try-before-you-buy.


Target has stepped up its beauty game in recent years, expanding prestige brand offerings through partnerships, improving in-store shopping displays, and launching initiatives like cleaner beauty standards. This signals Target aims to be a one-stop destination spanning all categories. Beauty is central to that goal. With Scale and omni-channel convenience, Target may draw beauty dollars away from specialty retailers like ULTA through sheer proximity and impulse purchases during routine shopping trips.

Moreover, Target is expanding its beauty offerings by adding nearly 40 new beauty brands, with a strong focus on Black-owned or -founded brands and Target Clean offerings. The retailer is committed to spending $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025 and has increased its Black-owned and -founded beauty brand assortment by 65% since 2020.

Target’s increased focus on diversity and sustainability in beauty signifies that inclusion and eco-consciousness are becoming must-haves for brands hoping to achieve mainstream retail success. The retailer’s initiatives will likely push the industry at large to prioritize these values to an even greater degree going forward.


As one of the largest big-box retailers, Walmart competes directly with ULTA by offering a wide range of beauty and personal care products at low prices. With its extensive national presence and massive supply chain, Walmart is able to undercut many competitors on price. Walmart’s online share of beauty sales has doubled from 1.6% in 2019 to 3.5% in 2023.

Though its beauty section lacks the breadth of specialty products or prestige brands found at ULTA, Walmart appeals to value-conscious shoppers looking for drugstore beauty and haircare staples. Its massive consumer reach also allows Walmart to quickly scale and respond to the latest mass-market beauty trends.

Moreover, In October 2023, Walmart announced that they are introducing AI-powered try-on technology through its partnership with Perfect Corp., allowing customers to virtually try on over 1,400 beauty products from 20 brands via the Walmart iOS app. This move aligns with Walmart’s commitment to personalization, sustainability, and expanding its beauty department’s offerings.

CVS Pharmacy

As a major drugstore chain, CVS Pharmacy appeals to convenience-focused shoppers looking for mainstream beauty products. With over 9,000 locations nationwide, CVS competes by making beauty shopping part of consumers’ regular errand runs. CVS offers a strong assortment of classic mass beauty brands at competitive prices while lacking the salon services or specialty products that differentiate ULTA. However, through its ExtraCare rewards program and emphasis on a welcoming in-store experience, CVS aims to establish beauty shopping as part of its customers’ regular routines.


In FY 2022, the company reported a annual revenue of $226.9 billion, reflecting a 15.83% growth compared to the previous year. With its warehouse model focused on value, Costco offers beauty and personal care products mainly in bulk sizes or multi-packs, appealing to shoppers looking for deals.

Though Costco doesn’t compete across ULTA’s full scope, it directly targets beauty enthusiasts and #shelfies through partnerships with brands like Chanel and offerings like sheet mask variety packs. Costco’s treasure hunt shopping experience and access to prestige beauty deals has driven strong growth within its beauty division. However, Costco caters more to stock-up trips rather than regular beauty regimens.


As a well-known department store, Macy’s competes with ULTA’s prestige cosmetics assortment through its network of 500 locations and partnerships with leading makeup brands. Macy’s beauty section focuses more on makeup over haircare or skincare, lacking ULTA’s wider product scope.

However, by housing major cosmetic brands in a department store setting, Macy’s offers an alternative prestige beauty shopping experience centered around service, expertise guidance, and exclusive gifts-with-purchase promotions. With its higher-end positioning, Macy’s beauty targets customers looking for luxe or giftable beauty items during visits to shop fashion and home goods. The company has also been focusing on its digital and e-commerce channels, and in the second quarter of 2023, digital sales grew by double digits.


As a major department store, Nordstrom could be seen as a competitor to ULTA Beauty given its significant beauty assortment. However, Nordstrom approaches beauty as one category among many, lacking the specialization and focus that are ULTA’s strengths. Nordstrom also tends to emphasize high-end, prestige brands rather than the combination of mass, indie, and luxury products that ULTA sells.

On one hand, Nordstrom attracts shoppers interested in beauty within the context of high-end fashion, its diffuse approach and higher price points differentiate it from the beauty-centric ULTA shopping experience. Still, the increasing prioritization of in-store beauty services shows Nordstrom making efforts to expand in the space.


Like Nordstrom, Dillard’s is a fashion-anchored department store that has moved to expand its beauty selections in recent years. However, it still lacks the depth and breadth of beauty brands offered by a specialty retailer like ULTA. Dillard’s emphasizes moderately-priced cosmetics lines and classic fragrances, hewing towards safe, middle-of-the-road options rather than catering to diverse preferences.

While Dillard’s locations do feature in-house beauty boutiques, they cannot provide the immersive, beauty-only experience of an ULTA store. Ultimately, Dillard’s beauty department serves more as an accompaniment to promote apparel sales rather than as a destination in its own right. As such, Dillard’s poses little challenge to ULTA’s beauty specialty dominance.


Like its department store peers, Kohl’s has scaled up its beauty assortment as the category grows in popularity with shoppers. However, the ULTA shopping experience—with knowledgeable advisors, testers and samples, salon services, and a fun, discovery-oriented environment—is far different than picking up cosmetics incidentally alongside clothing and home goods at Kohl’s.

The Kohl’s beauty section primarily carries mass brands with limited high-end offerings, leaving an opening for ULTA to be a one-stop shop across prestige, mass, indie, skincare, fragrance, and more. While the deep discounts and convenience of adding beauty items to a Kohl’s apparel haul will appeal to some shoppers, ULTA better serves dedicated beauty enthusiasts through product selection, services, and overall shopping experience.

Beauty Brands

As a salon and beauty products retailer, Beauty Brands comes closest to direct competition with ULTA’s combination of salon services and extensive beauty selection under one roof. Like ULTA, it offers salon hair, skin, nail and spa services paired with hundreds of professional beauty brands across categories to meet diverse consumer needs.

However, while ULTA has outpaced the growth of Beauty Brands significantly, expanding to over 1,200 stores, Beauty Brands has stagnated at about 60 locations in Midwestern states only. ULTA also offers more coveted prestige brands that beauty enthusiasts seek out. With its national scale, balanced product assortment, gift-with-purchase promotions, and experienced team of beauty advisors, ULTA still stands apart from Beauty Brands as the go-to beauty shopping destination for mass and boutique beauty shoppers.


JCPenney is a major competitor to ULTA with over 800 store locations across the United States. While not a specialty beauty retailer, JCPenney dedicates significant floor space to prestige and mass cosmetics brands. Their massive footprint allows them to reach shoppers who may not live near an ULTA store. JCPenney competes directly with ULTA’s strength in affordable makeup, skincare, and bath products. However, ULTA offers a wider assortment from premium brands that cater to beauty enthusiasts.

Bath & Body Works

Bath & Body Works, with over 1,700 locations, rivals ULTA in the bath and body care space. Their focus on fragrance-driven body care products attracts a similar target demographic to ULTA. Bath & Body Works outpaces ULTA in its in-store experience and giftable product assortment around the holidays. ULTA provides more depth in color cosmetics and salon hair care. ULTA also appeals to shoppers seeking chemicals free and clean beauty products, an area where Bath & Body Works selection is more limited.


Douglas is a European beauty retailer with over 2,400 stores that shares similarities to ULTA in its model. Douglas competes directly with ULTA by carrying popular American brands unavailable elsewhere in Europe. It differentiation lies in its focus on luxury skincare and fragrances rather than mass-market makeup. Douglas also provides high-touch beauty consultations and services catering to discerning European consumers. While Douglas does not directly compete with ULTA stateside, it demonstrates the success of a prestige omni-channel beauty retailer model.

Rite Aid

Rite Aid, while better known for pharmacy and convenience shopping, devotes extensive space to mass beauty. With over 2,400 locations featuring sections like Platinum Beauty for premium brands, Rite Aid attracts deal-seeking shoppers. However, product selection cannot rival ULTA’s depth in color cosmetics and salon brands. Rite Aid competes with ULTA primarily on affordability of basics. Yet most beauty enthusiasts prefer ULTA for larger assortments, BOGO deals, and rewards program perks. Moving forward, Rite Aid may double down on affordable beauty to drive foot traffic and differentiate from pure drugstore chains.


As one of the largest drugstore chains, Walgreens competes directly with Ulta’s stores in strip malls across America. While Ulta offers higher-end beauty brands, Walgreens competes on convenience and affordability. Their massive footprint with over 9,000 stores enables customers to easily add beauty items to routine shopping trips.

Walgreens also offers salon services at some locations. But, their beauty selection tends to focus on mass market and drugstore brands, lacking the breadth and exclusives that beauty enthusiasts may desire. Still, the convenience and promotional pricing on staple items helps Walgreens compete for a significant segment of beauty sales.

Neiman Marcus

Although positioning itself as a luxury department store, Neiman Marcus appeals to the high-end beauty shopper with its selective mix of upscale cosmetics and skincare brands. Brands often launch or test new high-priced, prestige products at Neiman Marcus due to their affluent customer base.

Even though their beauty department lacks the immersive experience of an Ulta store, they compete by offering exclusives, gifts with purchase, and complimentary makeovers to entice big spending beauty customers. However, they still fall behind Ulta in the depth of brands offered in categories like mass cosmetics. But for luxury beauty, Neiman Marcus caters well to the small but powerful high-end segment.

The Body Shop

Known for ethically-sourced natural ingredient products, The Body Shop attracts customers looking to avoid synthetic ingredients in their beauty routines. The Body Shop competes by specifically targeting the health-conscious and eco-friendly shopper. Their activist approach resonates with values-driven consumers who may perceive the Ulta selection as too mass-market.

And their lower price points enhance appeal for natural beauty buyers on a budget. However, Ulta offers some natural brands as well. And The Body Shop’s predominantly own-brand model lacks the diversity that draws many beauty fans to experiment with Ulta’s mix. Still, they excel at serving the natural beauty niche.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Expanding its beauty assortment in recent years with popular mass brands, Bed Bath & Beyond leverages its big box home store footprint to capture shoppers looking for beauty staples alongside other home needs. Beauty has grown to represent 5% of their overall sales. And unlike Ulta, Bed Bath & Beyond offers coupons on beauty items more regularly. However, beauty remains a much smaller focus compared to Ulta.

And product selection skews towards gifts and home spa items rather than the latest color cosmetics. Still, Bed Bath & Beyond competes simply by cross-selling beauty items through its established home goods customer base. But true beauty enthusiasts are more likely drawn to the immersive Ulta shopping experience.

To Wrap it Up….

So these are some of the major players that are going toe-to-toe with ULTA in the beauty retail space. Sephora holds a commanding presence with its impressive range of prestige brands, stellar shopping experience, and beauty insider program. But ULTA offers plenty of its own competitive advantages as well with great prices, stellar product selection, and popular subscription options. Beyond those two giants, beauty enthusiasts also flock to national pharmacies and specialty brands for specific needs. And e-commerce continues disrupting with convenient online shopping.

At the end of the day, beauty lovers have no shortage of options between bricks-and-mortar stores and digital channels. ULTA enjoys loyal followers but still faces stiff competition for the growing market in an evolving retail landscape. It’ll continue innovating omnichannel initiatives to stand out. But savvy shoppers will ultimately decide what combination of value, selection and experience fits their beauty routine and budget.

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