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Drybar founder Alli Webb: ‘People will be coming out in droves’

Melody Hahm
·West Coast Correspondent
·4 min read
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The coronavirus pandemic has shattered beauty expectations, especially for women. Consumers have opted for skincare over makeup, takeout dinners over blowouts, and indoor plants over pedicures.

But this new reality, colored by comfort and lacking glamour, will be a temporary one, according to Drybar co-founder Alli Webb, who co-hosts the podcast “Raising the Bar” and co-founded the massage chain Squeeze in 2018.

“The silver lining and good news for me I think for my businesses and my friends' businesses is that everyone's going to come out very excited to get back, you know, getting their hair blown out again. Getting massages again. All the things we miss so much, people will be coming out in droves, I believe, after this, fingers crossed,” Webb told Yahoo Finance in an interview last week.

While Drybar has 144 locations across the U.S., some have had to close for business to comply with local guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Webb believes Drybar will see a backlog of customers return once these locations open up again.

“Like many other businesses out there, once we have the green light to open up in full capacity again, you know, there is going to be a huge kind of rush,” says Webb, who’s an adviser to both Drybar and Squeeze.

LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA - OCTOBER 03:  Drybar Founder Alli Webb attends Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2018 at Ritz Carlton Hotel on October 3, 2018 in Laguna Niguel, California.  (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Fortune)
LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA - OCTOBER 03: Drybar Founder Alli Webb attends Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2018 at Ritz Carlton Hotel on October 3, 2018 in Laguna Niguel, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Fortune)

That rush could be many months away. Even with the two FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines being rolled out across the country, the winter season in the U.S looks bleaker than ever. The country saw new single-day cases rise above 250,000 for the first time ever on Friday, as hospitals across cities like Los Angeles, Boston, and San Antonio struggle to find enough beds. If Thanksgiving was any indication, another potential surge is likely, depending on how Americans spend the holiday season.

‘We’re really getting creative’

During this year of uncertainty, the beauty business has focused on at-home care. Drybar has relied heavily on selling its expansive product mix of dry shampoos, dryers, curlers, sprays, and brushes sold online and across retailers like Ulta (ULTA), Sephora, Amazon (AMZN), and Nordstrom (JWN).

“We’re really getting creative, trying to get creative on things that we do. I think that keeps momentum going internally and when everyone feels there's still something to work on. Even though we're not operating like we're used to operating we can have something to look forward to, something to work towards,” Webb said.

Drybar, a private company, does not disclose financials, but the overall picture even for the at-home beauty market remains muted at best. During Estée Lauder’s (EL) first-quarter fiscal 2021 results, the beauty conglomerate reported that makeup sales plunged 32% year-over-year to $978 million. In fragrances, revenue fell 12% year-over-year to $406 million. Hair care totaled $136 million, flat from last year.

TooFaced Cosmetics founder Jerrod Blandino acknowledged in a September interview with Yahoo Finance that consumers stopped caring about beauty in the early days of the pandemic. But Blandino says that’s already starting to change.

“I think for a moment we all kind of took a pause and were like, ‘Hey, we don't have to straighten our hair or put on a full face. Very quickly I think we all missed it. Because I think there's a beautiful pageantry about getting dolled up every morning,” Blandino said. “You get to choose your outfit, get to choose your lip color, get to put on your mascara, and kind of reinvent yourself for that day to express yourself from inside on the outside.”

In the same way that sudden adoption of remote work has spurred employers to re-think the possibilities of employees working from home in the long-term, it’s possible that consumers may permanently scale back on their beauty routines. But the beauty industry heavily depends on the idea that people are craving to get pampered again. And it’s a category that’s been consistently resilient in the past.

“I think that there is a light at the end of the tunnel which we're all starting to see now,” Webb said. “And if we can just kind of hunker down for the next few months and come back, I really strongly believe women are just waiting and excited for it to come back. It’s in our sights now.”

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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