It took me a long time to write this letter because there are so many thoughts and emotions. I’ve been dreaming of a brick-and-mortar Peach & Lily store for years, and for the better part of this year, the Peach & Lily team has poured so much heart and dedication to making this dream a reality.
I love that Peach & Lily started off as an online store, we were able to connect with so many people just through a few mouse clicks. I knew, though, that at one point, we would need an offline environment because there is a different kind of richness that could be added to the experience of discovering skincare when you’re in-person interacting with someone.
I first delved into skincare when I was 17 – a tender age when I was more emotionally vulnerable than as a 33-year-old. I have eczema and grew up with constantly flaky (sometimes even bloody) skin and always felt uncomfortably self-conscious about this. As a teenager, I serendipitously ended up attending skin school in Korea where I grew up, and learned so much about skin histology and how I could improve my skin. After that year, I had glowing skin and also felt a sense of confidence that was somehow more grounded. I realized, it wasn’t because I thought I looked better; it was because I felt empowered knowing that I could take better care of myself through a set of really personalized skin tips that I designed for myself.
I share this experience because so much of what fuels Peach & Lily – and what inspired me to launch this company – is the passion to bring the best knowledge, products, innovations, and platform to the beauty table so that our customers can empower themselves to take better care of their skin. We started with Korean and Japanese beauty products and rituals because these amazing time-tested beauty traditions were largely missing from the beauty dialogue and shelves in the U.S. a few years back.
This empowering experience is a key value for us, and we wrestle with ideas constantly to make this come alive in an online environment.
Of course, curation was the starting point – Peach & Lily is (sometimes even, notoriously) known by Korea’s beauty industry to have the most rigorous vetting process where 95% of brands don’t make our cut. We conduct extensive interviews, research formulations, focus-group test, and vet with top experts to make sure that we’re putting products on our site that have thoughtful, highly effective, high-quality, and balanced formulations while providing a delightful sensorial experience.
Curation isn’t enough, though. No matter how amazing our selection of products are, if the wrong products end up in the wrong consumer’s hands, the product won’t do much or can even be harmful. These are active ingredients, after all, that get applied to someone’s face and matching the right products to the right person is a mission-critical endeavor. At first, I was personally responding to every inquiry about products and request for skincare advice, and following up with customers to see how products went for them. I loved that I had 15 years of keeping up with skincare after studying it so intently that I could use to see other people’s skin transform for the better.
But then, our company grew. And it became unmanageable. I remember our Operations Director – one of our superstars – gently letting me know that I really needed to focus on being a CEO and not being the whole customer service department. I initially resisted and told her I could just pull longer hours, but I really wanted to keep directly connecting with our customers. Eventually, I learned that my job was to keep Peach & Lily healthy and growing so that we can keep doing what we do. We ended up hiring licensed cosmetologists and implementing a rigorous training program on product-consumer matching. We then launched #AskLily, which is a complimentary service where anyone can email email@example.com and reach a trained expert who will be able to recommend a tailored set of products to match your skin type and skin concerns.
All the while, I kept dreaming of that offline retail store where we could meet our consumers face-to-face and understand exactly what their skin type and skin needs are, provide immediate support on how to tweak, totally change or upgrade a current skincare routine, and show/demo products that would really work to transform skin to a healthy radiant glow.
I thought long and hard about opening up a flagship somewhere in New York City, but the easily reachable locations for customers were cost-prohibitive…unless we were located inside a department store with built-in traffic. Of all the department stores, I wanted our store to be in Macy’s because well, call me old-fashioned but it’s the oldest and biggest department store in the US with over 800 locations. I didn’t know when would be the right time to approach Macy’s with this idea, so I didn’t approach them at all.
Then, earlier this year, I had a special and fateful encounter. After I spoke at an event, during the break, someone who I didn’t know came up to me and asked me if I had ever gotten in touch with someone at Macy’s before because she thought that “Macy’s would find Peach & Lily fascinating” and that “she would have to put us in touch immediately.” I had never met with anyone from Macy’s before, and my heart skipped a beat when she said this. Not long after, I was sitting in Macy’s headquarters speaking to one of the executives, and I will never forget the moment when she asked me “would you ever consider opening a store within Macy’s?” I actually leapt out of my chair with a huge “yes” and immediately started explaining exactly what the ideal store would look like. It was years of dreams just pouring out in a blurry haze of incredulity, gratitude and exuberance.
Fast forward to today after a whirlwind year of everything that goes into building a store, and we are so excited to announce that this first store will be home to a new kind of skincare retail experience.
In our store, there is a bespoke beauty session where every customer, if they would like, can get their skin analyzed by an expert Beauty Coach and high-tech skin analysis device. After the results are analyzed with a Beauty Coach who will walk you through the steps of the Korean beauty routine, you can pick out products that will work for your skin based on the results. Education and personalization are hugely important. After a customer leaves the store, the coaching continues as Beauty Coaches check up to see how your skin is doing. Customers are encouraged to come back and discuss results and see how their skin improved. The Beauty Coach’s role is to make sure that each customer walks away that much more skin-savvy. Of course, this is all opt-in, so for those who want to browse, discover and shop unguided, they can do so. However, the way merchandise is organized – by steps of a routine versus by brand – and with plenty of content written along the shelves as to why each step is important and skin tips, an unguided experience has plenty of silent guideposts along the way. LED screens play brand and product information. And those who are curious about my beauty-hunting trips and the best of the best innovations and trends that I see on-the-ground in Seoul can drop by the section called “Alicia’s Picks” to see the highlighted products of the Peach & Lily assortment. Our store is part-retail, part-skin-coaching, part-beauty-discovery, and part-beauty-playground, but mostly it’s where skin can be powerfully transformed.
This dream couldn’t have happened without our wonderfully supportive and visionary partner, Macy’s, and of course, the Peach & Lily team that has inspired, humored, indulged, challenged and amazed me to no end this year. They have worked tirelessly on making all our dreams for a new kind of beauty experience come true in a 3-D format. It wasn’t easy for us to implement all of this with a lean team, but we all learned this year that it’s invigorating to dream as big as we can and go for it!
If you’re in the NYC area, we would love for you to come by our store and experience this all-immersive Korean beauty experience. Our first store is in the Macy’s in Flushing (136-50 Roosevelt Ave) and we’re opening in just about a week. I’ll personally be in the store for the better part of holiday season and would LOVE to meet you, get to know you (and your skin), and hopefully, be someone who can help you to achieve your most radiant and healthy skin yet.
I hope you enjoy our first brick-and-mortar store as much as we’ve loved seeing but a dream bloom into a full-fledged high-ceilinged, marble-adorned store…and I hope this store can be a skin-haven where you can browse, learn, be coached, bumble around, and get lost in the world of Korean beauty, which to me, stands for a deeply personalized and empowered approach to skincare.
Cheers to radiance and dreaming big!