Since then, the brand has expanded to include 12 different shades, though that is still slim pickings compared with the dozens of shades that other brands, many of them newcomers, offer.
And, most important, Glossier’s longstanding resistance to working with third-party retailers made it harder and harder for the brand to acquire new customers organically using just its social and online channels — a pinch that other direct-to-consumer brands are also feeling, Ms. Duggal said.
“The shift in the customer acquisition algorithm for paid social now makes it very hard to scale and find profitability,” she said, adding that selling through physical stores remains the biggest driver of sales across the board. Before the pandemic, 85 percent of beauty product purchases were made in physical stores, according to a 2020 McKinsey report. Even younger consumers were making the bulk of their purchases in store.
Then, in August 2020, in the thick of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, came an anonymous letter from the Glossier retail employees (known internally as “editors”) alleging a racist, toxic work environment.
Management was “ill-equipped to guide a diverse team through the unique stressors of working in an experiential store,” the letter reads. When customers were hostile with the retail staff, including during incidents where a man massaged a staff member without her consent or when white teenagers played with the “darkest complexion products in gleeful blackface,” the retail staff “had come to expect no intervention and little recourse — not even reassurance of our safety.”
By that point, several other founders in the original class of girlbosses had come under scrutiny, with current and former employees accusing them of aggressive and, in certain cases, abusive leadership styles (scrutiny that male chief executives and founders have often avoided). Away, Ms. Korey’s company, banned employees from emailing each other and limited employees’ paid time off, The Verge reported; Away said that it wanted to keep employees communicating over Slack instead, for reasons of “transparency.”