Seattle-based online cosmetics retailer Julep is laying off more than 100 employees after its parent company filed for bankruptcy last week.
Julep will cut 102 workers over the next two months as part of a closure, according to a new WARN notice filed with the state of Washington. It’s unclear if the company is shutting down completely and we’ve reached out to Julep for more details. The company’s two brick-and-mortar locations in Washington will close on Jan. 31 and remaining corporate workers will relocate to New York, according to a store employee. Julep has 124 employees listed on LinkedIn.
Update: Nancy Bernardini, CEO of Julep parent Glansaol, confirmed the layoffs and store closures. She told GeekWire that the Julep business will continue operating under new ownership. Bernardini said Julep has been growing since the 2016 acquisition and called it “a jewel in our portfolio.” A majority of Julep employees were laid off but some were given offers to relocate to New York, where Glansaol is based.
GeekWire also spoke with Julep founder Jane Park, who has not been involved in the day-to-day business since Glansaol acquired her startup in 2016. She echoed Bernardini’s comments about Julep’s continued growth and called the employees “amazing, quality people.”
Founded in 2007 by Park, a former Starbucks and Boston Consulting Group executive, Julep was a high-profile Seattle startup before its acquisition about two years ago by Glansaol, a newly-formed cosmetics company backed by Warburg Pincus that also swooped up Laura Geller and Clark’s Botanicals at the same time. The deals were part of a strategy to “operate an integrated portfolio of global beauty and personal care brands, diversified across segments, channels and geographies,” Glansaol said in December 2016.
But last week, Glansaol filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of New York and announced plans to sell the three brands to a company called AS Beauty.
“The Board and management team have thoroughly assessed all of our strategic options and are confident that the proposed sale process represents the best path forward for the Company,” Bernardini said in a statement. “We are pleased to have entered into an asset sale agreement with AS Beauty and are excited for the Company’s future.”
Bankruptcy court documents reveal that Glansaol was “never able to achieve significant cost savings related to shared services among their brands.” Business performance also declined due to macro retail market trends including the shift away from brick-and-mortar shopping and evolving consumer demographics, according to the documents.
WWD reported that AS Beauty is paying $16.2 million for the brands.
Julep was a pioneer in the online cosmetics industry, selling lipstick and other beauty products on the internet as part of monthly subscription boxes, in addition to its brick-and-mortar parlor salons in the Seattle area. It raised more than $50 million from backers such as Azure Capital, Madrona Venture Group, Altimeter Capital, Maveron, Andreessen Horowitz, Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff, Skullcandy founder Jeff Kearl, and entertainment celebrities such as Will Smith and Jay-Z.
But Julep encountered some rough patches in recent years, laying off staff in 2015 and publicly blasting the Washington State Attorney General’s characterization of a settlement related to alleged deceptive business practices at the company.
Meanwhile, other independent makeup brands such as Glossier and Kylie Cosmetics have seen explosive growth in recent years as traditional beauty companies are struggling to keep up.
Editor’s note: Story updated at 5:10 p.m. PT with comments from Bernardini and Park.