When Lola cofounders Alexandra Friedman and Jordana Kier first started talking to Walmart about a potential retail partnership for their feminine care products company over a year ago, the world looked very different. Consumers weren’t hoarding toilet paper, companies across the U.S. weren’t working from home, and Friedman and Kier could dream of walking into a brick-and-mortar store and seeing Lola’s natural-ingredients-based tampons, pads and liners on the shelves—and maybe even hug, take photos together, and celebrate their startup’s expansion.
A global pandemic has since upended that status quo and stymied a significant portion of business activity in the U.S. But as markets roiled and Americans hunkered down at home, Friedman and Kier stayed on the phone with Walmart. The result of those conversations and that persistence: this month, Lola officially rolled out its first retail partnership, transforming from a direct-to-consumer brand to an omnichannel one. The collaboration puts Lola’s period products on the shelves of more than 4,600 Walmart stores, as well as on Walmart.com.
Walmart is the U.S.’ biggest retailer, and by Friedman and Kier’s accounting, a majority of American women shop at Walmart every year, making this a valuable expansion for the five-year-old feminine care startup.
“It’s more important than ever to get these essential products to women, and make sure they can easily and safely purchase these products,” Friedman told Forbes in an exclusive interview. It is for that reason, she said, that they moved forward with the launch. The first Lola products started appearing on Walmart.com at the end of March, on shelves the first weekend in April and will continue to appear in stores across the country throughout the rest of the month. “The existing need for period products has been compounded during this crisis,” Friedman said. “We want them on shelves, on Walmart.com. We want to get as many as we possibly can to women in need.”
And there are a lot of those women. Paper-product panic shoppers have received far more ink since the coronavirus started spreading across American communities, but there have been runs on tampons and pads, too (even resulting, for a moment in March, a selling out of these products on Amazon). For the last four years, Lola has had a give-back program with I Support the Girls, a nonprofit that donates feminine care products to shelters and prisons, and recently hit a mark of 5 million products donated—but Kier says that March was even busier, with the nonprofit fulfilling more requests than at any other time they’ve been working together. “We’ve committed to donating a million products this month,” she said.
Since launching in 2015, Friedman and Kier have learned a lot about consumer preferences around feminine care and reproductive health, chief among which is this: 72% of women like to customize their assortment of period products. Lola’s subscription customers have been mixing and matching tampons and pads of different sizes and absorbencies in combinations unique to their needs, Friedman and Kier say, so it was important to them to extend this ability to the Walmart partnership, too. To that end, the in-store Lola product offerings will include the traditional 36-, 20-, or 16-count boxes of liners, tampons and pads (respectively) for $6.98 each, as well as smaller boxes of 14-, 8-, and 6-count products that cost $2.98 apiece.
Friedman and Kier acknowledged that this is “not the backdrop we anticipated” to mount a partnership like this, but feel “fortunate” that Lola’s business has been stable. “Like all businesses at this very unprecedented moment, we’re doing our best to weather the storm. That means sharpening the pencil on all the costs across the business, thinking through how we can outperform in this current moment and making sure our team feels connected despite being remote,” Friedman said.
And while an in-store celebration of the Walmart partnership will have to wait until stay-at-home orders ease, the founders said that they’re marking the moment as best they can.
Photo Source: Lola