Australia, the country where Helena Rubinstein first built her beauty empire, plans to trumpet its beauty authority to the U.S. market.
The Australian Trade Commission, an Australian government agency known as Austrade, partnered with McEntyre Public Relations Inc. to develop a marketing initiative designed to put 10 Australian brands in front of U.S. beauty editors and beauty buyers.
Beginning next week, the assortment will reach the desks of some 75 U.S. beauty authorities by way of a satchel branded "Australian Trade Commission" and labeled "Discover the Beauty of Australia." The lineup includes Botany Essentials, Intraceuticals, Advanced Naturals, Urban Rituelle, Li'tya, Mirenésse, LM Naturals, Skin Doctors Cosmeceuticals, VitaMan and SunFX. Each brand is positioned at the premium end of the market.
"Australia is really an untapped resource for the U.S. consumer, and we felt that we needed to raise awareness," said Betina Reid, senior export adviser for consumer products for Austrade. She noted that many Australian beauty lines mine indigenous Aboriginal ingredients and rely on natural botanicals. On the opposite end of the spectrum, its national science agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, provides research and ample inspiration for cosmeceutical skin care lines. Like most global markets, large multinational firms dominate Australia's beauty sales. Reid said that imports from countries such as the U.S., France and Japan account for 80 percent of Australia's current beauty market.
As it stands, the U.S.'s beauty industry dwarfs beauty sales in Australia, a country that has a population of about 21 million people, fewer than the state of California. Last year, the U.S. cosmetics and toiletries market reaped $50.2 billion in retail sales, compared with the $3.5 billion in retail sales generated in Australia, according to Euromonitor International.
The sheer size and scope of the market make it difficult for foreign-born, niche companies to plant a flag on U.S. soil, said Reid, who is based in Sydney. Commenting on the competitiveness of the U.S. market, she added, "We are very much in a situation of David and Goliath."
To gather participants for the initiative — which she developed with her New York City-based colleague, Anjali Jain, business development manager for Austrade — Reid contacted roughly 800 Australian beauty companies. Approximately 25 firms responded to her query and from there Reid, Jain and the McEntyre Public Relations team whittled the list down to 10 companies.Each company selected had some presence in the U.S. market, attractive packaging, comprehensive marketing materials and the capability to supply a large market.
"This is just the start for us," said Reid, referring to the initiative. "If it's successful in the U.S. market, we will replicate it in other markets," she added, naming London as an example.
"The U.S. market will always be important to us," said Reid, noting that the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, which came into effect Jan. 1, 2005, has made it easier for Australian companies to do business here.
Over the last two years, Skin Doctors, one of the companies participating in the initiative, has gained a foothold in emerging beauty channels in the U.S., including the Home Shopping Network, Pure Beauty and Ulta. The brand, billed as one of Australia's first cosmeceutical lines, is slated to enter Sephora doors early next year. Scott Walmsley, president of Ingenuity Inc., Skin Doctors's U.S. distributor, said he expects the brand's very specific, problem-solution approach to skin care to resonate with U.S. consumers. (See related story, this page.) Fellow Australian cosmeceuticals maker, Intraceuticals, also first entered the U.S. market two years ago, targeting prominent dermatologists' offices and spas. The line recently entered the N.V. Perricone M.D. flagship on Madison Avenue, where it is being used for the store's spa services. Madonna's fondness for Intraceuticals' oxygen facials helped bring the brand into the limelight, noted Deirdre Burke, national sales manager for the company. She noted that while Intraceuticals is not pursuing retail distribution, the Austrade initiative will help beauty editors become more acquainted with the professional brand.
VitaMan, the men's range that uses natural ingredients, aims to gain ground in high-end retail stores, but will use its Web site to introduce itself to U.S. consumers. Its e-commerce site, vitamanglobal.com, is slated to launch later this month and will feature digital "beautiful Aussie lasses" to guide men through the shopping experience, said Glenn Kiddell, co-founder of VitaMan. Over the last few years, the eight-year-old men's line has extended its international reach and is now available in Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché in Paris, Harrods in London and Joyce Beauty in Hong Kong. Kiddell echoed Reid's David-and-Goliath analogy, saying, "We're up against the big boys, but we are more than confident that our brand stacks up. As we say, we are uniquely Australian." He added that VitaMan supplies actor Hugh Jackman with its products and has approached the Australian native to be the face of the brand in the U.S. market.Lara Deutsch, co-creator of Stem Organics, an Australia-based line sold in the Theory flagship in Manhattan and select beauty boutiques, said the brand was invited to participate in the initiative, but declined because of the inroads it has already made here. Stem Organics is slated to launch at Studio at Fred Segal this month. Commenting on the challenges of the U.S. market, Deutsch said jokingly she had to borrow from the CIA's playbook to determine who the decision makers were and how to contact them. She does feel, though, that U.S. consumers are more receptive to unknown, niche brands than her fellow countrymen. "In the U.S. market, consumers are very open to looking for new things. Australian consumers are generally looking for brands that have first established themselves elsewhere," said Deutsch, adding that Stem's success in the U.S. has helped in its home market as well.
Reid of Austrade declared, "The U.S. market is probably our Holy Grail. Everybody in Australia wants to make it in the U.S."
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