Beauty Brands Talk Evolution at HBA

Four beauty entrepreneurs shared their forecasts for the future of the industry and the evolving role of indie and mass brands.

Sonia Kashuk, Deanna Kangas, Jim Markham, Catherine Walsh and Jane Larkworthy.

Four beauty entrepreneurs shared their forecasts for the future of the industry and the evolving role of indie and mass brands during a roundtable discussion, which kicked off the 2012 HBA Global Expo, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The 2012 Keynote Panel, moderated by Jane Larkworthy, beauty director of W magazine, featured Sonia Kashuk, founder of her namesake cosmetics brand; Catherine Walsh, senior vice president, American Fragrances for Coty Prestige; Deanna Kangas, president and chief executive officer of Stila Cosmetics, and Jim Markham, founder and ceo of ColorProof Evolved Color Care.

A common thread among the panelists was the acknowledgment that, as mass brands continue to step up their offerings, the game gets more competitive for all beauty players. “We’re seeing it not just in terms of the distribution plan — which is key — but the quality of the product, packaging and the advertising. All that has to be top-notch,” said Walsh.

Kashuk, whose products are available at Target stores, agreed.

“When I started the brand in 1999, [it was] all about bringing the best of the best at the most affordable prices, and I think that luckily I was ahead of the curve because the message today is that quality mixed with affordability and value are key,” said Kashuk.

According to Walsh, having a unique price point and product that can compete with the new set of upgraded mass offerings was critical for the success of Coty’s CK One color line, launched this spring.

“Cosmetics is so saturated and to take a big name like Calvin Klein and come back into the market at this point [this is the fourth go at introducing a line under the Calvin name] and do something, we needed to have a point of difference,” said Walsh, who added that Coty chose to partner exclusively with Ulta, in the hopes of reeling in the younger consumer shopping there. “It is the only designer brand that has an entry-level price point in prestige. The response has been fantastic.”

Walsh spoke also about the celebrity fragrance market and how it is far from dying, naming recent introductions from Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift as examples of ones that quickly became top sellers.

“The consumer is there,” said Walsh, who introduced the megahit Jennifer Lopez Glow 10 years ago. “The most difficult [part is that] the first launch is the one that has to work. If the first launch doesn’t work, the second doesn’t work and there’s a lot of diminishing return.”

Kangas said, “Private equity loves beauty — they find it very sexy but running a beauty business is more challenging than it looks. It’s passion, energy, a lot of attributes that you can’t look at a spreadsheet and say this is good, this is bad.”