Evolve while staying true, lead by example, and don’t let your supply outpace your demand. That was the message MAC Global Brand president Karen Buglisi Weiler told a crowd of 400 at CEW’s West Coast Beauty Insider Series event on Wednesday titled, “MAC Cosmetics: The Path To Success.”
Buglisi Weiler sat down with WWD beforehand to discuss how MAC is doing in its emerging markets, where there are 1,600 freestanding retail stores.
In Brazil, for example, where the brand first entered São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in 2002, there are now nearly 60 doors including secondary cities.
“We are doing very well. We were the first prestige makeup player going in there aggressively with a freestanding store concept and we also brought makeup artistry in. The strategy now is how do you make sure those customers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities get the same level of service? We are still building that structure,” she said.
The year 2017 will see the rollout of stores in Egypt and more stores in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. The brand is currently in eight countries in the Middle East and in Botswana, Zambia and Nigeria and plans to add Ivory Coast, Kenya and Ghana shortly.
“The biggest challenge in Africa is finding the right real estate partners. There’s not really a retail network; they are mostly independent operators. So we have to make those decisions very carefully. That’s our biggest challenge aside from making sure that we don’t let any standards slip,” she said, noting that Africa is a “slower build.”
“I think about where is our growth going to come from. In the next 10, 20 years this is going to be a very vibrant region but it’s just going to take a little longer to get there. We want to make sure the brand takes root,” she said.
As for the exploding fortunes of the color cosmetics sector, Buglisi Weiler, who is a 16-year-veteran at MAC, welcomes the competition, saying, “It’s also expanding the market. You expand the market that’s good for all of us.” She wishes her former MAC collaborators Charlotte Tilbury and Pat McGrath “all the best” with their own companies and said her job is to “never forget where we came from but continue to evolve. We have a lot still to do. That’s what makes it so exciting — there is so much opportunity out there for us.”
In particular, she noted secondary cities in the U.S. Encouraged by the number of new customers MAC recruited in secondary cities in Brazil, Buglisi Weiler said that there were maybe a lot of domestic customers who’d like to see MAC in their neighborhoods.
To that end, more stores are being customized to serve their specific customers, not just with formats and fixtures and product but also with services such as Instant Artistry and 1-2-3 that provide easy makeup techniques. “Bringing the customer in is easy, it’s getting them to come back that is the hardest. We’re a fast fashion retailer with 80 collections a year,” she said.
In regard to developing new products, she said ideas are born from testing things at the 850 fashion shows MAC does worldwide, and then “hoping a Kardashian wears it.”
Speaking of new Viva Glam ambassador Ariana Grande, who has 46 million Instagram followers, Buglisi Weiler said the company is already looking for a 2018 ambassador. One of the ways to predict who the stars of the future will be is social media. She told the crowd she was now also on Instagram. “I want to know what people are looking at and what they’re responding to. But I’m really telling you because I want more followers.”