Bare Escentuals Plots Expansion

The brand sees a world where more of its mineral-based beauty products are sold in more places and to a wider audience.

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Bare Escentuals Inc. sees a world where more of its mineral-based beauty products are sold in more places and to a wider audience.

This story first appeared in the March 29, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Shiseido-owned beauty brand has an ambitious priority list for this year that includes a broader array of color cosmetics, a store redesign and international expansion and a mobile tour that’s a turbo-charged version of founder Leslie Blodgett’s bus expeditions of years past.

Over the past few years, the company has put a greater focus on expanding its assortment beyond its hero product, loose mineral foundation. That effort has resulted in the introduction of solid foundations, blushes, bronzers and eye shadows under the Ready franchise, as well as a skin care range under the BareMinerals moniker. In May, the company will heavily emphasize the lip category with the introduction of BareMinerals’ Marvelous Moxie, a 42-shade collection of lipsticks, liners and glosses. Shade names nod to the brand’s girl-power point of view, and include Finish First lipstick for $18, Maverick lip gloss for $18 and Amped lip liner for $15.

“For me, it’s about taking high-performance mineral products into other categories,” said Simon Cowell, Bare Escentuals’ chief executive officer. He noted that while foundation makes up the bulk of sales, the brand has long had a sizeable eye color business. Lip is a newer frontier. “Lip was the next category they wanted to try from us,” said Cowell.

Bare Escentuals’ expansion beyond loose formulas into solids have attracted new users to the brand and prompted loyalists to buy more, said Cowell. It’s also fueling the brand’s growth. “We’ve outpaced prestige growth by almost double for the past three years,” said Cowell, referring to the brand’s color business. Prestige beauty sales gained 7 percent last year, according to the NPD Group, which would put Bare Escentuals growth rate at roughly 10 to 15 percent.

The company aims to herald the changes across its brand with a new store concept designed by Pompei A.D. in New York, which is now visible at its location at the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in Santa Clara, Calif.

This year, the company will roll out the design to seven more locations, including Novi, Mich., Columbia, S.C., Schaumburg, Ill., Syracuse, N.Y., Berkeley, Calif., and two in Bloomington, Minn.

The remodeled store is meant to foster a friendly environment, and the beauty bar has been turned into the communal center of the store. “The inspiration was a kitchen table,” said Cowell. “When they are getting their makeup done, customers can not only interact with beauty ambassadors, but also each other and have a girlfriend experience.”

There are testers galore, and also images and cheeky messages that imbue the brand’s personality into the store. For instance, there’s a graphic picture of Blodgett and the slogan, “Be a Force of Beauty,” mounted in bold pink.

The storefront has been stripped of architectural elements that, while perhaps pretty, prevented customers from seeing directly into the store. Now, it’s basically only glass. “We wanted to open the whole thing up and signal that things are evolving. We are changing and are proud of the change,” said Michelle Boudreau, senior director of visual merchandising and store design at Bare Escentuals.

In each of the last three years, Cowell said there have been double-digit increases in same-store sales. “We have a really healthy average transaction value that has been growing every year,” he said. Cowell said figuring out how to adapt the new design to department store counters will be the company’s next project.

The company continues to expand the footprint of its stand-alone stores internationally. Last year, it opened five boutiques in Brazil and this year it plans to open an additional nine units there (which includes three mall kiosks), making the country the company’s largest market for stand-alone stores, said Cowell. The brand also is sold in Sephora stores in Brazil. As a point of comparison, there are five BareMinerals stores in the U.K. with another planned to open this year. The company currently operates a total of 232 boutiques, including its 11 stores outside the U.S.

In the U.S., Bare Escentuals plans to hit the road. The mobile “Go Bare” tour spotlighting loose and pressed foundations will begin the weekend of the Nike Women Half Marathon in Washington, D.C., which will take place on April 28, and then travel to New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The set-up will mimic the new store design with a clean white, bright environment. A Twitter-activated vending machine will be on site. To activate the machine, visitors Tweet their favorite guilty indulgence using the hashtag #gobare at BareMinerals. Once they do, the machine will release a mystery box containing either a BareMinerals product or a gift certificate for a like-minded retailer in that market. In a first for the brand, selling will also take place on site with Ready Eyeshadow 2.0 offered as a gift with purchase. Blodgett is expected to appear at several key events along the way.

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