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World Wide Watch: Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas, it seems, including the beauty business, which has weathered the recession better than elsewhere in the U.S.

Everything is bigger in Texas, it seems, including the beauty business, which has weathered the recession better than elsewhere in the U.S.
Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 05/07/2010

Mention “Texas beauty” to most people on the planet and the phrase will conjure up caricatures with bouffant hair, big shoulders and sequins, from the days of the TV show Dallas. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

This story first appeared in the May 7, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

 

From the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in the north, via Austin and Houston, down to San Antonio on the Rio Grande River, near the border with Mexico, Texas’s major cities are populated with well-traveled and well-educated folk, who are exceptionally well turned out.

 

Quite a few of Texas’ 24.8 million residents are newcomers, as the state has seen a large net increase in population over the last few years, with professionals flooding the major cities where jobs had been readily available until the recent economic downturn. In fact, more Americans have moved to Texas than to any other state, with almost half a million arriving between July 2008 and July 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That doesn’t even start to add the expats and immigrants from all over the world who are living and working in the Lone Star State. Despite the recession, these Texas residents are still free spending when it comes to appearance and well-being.

 

According to figures from Sites on Texas, supplied by the state comptroller’s office, Texans spent a cool $6.6 billion on hair, skin and nail care services; grooming; cosmetics; beauty supplies, and fragrance last year, apart from drug store and department store sales.

 

That put the state second only to California in beauty spending and ahead of New York. Research firm The NPD Group estimates $604 million was spent on prestige product sales at department stores in that period. The Dallas-Fort Worth area leads with 28 percent of sales, with greater Houston accounting for 25 percent.

 

All indications are that this year isn’t showing any letup, either. Texans love to shop, and there are malls, shopping centers and retail areas in abundance across the state catering to every taste, age and demographic. The Neiman Marcus beauty counters have beckoned generations of young Texas women, following their mothers’ leads, in looking for advice and direction on the very latest looks from the knowledgeable staff.

 

“They learn good skin care habits early in Texas,” says Maureen Case, group president of the specialty brands group of the Estée Lauder Cos., who oversees Bobbi Brown, La Mer and Jo Malone. Case notes that the upscale La Mer brand has seen double-digit growth in Texas, while Bobbi Brown is also a top seller. “Our Texas client can be one of many types, but she feels strongly about being pulled together—being herself, but better,” Case says. “She enjoys her femininity.”

 

Combined, Nordstrom, with 13 stores in Texas, and Neiman Marcus account for 70 percent of Bobbi Brown’s sales, nationwide. In fact, the Neiman Marcus flagship in Dallas was the first store outside New York to carry Bobbi Brown 20 years ago, and “it’s still the number-one brand there,” says Case. “Neiman’s also does the most sales for us,” she continues, noting that Neiman’s well-heeled clients in Texas have helped sales rebound this year, although “the aspirational client is feeling the pinch longer.”

 

The mass market, too, is robust. Drug chains CVS and Walgreens proliferate across the state, while Sephora has 43 stores (many in J.C. Penney) and Ulta, 46. CVS and Walgreens went head-to-head in a building frenzy over the last fi ve years, with stores seeming to sprout on every commercial corner in the state. Although 64 percent of Walgreens’ business is pharmacy, Texas stores do very well on sales of Olay, Neutrogena and Jergens for skin and sun care, according to Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Washington.

 

“Antiaging and sun care are definitely factors for the Southern stores,” she says, noting Dallas is one of the strongest markets in the country in these categories. “The Southern woman is looking for foundations no matter her skin tone. She’s trend setting and forward looking.”

 

The seemingly flawless look of many Texas women is attributable to their fondness for foundation. Always the number-one seller in the makeup category, it accounts for one-third of all cosmetics sales in Texas, according to Karen Grant, vice president and global industry analyst of The NPD Group.

 

The first Texas woman to bring this look within the reach of every woman was Mary Kay Ash, an icon of direct selling. Her Dallas-based company has continued to prosper since her death in 2001, under her son and longtime collaborator, Richard Rogers. As with other direct-sales companies, the recession resulted in an uptick of recruitment, with Mary Kay’s sales force increasing 13 percent last year.

 

Although at one time, the successful Mary Kay lady may have been mistaken for a character in Dallas, the company has worked hard to keep pace with the changing face of Texas. “Texan women are opting for more subtle and sophisticated looks, with eye colors in shades of brown and lip gloss replacing bright colors,” says DeeAnn Denton, marketing manager of Mary Kay. “The popularity of foundation indicates a concern with achieving flawless, even-looking skin.”

 

Latinos are now the largest segment of the minority population in Texas. In San Antonio in particular, Latinos have a major impact on the culture and style of the city. All retailers and brands recognize the proximity to Mexico’s border ref lected in their San Antonio sales figures. As Case notes: “It’s a tremendous business. It’s common for shoppers from Mexico to pop over for the day or weekend just to shop.”

 

One of the items in the shopping bag is very likely to be fragrance. Indeed, sales of Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue “are significantly higher in San Antonio” than anywhere else in Texas, according to Grant. Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle and Estée Lauder’s Beautiful were numbers one and two in Houston, positions that are reversed in Dallas. Sales of prestige fragrances in Texas reached an estimated $210 million last year, according to NPD, which is “higher than the national average,” says Grant, adding: “Overall, Texans see fragrance as a part of grooming and are not apologetic for their spending.

 

Capital: Austin
Largest City: Houston
Official Language: English
Currency: Dollar (USD)
Population: 24,782,302
Area: 268,581 square miles