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Suki Skincare is stepping back to leap forward.
The 14-year-old brand has exited Whole Foods to concentrate primarily on small stores, which originally made up the backbone of its distribution network, and has repackaged to emphasize the quality that first put it on the map: that it is a science-driven line in a natural beauty arena that is often more about fluff than substance.
“My goal was to get people to understand the science,” said Suki’s founder, Suki Kramer. “I’ve always been really insecure because I had skin problems growing up, and a lot of people who have skin problems are really insecure. It’s not a vanity issue, but by solving my problems and creating my brand, I’ve become more empowered, and I want others to feel empowered. It is really about bringing my voice into the line. I make scientific [products], but nobody was getting it because I wasn’t saying it in the right way.”
Suki’s packaging has been revised to make the skin types products are targeting obvious, highlight category descriptors and modify product names to action-oriented terms to communicate explicitly what each product does. There are now three product divisions: Renew, which is for healthy aging and delineated by a green hue; Care, which is marked in blue and has regimens for various skin types, and Rescue, which is in burgundy and addresses skin problems. Suki has 54 stockkeeping units priced mostly from $10 to $55.
“It is still our clean look, but it is more upscale, more refined. It is all about clarity and people understanding things better,” said Kramer. “We are really going after being a leader in natural.”
Even though the packaging has been restaged, Suki’s logo and the use of its signature color yellow remain consistent. “We still own our yellow,” said Kramer. “Our logo certainly isn’t changed. Customers would still recognize it, but they might say it is more upscale and different. You can see that vertical is replaced [by horizontal positioning on the bottles].”
Suki’s product formulas contain technology it calls TLC with active ingredients it describes as potent and sustained that are in high concentrations and penetrate deep into the skin. “We really have a huge commitment to purity, but we also have a huge commitment to science and technology. Every active that I use has clinical backing. That’s why you won’t find a trendy ingredient in my products, because they don’t have the time and science behind them to have those clinical studies,” said Kramer. “A lot of time in natural you get products that are lovely and they smell good and moisturize, but they don’t have the technology behind them for results.”
Kramer stressed her decision to pull Suki out of Whole Foods was not due to poor performance at the grocery retailer. Instead, she said she wasn’t comfortable with the direction Whole Foods was headed in and opted to commit to retailers she believed in. “There’s always a choice to be greedy or not. I have always stuck to my ideals, whether it be in formulating, not making a product cheaper or whatever. I would always do what I thought was right, and it has always served me well. That’s really what this is about,” said Kramer. “Our retail partners that share our core philosophy, that’s who we want to support, especially as things get more and more corporate. I feel what’s happening is the Wal-Marting of natural, and we are a very diversified company, so we can make choices like that because we are never tied into one venue or another.”
Kramer acknowledged that relying on small stores to fuel her brand’s business would be hard work. She wants to increase the number of in-store events dedicated to Suki and beef up its sales force. “We’ve been traditional, and we have put time and effort into bigger clients, and I think this is a freeing thing because we can do more creative things with smaller stores. We can do facial events and different things that we can support with marketing,” said Kramer. “We are a small brand. We are really creative thinkers, so we can be much more creative with the people that we have.”
Suki is on pace to generate $11 million in revenues this year, according to Kramer. About half of its business is done via traditional outlets in the U.S., including retailers focused on natural merchandise, spas and boutiques, a quarter on the Web, and the remainder is through international venues. “We grew 20 percent last year. The year before that, we grew 15 percent. We just keep growing,” said Kramer. “I hope this year we grow a lot more. I have big goals.”