By  on November 9, 2006

Bare Escentuals Inc. began life as a public company on sure footing, reporting a surge in quarterly sales and outlining plans to widen its reach.

Presiding over her first public earnings call, the beauty firm's chief executive officer, Leslie Blodgett, told analysts Tuesday, "We've grown at over an 80 percent compounded annual growth rate. Our third-quarter net sales increased 45 percent, as we continued to selectively broaden our distribution and further increase brand awareness."

The San Francisco-based mineral makeup firm, which trades under the symbol "BARE," said net earnings for the third quarter ended Oct. 1 dipped 5.3 percent to $8.9 million, or 12 cents a share, from $9.4 million, or 13 cents, from the year-ago period. The period resulted in operating income of $34.6 million, an increase of approximately 75 percent from $19.8 million. Sales gained 45 percent to $97.9 million from $67.6 million.

Blodgett, who serves as the company's magnetic pitchwoman on its informercials, declared, "We are the number-one mineral makeup brand in the U.S., the number-one beauty brand on QVC, the number-one brand at both Sephora and Ulta, and we have the number-one beauty infomercial on air."

As more beauty firms, lured by Blodgett's success, launch mineral makeup lines of their own, Bare Escentuals looks to widen its retail distribution. It is currently sold in 312 Sephora stores and Sephora plans to open at least 60 new doors next year. The company noted that it is also participating in Sephora's venture with J.C. Penney, and that the Bare Escentuals brand is prominently featured in the five beauty boutiques Penney's has opened to date. This spring, the firm also will launch test formats in Federated Department Stores and Nordstrom. Diane Miles, president of Bare Escentuals Inc., said the Federated test will initially involve four Macy's West doors and that the format will vary in size, ranging from 200 square feet to 850 square feet.

Bare Escentuals currently operates 32 freestanding boutiques, with plans to open a minimum of 10 locations next year.

For the nine months ended Oct. 1, the beauty firm's net earnings were $33.9 million, or 47 cents a share, up from $19.1 million, or 28 cents, from the prior year as sales gained 58 percent to $284 million from $179.9 million.The firm expects fourth-quarter sales to grow in the range of 28 to 33 percent over the prior year.

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