After six years of experimentation, an era will end Saturday, when Gloss.com is scheduled to cease operations.
Gloss was one of the most prominent of the dozens of beauty Web sites that popped up in the late Nineties. It was acquired by the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. in 2000 for an estimated $20 million, then underwent a dramatic transformation. Lauder struck a grand alliance with Chanel and Clarins and all three shared the site, which was redesigned and relaunched on Oct. 24, 2001.
But the Internet being what it is, consumer buying habits and tastes evolved at cyber speed.
Philip Shearer, the group president at Lauder in charge of Gloss, said, "We found out that people want to go to brands directly. Also, retailer sites are very successful." Shearer was referring to the e-commerce sites launched by the individual brands and stores.
The same conclusion was reached by Chanel and Clarins, both of which have launched their own brand-centric e-commerce activities. Laurie Palma, senior vice president of fragrance and Internet marketing at Chanel Inc., said, "Gloss.com enabled us to get our feet wet in the world of e-commerce in the U.S. It was a great partnership and the learning experience helped the development of our own chanel.com site."
Apparently the site never ignited into a commercial barn burner. The participating companies do not break out financial data, but according to industry sources, Lauder did well below $10 million in sales on Gloss. Of Lauder's three channels of Internet selling — Gloss.com, its individual brand Web sites and its partner retailer sites, Gloss never did more than 5 percent of the company's e-commerce business.
But even as Gloss is about to shut down, Shearer still sees merit in the "pure play" concept of the multiple-brand Internet cosmetics selling site. "The pure play idea is a valid one, if it is done in a different way," he noted. What is important today, he added, is "the 360-degree world of the brand. That's what the consumer wants."