By  on May 26, 2006

If the incredibly fast pace of change in the beauty industry has you asking, "What the heck is going on?," Wendy Liebmann, founder and president of WSL Strategic Retail and author of the frequently quoted WSL From the Edge Trend Letter, says you're not alone. Running through the significant deals of the last 12 months — the alliance between J.C. Penney and Sephora, L'Oréal's acquisition of The Body Shop, third-party brands in Bath & Body Works, just to name a few — Liebmann used the question as a refrain to highlight the unrelenting pace of change in her speech, "Reinventing Beauty in a Never Normal World," also the title of her 2006 megatrend report.

During her presentation, Liebmann discussed the societal changes that have led to a transformation in the shopping habits of consumers, revealed what matters most to shoppers today and prescribed six rules for reinventing the beauty business.

"My head is spinning as we watch the American shopper go from drugstore to dollar store to discount store to department store and online and catalogues, too," she said, citing statistics from the report. "What we're seeing is American shoppers spinning the globe to a degree that we've never seen before."

The world is changing so quickly, Liebmann explained, because of societal upheaval in the last six years — the bursting of the dot-com bubble; the terrorist attacks of 9/11; corporate, political and religious scandals; war, natural disasters; rising fuel prices.

"It is a never-normal world," Liebmann said. "American consumers are telling us they don't know what's going to happen tomorrow and, as a result, they're trying to take control of their life in the only way they know how.

"Guess what?" she continued. "For the most part, it's where they go shopping, where they choose to spend their money everyday." There are more shopping choices in beauty than ever before: 15 years ago, Liebmann tracked eight retail channels for the category; today, that number is 24.

Still, with all the transformations, "we are at the very beginning of a new shopping decade," Liebmann said. To explain what today's consumers are looking for, Liebmann created a fictional character, Prudence. "She is one heck of a prudent shopper," Liebmann laughingly explained. "She has a prudent mind-set that is calculatingly price-conscious. That doesn't mean she necessarily only wants the lowest price in town, but she certainly is smart enough to know what a good price and a good value is and that's fueling her mind-set."

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