NEW YORK — With two new dot-com endeavors just under way — and multiple efforts within the last year — beauty’s presence on the Web is gradually making a comeback from its late Nineties boom and bust.
The Body Shop, for one, went live Tuesday with its first e-commerce site, a concept called the Lunch Lounge. It’s a link on thebodyshop.com that directs visitors to an online boutique only open from noon to 5 p.m. EDT. It’s designed to catch browsers on their lunch breaks. A Body Shop survey involving 1,509 working women aged 18 to 54 found that 54 percent choose to “relax on the Internet every day as a means to escape from their daily pressures while still at their desks.”
The site features lunchtime-only “beauty deals,” The Body Shop noted, as well as “pampering tips” and even advice on civil involvement. The Body Shop also is planning to feature top product picks by celebrity makeup artist Chase Aston, who is The Body Shop’s international beauty consultant. Of The Body Shop’s 2,007 stores in 50 countries, there are 300 in the U.S. The retailer tallied 700 million pounds, or $1.26 billion at current exchange, in retail sales for the 2004 fiscal year ended February, a flat change over the prior year. Turnover was 381.1 million pounds, or $684.24 million, up 1 percent.
“Our existing beauty customers have doubled the number of sites they syndicate to in the last 12 months,” said Leslie Hingorani, strategic account manager for Web Collage, a Web services provider that has helped brands such as Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clinique and MAC Cosmetics customize their presence on such sites as macys.com and sephora.com. “In general, we are noticing that more and more beauty vendors are investing in their sites and we are seeing strong interest in syndication to retailer sites.
“Some of their sites are truly outstanding in terms of the type of user experience they create,” Hingorani remarked. “They know their customer. And when you look at the way they’ll take the consumer through a brand — in terms of product recommendations and beauty tips — some of them make you feel like there’s a beauty adviser there with you as you’re going through the site.”
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While The Body Shop gets its site up and running, another, called Perfume.com, announced last week it is expanding. The year-old site, which is owned by Canada-based Communicate.com, has expanded its category offering and has begun carrying branded skin care from the likes of Lauder, Lancôme, Guerlain and Shiseido, as well as hair care brands such as Aveda, Paul Mitchell, American Crew and Joico.
Perfume.com’s sales for the month of August, which do not include the new beauty categories, totaled $117,000, a 143 percent increase over the same month last year. Communicate.com owns about 25 dot-com domains in various sectors, including sporting goods and travel. The firm’s gross revenues for the second quarter, which ended June 30, were $733,000, a 320 percent leap over the same period last year. Net profits for the quarter were $121,000, up year-over-year by 330 percent for the Vancouver-based firm.
Speaking of Canada, sephora.com opened e-commerce functions to its customers north of the border through a deal with Canada Post last fall. Also within the last year, Kenzo launched a beauty e-commerce site, kenzousa.com. Furthermore, beauty highlighted its organic side last year when Saffronrouge.com, reportedly the first Web site dedicated to selling organic and biodynamic beauty items, pumped up its marketing and awareness efforts.
And, the e-commerce site launched in 2001 by beauty behemoths Estée Lauder, Chanel and Clarins — aka gloss.com — notwithstanding, there are smaller players, namely Beautycollection.com, Bglowing.com, Beautyexclusive.com and Beautyhabit.com, that occupy a niche position in the beauty dot-com landscape.
— Matthew W. Evans