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Beauty Founders on Distribution’s Evolution

An array of industry executives talk the new opportunities for beauty brands in the shape-shifting distribution landscape.

As distribution trends ebb and flow, a plethora of opportunities have opened for beauty brands, founders agree.

In Beauty Business Essentials, Yellowbrick’s virtual course in partnership with WWD Beauty Inc and Fashion Institute of Technology, founders of brands of all sizes agreed beauty’s flexible landscape allowed various different strategies of entry.

Pamela Baxter, cofounder, Bona Fide Beauty Lab, noted that the advent of specialty retailers was already a disruption to the department store model, and that landscape has only been democratized by the advent of d-to-c platforms.

“When I started in my career, it was department stores. Now you have Sephora, they’re known for building indie brands and are known for building trends, like the clean beauty trend. They’ve been known as the trendsetters in beauty,” Baxter said. “Ulta is both mass and prestige, and their claim to fame is that they have big stores, and their advantage is that they’re in strip malls, so they’re easy access. They have both mass and prestige sales products and they also have services.”

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Brands have only seen growing success in direct-to-consumer businesses since the pandemic, Baxter said. “Direct-to-consumer businesses have been flourishing, so that is a distribution channel that is very viable. With the pandemic, d-to-c became a lifeline for a lot of brands. People love to shop online and people saw a lot of consumers were willing to try new brands and/or new products direct-to-consumer.”

For Faculty, the men’s nail care brand the Estée Lauder Cos. took a minority stake in last year, the strategy was to launch directly through its website with ambitions to expand into retailers, and open its own brick-and-mortar store. “This is a three-phase strategy,” said Fenton Jagdeo, the brand’s cofounder.

Launching directly gave Jagdeo the capability to understand who was buying Faculty products, and why.

“If you want to control the message of the brand, you want to control who buys it, you need to own that and that’s where d-to-c comes in handy,” he said.

The website would not be be-all, end-all, though.

“You need to think about what wholesale and retail looks like, and who you are partnering with,” he said. “We have this vision in the next five to six years of guys coming in to buy nail polish, and also picking up a Faculty skateboard, or Faculty merch, and that’s the brick-and-mortar experience,” he said.

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