Welcome to the 2015 version of the WWD Beauty Inc Top 100. The list, our annual ranking of the world’s biggest beauty companies, has become a staple of the industry. Led by Alex Wynne in Europe and Laura Klepacki in the U.S., our reporters around the world scour the industry’s competitive landscape to provide an in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis of the year in beauty. They’ve also spent countless hours combing through the available financial data for the publicly traded companies on the Top 100—50 in all—to compare and contrast everything from operating profit to research and development spending to shareholder equity.
This year it seemed like there was even more activity than usual to report on. Call 2015 the year of the deal—the largest, of course, Coty Inc.’s pending acquisition of 41 brands from Procter & Gamble Co., including most of its prestige portfolio, its professional hair-care and color brands and
its makeup holdings. But Coty wasn’t alone. Unilever snapped up a number of prestige skin-care brands; Avon spun off its U.S. business through a deal with the private equity firm Cerberus and Walgreens Boots Alliance snapped up both beauty brands and retail behemoths in its quest for mass market dominance.
The impact of social media can’t be underestimated either, particularly its role in driving sales of color cosmetics. For example, companies like L’Oréal (number one) and the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. (number four), posted impressive gains thanks to their strength in the category. Factor in the economic slowdown in countries that have been key drivers for many beauty companies, such as Brazil, Russia and China, plus the adverse impact of currency fluctuations, and the result is a list—and an industry—in flux.
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One person who knows change well is Jami Morse Heidegger, this issue’s Master Class subject and a woman who helped create the juggernaut known as Kiehl’s before selling it to L’Oréal. After the native New Yorker moved to California she published an equestrian magazine, got involved with philanthropic work and settled into motherhood. Now she’s back in beauty, building a skin-care business, Retrouvé, and taking what’s she’s learned from her past to create the future.
Heidegger has been especially motivated by the emergence of a more individualistic approach toward beauty, another key driver in 2015.
“In our society now and especially as we grow older,” says Heidegger, “we have more freedom to define beauty for ourselves….Now we live in a society that accepts so much more diversity. People are becoming more self-confident about making choices for themselves about what they think is beautiful.”