Success Strategy: Editing for Ease

Speakers from prestige beauty firms at this week’s WWD Beauty Forum, held at the Asia Society in New York, didn’t dispute that today’s consumers cross-shop. A message they made known, however, is that they aren’t about to give up, and they aren’t going to meet mass marketers on price or products. Even the mass marketers in the audience no longer want to be considered “mass” and are taking moves to edit the mix for specific shoppers.

Rather than continue to see shoppers migrate away from their stores or brands, luxury companies are making bold moves to eliminate some customer groups from their target audience and to create a mix carefully cultivated for the shoppers they want to embrace and strengthen loyal ties with. Throughout many speeches, the words “exclusive,” “nurture” and “curate” were mentioned. Department and specialty retailers are eschewing the concept of one size fits all, and are decidedly not trying to be everything to all people.

Many brands are doing the same. In a sense, this could usher a return to stores and brands being known for something special — Frango Mints at Marshall Field’s or the original Cellar at Macy’s.

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The most vivid example of a company taking eye-opening steps to reestablish high-end positioning was provided by Alexander Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta. He’s in the process of rebirthing the fragrance brand, which entailed the painful step of cleaning the distribution house. How badly alternative distribution impacted the Oscar de la Renta fragrance franchise hit him when one retailer told him he could go to any local drugstore and find Oscar de la Renta. While couture had kept its upscale positioning, the proliferation of distribution tarnished the fragrance. For Bolen, it is worth cutting off bigger distribution to “get the house” in order. To further dovetail with the heritage of its fashion positioning, plans were put in place for lip and nail products and a solid fragrance ring. In Harrods, a beautiful Oscar de la Renta dress is showcased in cosmetics to fortify the link between beauty and fashion.

Harrods is another prime example of a retailer hand-picking brands carefully curated for the customer base, which includes locals and tourists. Annalise Quest, general merchandise manager for beauty for the retail emporium, described what makes a product right for Harrods. She prowls for items that are “best in class,” and then Harrods nurtures them. An example she cited was Slendertone Face, an electronic gadget said to give the appearance of a facelift that Harrods exclusively launched and incubated.

Editing the mix for the consumer works well in prestige environments, but also has a role in direct-to-consumer and even mass retailing. Claudia Lucas, director of merchandising for beauty at QVC, talked about finding the right brands for the TV retailer, but also building multiplatforms that include cell phones, social media, the Internet and even brick-and-mortar stores, as seen in a unique promotion with Sephora for a new skin care called Algenist.

Mecca Cosmetica founder Jo Horgan said editing the mix for her shoppers has become what her customers expect. She added that service has become a feature associated with her stores that help keep shoppers loyal. Target’s senior vice president health and beauty, José Barra, said the exclusive lines at Target, such as the current Calypso St. Barth, also seek to make Target a mass chain with a specific focus on customers looking for high-end brands customized for his channel.

Although much has been said about the demise of department stores and the challenges of luxury brands, the forum proved that smart thinking and gutsy moves will ensure a rebirth of better beauty retailing in the years to come.

People, Places and Things

A few words with José Barra, senior vice president health and beauty, Target Corp. Barra was a guest speaker at the WWD Beauty Forum this week in New York.

WWDBeautyNews: How do you balance newness and freshness with guaranteeing an item is always in stock or available for your guests?

Barra: This is difficult. In many markets, such as the Northeast, we can’t keep some of our products in stock because stores are so busy. We are working hard to improve that. We do try many new lines and items to keep stores fresh, and some are eliminated if our guests don’t respond. But in general, we are continuing with our Destination Beauty format, and we find our lighting and our educational signage is having a big impact on beauty sales.

WWDBeautyNews: Will you be able to blend your fashion exclusives with beauty going forward?

Barra: We do find more opportunities, and we think Missoni and the colors lend themselves to the category. Also, our current Calypso [collection] has cosmetics bags and hair care accessories. We also have found great success with brands in beauty such as Boots, and we will continue to look for those opportunities. We have a high level of collaboration with these partners.

What’s In Store:

OPI and Miss Universe Launch Collection: OPI Products has signed a deal with the Miss Universe Organization to launch the Miss Universe Collection, with colors to be revealed June 14 in Las Vegas at a special event surrounding the 2011 Miss USA Pageant.

Black Opal Announces Donation: Black Opal has announced the donation of $25,000 to the Georges Malaika Foundation, which will aid in the building of a new school for young girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Black Opal is about more than just skin care and cosmetics. It’s about community,” stated Maya Brown, Black Opal senior marketing director. “We see the potential in the girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we want to provide much needed educational opportunities in order to help empower them to become leaders in their community. By becoming leaders, they can help make positive contributions to their society.”


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