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ModelCo’s Blueprint to Serve How Consumers Shop for Beauty

Buoyed by success with a limited-edition collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld and Stella Maxwell, ModelCo founder Shelley Sullivan is dividing her company into two separate divisions. She is also doubling down in the bustling self-tanning business.

On the heels of her limited-edition collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld and Stella Maxwell, ModelCo founder Shelley Sullivan will be officially dividing her 17-year-old company into two sectors in early 2019. The move was designed to better reflect and cater to global consumer beauty shopping habits. She’s also venturing even deeper into the self-tanning category, one she helped pioneer. ModelCo, which is headquartered in Sydney, is among Australia’s fastest-growing beauty brands and received a big boost from Lagerfeld’s vote of confidence.

Launching now is ModelCo’s Tan Water, a hydrating liquid that can be spritzed over the face and body to achieve a subtle, buildable glow. Gradually, over the course of four hours, Tan Water produces a natural looking tan. It can also refresh and revive an existing glow with soothing ingredients like green tea extract, coconut water and Rose Bulgaria Flower Oil to hydrate and illuminate. According to NPD, sales of prestige self-tanners are growing at almost a 20 percent clip.

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Sullivan said the idea to delve into self-tanning dates back to her days as a model agent. “I was continually listening to what my models wished they’d had in their beauty regime that all the luxury brands weren’t providing. I was also looking at the way they applied makeup and tanning products,” Sullivan said. That inspired her to launch two first-to-market innovations — a heated eyelash curler in 2002 followed by Tan Airbrush in Can. “When the product first launched, we literally could not keep up with the demand for orders and to this day, one Tan Airbrush in a Can is sold every 36 seconds worldwide. Since the debut of Tan Airbrush in a Can, ModelCo has launched a new tanning item with each Australian summer season.

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Simultaneously with the latest tanning product, ModelCo has completed a goal to segment into two divisions. Sullivan said the move dovetails with changing beauty shopping patterns. In 2019, there will officially be ModelCo, the premium brand sold internationally at high-end beauty retailers. This includes the 52-piece Karl Lagerfeld range that generated more than $30 million worth of press and social media at the launch in May. The buzz helped ModelCo sign distribution deals in 27 countries with retailers including Douglas, Nordstrom, Sephora, Bloomingdale’s Middle East, Harvey Nichols and Galeries Lafayette.

The premium line has a cadre of notable brand ambassadors including Stella Maxwell, Hailey Baldwin and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Baldwin, in fact, help develop an eponymously named collection for ModelCo.

At the other end of the spectrum, there will be MCo Beauty dubbed “luxe for less,” by Sullivan. “ModelCo invested several million dollars into a new mass-market range to embrace the growing retail trend of convenience, price point and accessibility,” Sullivan said.

“Launching MCo Beauty into mass retail outlets means ModelCo products reach a wider customer base, by having both the premium and mass offerings,” she said. The strategy appears to pay off — last season MCo Beauty contributed more than 75 percent of Woolworth’s cosmetics business in Australia, she said.

She said the division reflects changes in the beauty market. “The thinking behind the clear split between ModelCo and MCo Beauty is that we feel it is time for a conscious uncoupling and for MCo Beauty to stand apart from ModelCo. We are going to embark on strong, clear communications to ensure that each brand is talking to the right audience.” She said MCo Beauty will play in the masstige space with prices under $25. “ModelCo, our premium brand, will continue to partner with the interesting and the influential on limited-edition collaborations whilst focusing on multipurpose, on-trend beauty staples.”

The company has a physical store footprint, but Sullivan said e-commerce is on the front burner, accounting for 21 percent of ModelCo beauty sales last year. “Digital isn’t a strategy or a channel, it’s where ModelCo and MC Beauty live,” she said. TheModelCo website underwent a significant upgrade in 2018 to ensure its e-commerce facility was at optimal functioning level to service the 80 percent of ModelCo customers who shop online globally.

Sullivan said social media plays a big role in the brand’s landscape. “ModelCo and MCo Beauty now tap into this community by continuously asking ‘How does this translate into Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter?’”