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Victoria Beckham Bets Big on Beauty

Come for the packaging, stay for the performance. Two years after launch, the brand — and its famed founder — are taking its have-it-all ethos into new countries and categories.

Victoria Beckham Beauty might be taking the slow and steady approach to growth, but Victoria Beckham herself is not.

The fashion designer, beauty entrepreneur and former Spice Girl was in New York last week, promoting her makeup and skin care line, making stops everywhere from “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and “Good Morning America” to Bergdorf Goodman to her brand’s Brooklyn offices, where Beauty Inc photographed her. Beckham arrived with as much specificity on wardrobe, lighting and location as she does with her pigments’ packaging and performance.

The attention to detail is paying off. Victoria Beckham Beauty’s message — that one shouldn’t have to compromise between performance, luxury experience and formulas billed as “clean” — is striking a chord. The brand saw triple-digit growth last year, in addition to its customer base quadrupling, Beckham said. Neither she nor chief executive officer and cofounder Sarah Creal would comment on sales, but industry sources estimate the brand will reach between $20 million and $22 million in global gross sales in 2022.

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“It’s been such a whirlwind,” Beckham said. “We were a true start-up when we started. We were profitable after 15 months as a business, which is pretty incredible considering that we launched just five months before COVID-19 hit. We’re on track to be profitable again this year, as well.”

Beckham’s New York-based team, led by Creal, has doubled in size since launch, from six to 13. “We’ve done this and we’re such a small team, but we’re growing,” Beckham added — enough so for the company to gain office space at Soho Works in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We wanted the team to be able to have their own space, but also be able to feed off of the creative energy and collaborate,” Creal said. “We’re at the age and stage where we want to have that.”

Despite Beckham’s other endeavors, including her namesake fashion brand, which is based in the U.K., she said centralizing the team also allowed her to be as heavily involved as she is in every step of the business as she positions it for future growth.

“We’ve had to adapt, we’ve succeeded, and we’ve got everything that we need to achieve,” Beckham said. For every aspect of the business, “we’ve really considered all of the little details. For example, [we’ve spent] just hours of discussing the exact positioning of the horn pattern on the packaging. It looks very effortless, it looks easy, but it’s very considered.”

Beckham’s beauty assortment launched with makeup at the end of 2019, followed shortly by two skin care products in partnership with Augustinus Bader. Today, the brand spans both categories, with prices ranging from $24 for lip liners to $210 for a serum. Despite comprising just two products, skin is one of the brand’s bestselling categories; in color, Posh Lipstick and Bitten Lip Lip Tints have been standout performers.

Beckham is also building out distribution, moving from direct-to-consumer to brick-and-mortar. Last week, Victoria Beckham Beauty made its debut at Bergdorf Goodman, its first physical location. Online, it is sold on Net-a-porter, Violet Grey in the U.S., Cult Beauty and its own e-commerce site.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Victoria Beckham poses with a display of Victoria Beckham Beauty as Bergdorf Goodman Celebrates Victoria Beckham Beauty on October 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Bergdorf Goodman)
Victoria Beckham with Victoria Beckham Beauty’s new display in Bergdorf Goodman. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Bergdorf Goodman

For Bergdorf Goodman, the decision to launch the beauty brand was a no-brainer. “We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Victoria Beckham, and Bergdorf was the first to launch Victoria Beckham Collection in 2009,” said Yumi Shin, Bergdorf Goodman’s chief merchant. “We’re always looking to offer exceptional, luxurious, technologically advanced products and one-of-a-kind experiences. That curation and building strong partnerships is at the heart of what we do.”

Bergdorf Goodman expanded its assortment of trending beauty brands earlier this year with the launch of its BG Beauty Edit shop-in-shop. Shin said the business is “performing above expectations,” while adding that Beckham’s have-it-all ethos resonates with the retailer’s clientele. “Clean beauty is especially very important — not just products that are clean, but products that perform. Not only just color, but it’s also skin care that’s high-performing product and also very clean. Also, what makes Victoria Beckham Beauty stand out is the really luxurious packaging. We’ve had a really early, really strong response to the entire product line.”

When the brand first launched as direct-to-consumer, Creal’s imperative was to gain sharper consumer insight into who is buying Victoria Beckham Beauty and why. “This is something we felt strongly about from the beginning, that we establish a relationship with our customer, because we wanted to really understand what it is they want,” she said. Now that it is entering its third year, Creal and Beckham are eager to have consumer touch and feel the products firsthand.

“That’s one of the challenges when you launch direct-to-consumer,” Beckham said. “You have to work very hard on those assets for the customer to really see the formulas and the palettes to understand the formulas. You do want to have a destination where they can go and physically try the product. There’s nothing like going in somewhere physically and actually trying it.”

Inside Victoria Beckham's Skin Care, Makeup
Victoria Beckham Beauty lid lustres. Photo courtesy of Victoria Beckham Beauty

As for further retail partnerships, Creal said the strategy is to proceed with caution. “Our wholesale plans are going to be thoughtful, like everything else. It’s a slow and steady approach. Given the times that we’re in, we’re just taking it one step at a time and really doing it well. That’s our goal,” she said.

While sales are off to a fast start at Bergdorf Goodman, parlaying Beckham’s celebrity status into sales hasn’t worked in every market. The brand pulled out of China, where it launched in July 2020 with a storefront on Alibaba’s Tmall Global.

“Frankly speaking, we bit off more than we could chew. We were too much of a start-up with no boots on the ground, and I would just not do that again,” Creal said. “It was a much heavier lift than I anticipated, and I’m not a fan of not doing things well.”

Going into China had a steep learning curve, which Creal said will inform reentry when the brand has grown enough to sustain a heavier presence there. “You have to have authentic relationships with the key opinion leaders, and that is something that takes more time coming in as a Western brand,” she said. “Everyone has an opinion, everyone will tell you there’s one way to enter China, and there are 25. There’s no exact roadmap. You have to be able to continue to put time, energy and resources against this constant pivot that you need to do in order to make things resonate in that market.”

In the meantime, Victoria Beckham Beauty is focusing on English-speaking markets. Creal said “the U.S. is a massive opportunity, and is our biggest market right now, but there’s huge potential for growth here.” The U.K., Beckham’s home market, is the brand’s second-largest.

Beyond that, it also opened Australia and Canada, where the brand now ships and has paid advertising. “Australia, in particular, has over-indexed versus what we thought it would do, so we definitely see an opportunity there,” Creal said. “We can gauge that based on how many people are ordering from Australia either through the U.K. or the U.S. websites. We saw demand was significant enough to open an Australian storefront.”

Canada has also been promising, where Creal said results were “significant.”

The duo are also keeping close tabs on markets in the E.U., which require more delicacy, Creal said. “We’re taking a closer look at France, Italy and Germany. But the thing you’re dealing with there is translation, and moving out of English as the language. Whenever that happens, you really have to take much more into context, the tone and manner and culture.”

In terms of products, Beckham is looking to expand into burgeoning categories. Rather than be dictated by product trends, her product development strategy is to follow the consumer. “It’s about what I want, what we want, and it’s not about jumping on a bandwagon or trend,” she said, noting there’s a robust launch calendar that covers the next three years. “It’s what we want to use as women.”

The newest launch is Cheeky Posh, blush sticks in five shades, $42 each.

While color is core, Beckham and Creal are also exploring all options. “We’re especially excited about fragrance, but we’re really looking at all of the big categories,” Beckham said. “We’re just formulating a plan, we don’t have anything set of what we’re going to do it. It’s a very active discussion.”

Inside Victoria Beckham's Skin Care, Makeup
Victoria Beckham Beauty skin care products, developed with Augustinus Bader. Photo Courtesy of Victoria Beckham Beauty

Skin care continues to win for the brand, too. “We’re also busy building our business with Augustinus Bader,” Creal said. “At Bergdorf’s, and it’s only been a short period of time, skin care is about 60 percent of our sales.

“Skin care is another thing that’s been challenging to sell direct-to-consumer,” she added, “but the minute that people see it and what the change is on their skin, it’s a no brainer, so that’s doing really well.”

Beckham noted that creating skin care up to spec for her own usage translates well into consumer trust. “Both myself and David [Beckham] share skin care products, and we have genuinely noticed a huge difference in our skin,” she said. “Working with Augustinus Bader has been wonderful, and to have the same level of [Bader’s proprietary hero ingredient] TFC8 in our products as he has in his own is exciting.

“These are all products that I have been searching for and haven’t been able to find,” Beckham continued. “There’s a lot of product out there, but for me, I couldn’t find what I needed in my makeup bag. So it’s very honest, and my customer gets a sense of that. I’m not a professional makeup artist, so the products are also relatively easy to use.”

Ease of use is key to communicating with consumers, who want to hear about products directly from Beckham herself. That one-on-one approach drives the brand’s content strategy.

“We’ve tried a lot of different things, and in regards to performance, we know that our macro videos really work, so people can see the product,” Beckham said. “We also like to show a sense of humor and personality, and that’s important to everything that I do. We can have fun with our community.”

In terms of Beckham’s core customer, there is some overlap between fashion and beauty, but a lot of differences, too, Creal said. “They are the same demographics. But the beauty customer is very much so a beauty customer,” she noted. “She’s really into beauty and really into Victoria. She wants to know, where is Victoria going, what is Victoria doing and what is she using in her beauty routine.”

Sarah Creal and Victoria Beckham
Sarah Creal and Victoria Beckham Weston Wells/WWD

To that end, for the launch of Cheeky Posh, whose name nods to Beckham’s past life as a Spice Girl, video footage of Beckham with the product saw “engagement that has been just crazy,” Creal said. The brand’s Instagram following comes in at more than 500,000 followers; Beckham’s personal account is just shy of 30 million.

For Beckham, whether she’s posting about fashion or beauty, her message is the same. “It’s about making women feel empowered, like the best versions of themselves, and creating product that I want in my wardrobe and my makeup bag,” she said.

“The development process is lengthier with beauty for all the obvious reasons, and my entire team is based in the U.S., whereas I’m in the office in London every day working on fashion, but it’s a very different way of working,” she continued.

Part of Beckham’s goal is cohesion between both her fashion and beauty businesses. “When I do a fashion show, of course, I want the girls to be wearing our makeup. When we do a makeup shoot, I want anything below the neck to be my clothes,” she said. “I love that I can do this without compromising on quality, execution and design.”

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