Chief executive officer Robert DeBaker may have started when Becca Cosmetics was at its bottom, but with a breakout highlighter hit and innovative new products, the brand is now here — he anticipates, to stay.
This story first appeared in the June 29, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“[There were] bad decisions on distribution, how to manage your inventory properly, what kind of products do you launch and when, and how do you activate them in the market,” DeBaker said, of the point in time when he came on board. “[On the plus side,] from a starting point of being admired for having a shade for all skin tones — particularly in the complexion category — cool packaging — especially when it first launched — was very different, to see brown and silver packaging together. [Along with the] soft touch, the beautiful visuals were inclusive, yet there was something free-flowing, fresh, feminine and natural about them. And at the very beginning, Becca had found its way into the best distribution you could possibly imagine. They were in Sephora, Bergdorf’s, Nordstrom, Selfridges, they were in Lane Crawford. But because of those multiple factors, the brand started to fall apart.”
“Your industry friends would tell you that the brand was virtually dead,” DeBaker continued. “I kind of agree.” The idea that Becca had a shade for every skin tone — 55 percent of the brand’s customers identify as non-white, DeBaker said — is what drew him in. “It felt so relevant for where we all know the population of the United States is heading, and the global ability of women from many countries to have access…to prestige cosmetics.”
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DeBaker has been at Becca for roughly five years, jumping on board after working as ceo of Korres Natural Products, at YSL Beauté and at Estée Lauder. Under him, Becca landed back on the map with a splash with 2015 highlighter sellout Champagne Pop — which it created in partnership with beauty vlogger Jaclyn Hill. That highlighter is now responsible for about 15 percent of the business’ net sales, according to industry sources. Becca posted approximately $40 million in net sales last year, and could bring in $80 million this year, according to sources. The turnaround has captured the interest of investors, which have been vying to take over now that majority owner Luxury Brand Partners has hired investment bank Piper Jaffray to conduct a saleand a transaction is likely to be inked before summer is out, industry sources said.
Becca’s restructuring started long before the Champagne Pop success, with a hard cut of stockkeeping units. The goal was to pare down Becca’s 350 units no more than 150. From there, the plan was to own complexion. “Getting the complexion category right registers with consumers in a way where they will be highly loyal to you,” he said.
The challenge was do that with fewer than 150 sku’s. To get started, DeBaker went to the labs and asked them to find a way to use light technology to make foundation shades with complexion flexibility. “When you work with light, it makes our eye not see certain things,” he said.
“We have 20 shades per foundation. Very early in my time at Becca I started thinking, I know I have this great thing about we have a shade for every skin tone, however, the purchasing steps that we make a woman go through to figure out what shade of foundation is right for her complexion is one of the most complicated purchasing decisions,” DeBaker said. “The other solution for me, I’m going to admit, is a pure business solution. I don’t care what brand you are, if you have 35 shades of foundation or you have 12 shades of foundation, five or six of them are productive, as we say in financial terms, and the rest aren’t. They’re investment. You spend a lot of money, you produce them, then they don’t sell, then you discontinue them, then you disappoint the few people who did buy it.”
The results of the research — Aqua Luminous Perfecting Foundation — features the merger of a light-reflecting particle with pigment. “We ended up launching a foundation range that has nine shades that covers the exact same full spectrum that our 20-shade range does,” DeBaker said.
Other recent launches in complexion include Becca’s color-correcting concealers. The products check the box for the individualized makeup trend — allowing users to color-correct redness or under eye circles. “People are getting very specific about cocktailing,” said Annie Bystryn, Becca’s vice president of marketing. “They want to customize their complexion.”
Continuing on its complexion path, Aqua Luminous Perfecting Concealer is slated to launch this fall, and a new lip product is scheduled for early 2017. Becca expanded its partnership with Hill, who co-created Champagne Pop. In June, the pair launched the Becca x Jaclyn Hill Champagne Collection — featuring two new iterations of Champagne Pop (liquid and crème) and a face palette with a new highlighter shade, called Prosecco Pop, inspired by liquid gold. Before it launched in stores, the collection had already brought in about $4.5 million in sales from a flash mobile app sale via Sephora, and through the online launch at Sephora, industry sources said.
“What’s happened over five years is we’ve done the right product with the right consumer mix,” DeBaker said. “We’re matching what’s happening to the demographics of the country with messaging that’s spot on, and Jaclyn fits that whole bucket because inclusion is her whole story.”