LONDON — Marc Jacobs Beauty has picked Harvey Nichols as its exclusive U.K. and Ireland distribution partner as it refines its strategy to focus on a young, fashion-conscious consumer, WWD has learned.
As of October, the retailer will become the sole distributor of the brand through its eight U.K. and Ireland units and online. To mark the start of the strategy, a limited-edition collection called Leopard Frost will be available exclusively at Harvey Nichols between October and December.
Shameless, a collection of longwear foundations with SPF 25, will also make its U.K. debut at the store. The full Marc Jacobs Beauty range, including the award-winning Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara, will be sold beginning Oct. 11.
The Marc beauty business launched five years ago and has been sold in the U.K. for a little more than two years at stores including Harrods and John Lewis. Both Marc Jacobs International and the beauty distributor Kendo Brands Inc. are controlled by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
In an interview, Jennifer Lucchese, vice president and general manager for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Kendo Brands, said it was time to take a fresh look at the distribution strategy, and added that the U.K. represented one of the biggest growth opportunities for the brand which, according to industry sources, is generating an estimated $200 million in sales worldwide.
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“They really understand our customer, and their commitment to service, fashion, trend and quality makes them the ideal partner” in the region, said Lucchese. She added that the Marc Jacobs Beauty U.K. customer base is a particular one.
“The loyalty of clients supporting the Marc Jacobs Beauty brand in the U.K. is exceptional. It is our ongoing goal to serve these clients, continuing to work with the best partners in beauty retail, and to introduce new beauty customers to our brand.”
Harvey Nichols has revamped its ground-floor beauty hall, added an open-plan blow-dry and treatment space and telegraphed new brand messages to the market. It was the exclusive U.K. platform for Fenty Beauty, which saw crowds of young women lining up behind velvet ropes outside the store to get their slice of Rihanna’s style.
The store also has a long-standing reputation as a launchpad — and incubator — for emerging names in the industry, and was the first to launch MAC Cosmetics in the U.K., which saw cross-dressers walking up and down Knightsbridge and pierced and tattooed shop assistants. It also opened its arms to Shu Uemura at a time when no brand was specializing in brushes or eyelash curlers.
Daniela Rinaldi, an architect of the store’s success in beauty, has recently been promoted to co-chief operating officer of Harvey Nichols, alongside Manju Malhotra.
In addition to its Knightsbridge flagship, Harvey Nichols has outposts in Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, England, the latter of which boasts a specialist space known as Beauty Bazaar. There are also stores in Dublin, Ireland and Edinburgh, Scotland. It also has seven units outside the U.K. and Ireland.
Lucchese said Harvey Nichols was the right partner because of its ability to pull in a local U.K. customer, who is fashion- and trend-oriented and who is looking for “high-performance, effortless makeup. We are really looking to reach the local U.K. women who embody the brand,” she said.
She described the Marc Jacobs Beauty client as a “young, luxury customer” who loves fashion “and who thinks about her makeup as an extension of her wardrobe. She does her makeup sometimes in the back of the cab or gets more glam for special occasions. She looks for quality first and then likes to add in the fun with our unique colors. We formulate all of our products for this idea of effortless high performance.”
Lucchese added that Harvey Nichols’ appeal comes from its quality, trends and service offer and its “commitment to innovation and thinking out of the box. Once we came together and began to brainstorm the launch, we realized we share so much of the same approach to business — looking to break the rules, have some fun and give our clients the best.”
She also said the store had been generous with space across the U.K. store portfolio, committing some of its best real estate to the brand in the stores, which also carry Marc Jacobs accessories.
Rinaldi argued that “fashion and beauty fanatics love Harvey Nichols for its rule-breaking ethos and breadth of high-quality exclusive ranges. We are certain Marc Jacobs Beauty will be a highly anticipated addition to our acclaimed luxury beauty offering.”
As part of the launch, Lucchese said the brand is planning for activations involving influencers and global artistry ambassadors. She added that the company regularly partners with Katie Grand and Love magazine and with Diane Kendal, the beauty product consultant and makeup artist for Marc Jacobs Beauty, and will continue to leverage those relationships in the U.K.
Looking ahead, the brand will be focusing on the eye category, with plans to unveil “significant innovations, building on our existing equity,” said Lucchese.
“We continue to build out a strong complexion business, with some exciting new launches in the coming year. Our strategic partnership with the fashion house, bringing runway beauty to market, will continue with bigger and stronger statements around the looks in Marc’s shows. We are continuing global expansion around the world,” she said.
As reported in May, Jacobs’ beauty business extends beyond Kendo to his fragrance license with Coty Inc., and both areas have projects in development, including skin care as part of Marc Jacobs Beauty.
Asked whether the disruption at Marc Jacobs, which has been restructuring and which has undergone management changes on the business and creative sides, was impacting beauty operations, Lucchese said it was not. As reported, creative director of the contemporary division John Targon left his post last April after two-and-a-half months.
“We are so lucky to have Marc leading our beauty brand. He is so involved in the business and brings so much of his magic to it. Regardless of any change in the fashion brand, the Marc Jacobs brand has strong equity around the world,” she said, adding that the beauty business was no exception.
In May, Jacobs was a speaker at the WWD Beauty Summit, and told the audience that almost five years after the launch of beauty, the names Kendo and Sephora have worked their way into his everyday work life.
“There isn’t a day of the week where we’re having a meeting with somebody in another area where I’m [not] using Kendo and the people at Sephora as an example,” Jacobs said. “It may be that we started with nothing and we created it from scratch so there was no baggage, but it really shows [that] when you have a passionate team who knows about formula, who know about communication, who are interested in what you have to say and respectful of what you have to say and very excited by change and newness, what the results can be and what possibilities you have.”