There’s a sleek new competitor in the color-cosmetics arena.
Walgreens Boots Alliance is making good on its promise to deliver more of its owned brands to the U.S. market. Joining Soap & Glory, No. 7 and Botanics is Sleek Makeup, a collection of high-payoff cosmetics with shades for all skin tones. WWD’s most recent Top 100 pegged WBA as the 31st-largest beauty company with estimated sales of $1.2 billion, up 5 percent over the 2015 total, a number bolstered by U.S. expansion.
Founded in the U.K., Sleek Makeup was acquired by WBA in 2015. It makes its maiden voyage into the U.S. with the launch of 23 hero palettes on June 1 exclusively on ulta.com.
In July, Sleek Makeup hits shelves in 300 of Ulta Beauty’s physical stores with 61 items (69 will be online) and all 143-stockkeeping units will ship into roughly 245 Walgreens’ locations. Later this year there will be a pilot on target.com, another core partner for the WBA brands. Prices range from $5.99 to $15.99.
“Sleek is one of the fastest-growing brand in the U.K,” said Lyle Tick, managing director at Walgreens Boots Alliance-Boots Retail USA. “Sleek’s proposition and products are very relevant with today’s beauty makeup enthusiasts. We plan to make a splash in the U.S.”
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Sleek Makeup is sold online and in retailers such as Boots and Superdrug in the U.K. and boosted its international distribution last year with availability in Switzerland. A recent visitor to Superdrug confirmed interest in the brand with throngs of young shoppers crowded around an expansive display of Sleek Makeup. There is already a built-in buzz in the U.S. fortified by beauty influencer fans including Jaclyn Hills, Manny Mua, Nikkie Tutorials, Lustrelux and Jeffree Star.
“Sleek has all the attributes to offer diverse color ranges at an affordable price and shopping locations,” said industry consultant Allan Mottus. “With the investment at Walgreens, Boots has distinguished itself as a real competitor.” He added the other brands in the WBA portfolio such as No. 7 and Soap & Glory are making noise in the industry as well. WBA would not comment on any sales projections as Sleek Makeup commences a measured expansion into the U.S. However, industry sources said it could parallel the potential of NYX Cosmetics once larger distribution is achieved over time — NYX’s volume exceeded $90 million when L’Oréal snapped it up. For now, Sleek Makeup is dipping its toe into the pond hoping the heritage will be a point of difference in a market with many options. It arrives as the cosmetics category is on an upward trajectory, triggered by high usage by young beauty enthusiasts eager to try looks posted on social media.
While WBA executives declined to provide a first year sales projection, industry sources speculate that the limited launch could yield between $5 million to $8 million in retail sales.
The brand’s calling card is a shade range offering options for women of all ethnicities and complexions from very fair to deep skin tones. In fact, Sleek Makeup was created by Dennis Tharratt, a beauty wholesaler operating in East London. He identified a lack of products suited for some of his consumers — especially those of Afro-Caribbean heritage. His response was Sleek Makeup introduced in 1995 and picked up by Boots in 2006 and then purchased by WBA. While Sleek Makeup started as a brand for women of color, it evolved into catering to all skin tones.
“Sleek provides incredible color performance at a really great price,” said Tick of the range which spans eyes, lips and face. The company has a “strong social ear,” he said, creating products by listening to consumers’ wish lists rather than dictating what they want. “We feel we are really good at jumping on a need or identifying a trend before it hits a tipping point.” He named a few product areas where Sleek Makeup has been ahead of the pack, such as matte lipstick and contouring.
Because the facial choices span 24 shades, Tick expects Sleek will excel in that category. Some of the hero face items include a Highlighting Palette and Barekissed Illuminator. But Tick thinks U.S. beauty devotees will also gravitate toward the bold, high-performing products across eyes and lips, too. The Major Matte lipstick is one example of an item pinpointed to gain traction, along with vibrant eye shadow palettes.
Sleek Makeup will be domiciled in the mass sector of Ulta Beauty. In Walgreens the brand is expected to be housed in proximity to other WAG-owned lines. There will be testers at Walgreens and eventing at Ulta Beauty to help garner attention. Social media is also expected to drive U.S. consumers to the launch. “When you watch customers experiment with Sleek in stores, they fall in love,” concluded Tick.
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