Famed investor Lynn Tilton is going for gold with Stila Cosmetics.
She’s owned the brand through her investment firm, Patriarch Partners, since taking over while it was on the brink of collapse in 2009. Seven years and a massive stockkeeping unit reconciliation later, the revamping of Stila is complete — and the golden gondolas that will carry the results are rolling into Sephora locations this month.
Reminiscent of treasure chests, the gondolas feature frontal, raised panels that display product alongside recessed display windows, intending to keep the customer’s eye moving and invite them to play with the products. The upgrade is costing Stila a pretty penny — north of $20 million — including more expensive packaging and gondolas, according to Tilton. But she is betting the investment will pay off by broadening Stila’s demographic to include an older consumer.
“Why can’t I have everyone? Why can’t I go broad, why can’t I go older, why can’t I go for someone who seeks elegance,” Tilton said. “But the biggest thing for me was, how do I take my feminine, whimsical lover of Stila with me?”
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After watching fashion houses enter the beauty market with elegant packaging, Tilton became concerned about Stila’s status. “I never thought Stila would go away, but my great fear was Stila would become a masstige brand,” she said. “I was afraid we were going to be the middle of the Oreo and I wanted to be the icing on the cake.”
So after she took over as chief executive officer, she killed unproductive sku’s. Now, including the new products, Stila has roughly half the sku’s it possessed when Tilton took over. And the products have been shifted from colorful plastic packaging into matte gold metal casing. It costs more and didn’t result in product price increases, but Tilton expects she can more than make up for that if she succeeds in attracting an increased customer base and with successful product launches. “This was our big go home [moment], so boy I hope we’re going big,” Tilton said.
As it stands, Stila’s best-selling products are its Stay All Day Eyeliner and Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick. The brand plans to continue the Stay All Day lines with new matte lipsticks and lip pencils, slated for fall, and an extended color range on its Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Pen. Glitter is also making it further into the line, launching in tubed eye shadows and a gloss that is meant to be worn over the Stay All Day Liquid Lipsticks. “Lips are going to be the new nails,” said Sarah Lucero, Stila’s global executive director of creative artistry.
The product strategy is to develop the core and then integrate more trendy products. “It might be a trend in the industry, but we’re not copying anyone,” Lucero said. “We’re doing it in a way that Stila would always do it.”
Between the revamp and launches, Stila expects to grow sales by well over 20 percent this year, according to Tilton. Those gains ready Stila for its future, which will include Tilton’s eventual exit. “In this industry, you always have to think about exiting,” Tilton said. “I had brought [Stila] back to life years ago, but it was not where it needed to be to be truly valuable because it wasn’t poised for the future…right now, it is poised for the future,” she said. “Numbers aren’t always all that you need. You need the innovation, which is the launching platform for someone else’s future, and I think it took us until this moment to even think about having that ready for someone else.”
The next step in Stila’s innovation will marry Tilton’s automotive investment background — using technology used in autonomous cars and helicopter cockpits — with the beauty industry. The plan, she said, is to develop “the ability to be able to understand how [the] product is holding up by having sensors in [the] product that you can read on your iPhone.”