Beauty powerhouses have been on a shopping spree, snapping up one tempting brand after another.

This story first appeared in the December 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The charge has been led this year by L’Oréal, closely followed by the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. L’Oréal, the world’s largest beauty company, went into action in April with the acquisition of Magic Holdings International Ltd., a Chinese maker of facial masks.

Jean Paul Agon, chairman and chief executive officer of the French-based company, declared it was L’Oréal’s most significant move since buying Yves Saint Laurent Beauté in 2008. But the beauty giant was just getting started. Next came Decléor and Carita, two French-born skin-care brands, bought from Shiseido. Under the leadership of ceo Frédéric Rozé, who oversees North and South America for the New York-based L’Oréal USA, Niely Cosmeticos in Brazil was acquired. Then came the purchase of NYX Cosmetics, Carol’s Daughter and Sayuki Custom Cosmetics.

“At the end of the day,” Rozé said at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit in May, “our success comes from our capacity to transform ourselves.”

But L’Oréal soon learned that it is not alone in the acquisition hunt. Lauder began by acquiring offbeat fragrance entrepreneur Le Labo on Oct. 15, its first major move since buying Smashbox in 2010. Within the month, Lauder also snapped up the upscale skin-care business Rodin Olio Lusso and Frederic Malle, the godfather of the artisanal fragrance movement.

At a meeting of investors held shortly before the third acquisition, Fabrizio Freda, Lauder’s president and ceo, said, “We are driving our portfolio on two main fronts. We are strengthening and expanding our existing brands to keep them relevant in all our regions, and, at the same time, we are actively seeking and nurturing the next generation with an eye to creating the next big brands of the future.”

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