The current spate of beauty acquisition has parallels to a similar time when David Greenberg, president of Maybelline New York Garnier and Essie Cosmetics joined parent L’Oréal 20 years ago. “Things repeat themselves. L’Oréal was a medium-sized company [then] and we saw acquisitions for the same reasons as today. Companies are discovering these gems in the market [that] are very special brands that can be bigger than they are,” Greenberg said.
A case in point is Maybelline, which L’Oréal acquired in 1995 and nurtured it to become the world’s largest cosmetics brand. “Part of it was the vision and ingenuity for where it could go.”
That same second sense is part of the knack of knowing what brands today bring something new to a company’s portfolio. “It isn’t just a pure globalization play, the markets have changed, consumers are different, we live in a world today where one suit doesn’t fit all. Big brands have a role, medium size has a role and smaller size has a role and if you are deft enough to play the portfolio that way it is a great opportunity.”
He was speaking during an onstage interview conducted by Pete Born, executive editor, beauty, at WWD.
So what could be next for L’Oréal? “Like everyone else, we won’t be satisfied until we have 100 percent market share,” he quipped. He said some buys are gaps in a portfolio such as Essie, which helped carve out a bigger market share in nail. Other times, companies have to be more imaginative when looking at the potential of acquisition targets.
Acknowledging some channels are struggling in beauty now, Greenberg pledged support to help enhance the store experience. Retailers should “avoid paranoia,” and not defend their future by strategies he doesn’t consider “thoughtful” such as boosting prices are putting more pressure on suppliers to extract money. Instead he suggested leveraging the power of brands and enticing shoppers with education and “stories” that boost shopping trips. “Bricks and mortar is not going away,” he said, but added marketers also have to make products available where consumers want to buy. The average consumer shops seven to eight channels, he said. “I’m not even sure what those eight are but the reality is you can buy our products from your living room,” he said.