Television and online retailers said holiday beauty sales outperformed last year’s results but, “It wasn’t easy,” said QVC’s Allen Burke, with the treatment and makeup categories taking center stage. Below, comments from Burke, HSN’s Michael Henry and’s Kathleen McNeil on how their respective stores’ holiday beauty sales capped 2009.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Allen Burke: I think it’s fair to say that results were better than last year. It wasn’t easy. Maybe we as retailers are getting better in terms of how good you have to be to excite the consumer. The customer has always been in a situation where they would buy if you were enticing enough…but we are not where we were last year or the year before, and we are not going back there. You have to have great offerings. I think she is tired of the usual stuff that you throw at her — the free shipping and handling, the discount. You have to excite her with product. What emerged as popular was treatment, which normally we don’t think of as a holiday offering but it is very much so in terms of devices. We have had incredible results with Clarisonic and Tria. In classic treatment, we had strong business with Philosophy and Dr. Perricone, and also we had some new entries with Kiehl’s. I don’t mean to leave out color — we were strong in Bobbi Brown, Mally and Laura Gellar. But if I had to choose the place that was the most pleasant, I would have to say it was treatment. We have very high expectations for 2010 with an aggressive plan and would probably say more aggressive than any other retailer including doing something with Kim Kardashian and her fragrance in February, and Ken Paves and his hair line.

Michael Henry: Beauty sales in December were phenomenal. The category is very close to having strong double-digit increases over last year. The one segment that is really gathering traction is our prestige range. Prestige was negligible last year with less than 2 percent of our total sales, and this year it was well more than 10 percent. Driving that is Lancôme. We also dropped Tresor scent strips in our direct mail pieces and Tresor is the fastest-selling item out of the whole program. In fragrance, the highlight was the Sean John appearance where we sold $500,000 in product in less than an hour. We had a kit event with our independent brands, which was successful, such as the Benefit kit that had all of their minis. I think this time of year, customers are always looking for the product story and something unique and giftable, but they are also shopping price point. The $35 to $49 [price range] is a winner.

Kathleen McNeil: We attracted shoppers online with new initiatives such as the 12 Days Of Christmas, running three to six offers — ranging from free shipping to gifts with purchase — each day. Competition heated up early, and we responded by offering limited-time free shipping throughout the season. On, limited edition items and gift sets, including Stila’s Mini Lip Glaze Collection for $25, also did well. Devices continue to sell briskly, particularly the $149 Mia Sonic, a new entry price point from Clarisonic.

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