BEAUTY’S SOLID HOLIDAY ON THE WEB

Byline: Kerry Diamond

NEW YORK — Beauty was one of the few categories that gave retailers reason to be merry during the general gloom and doom of the past holiday shopping season. (See related story, page 7.) The buzz for beauty carried over to those Web sites specializing in fragrance, cosmetics and treatment.
Sephora.com had an excellent December, according to David Suliteanu, president of Sephora USA. “It was the result of two important factors,” he noted. “The beauty business on the Internet continues to consolidate and this being our second holiday season, our execution was a lot better.”
Indeed, Sephora.com was one of the few major online beauty sites left standing in December after the hostile second half saw the collapse of Beautyscene.com, Beautyjungle.com and Eve.com, considered by many in the industry to have been Sephora.com’s most significant competition. Many of the remaining beauty Web sites benefited from the rapidly emptying field.
However, there was much less Internet advertising around the holiday period compared to the fourth quarter of 1999, when all of these beauty Internet sites were launching and spending freely on parties, promotions and portals.
The Sephora.com site relaunched Nov. 15 with a new look that featured white backgrounds rather than the original black ones that many felt were gloomy looking. “The relaunch was well received,” Suliteanu said.
He wouldn’t give specific numbers regarding holiday sales, but he did say that there was a “tremendous increase in active customers” and that sales did beat the “aggressive projections” the company had set.
As for bestsellers, they mirrored what sold in the Sephora stores, including items from Philosophy, the new Michael Kors fragrance, Kitten powder from Benefit, Lolita Lempicka’s signature scent and Bulgari Blu. Ibeauty.com’s sales were a bit lower than planned, according to industry sources. The company attributed this to a shift in strategy and a lack of exposure due to reduced spending on marketing and portal deals. Ibeauty.com used to sell products from brands it was not authorized to carry, but last year the e-commerce site stopped that practice.
The beauty Web site’s top vendors were Philosophy, Trish McEvoy, Elizabeth Arden, Calvin Klein and Bliss.
At Beauty.com, Kelly McGinnis, director of corporate communications, termed the holidays “a killer season.” In a single week in December, the company shipped more product than for the entire 1999 holiday season. Gift sets were popular and best-selling brands included Calvin Klein, Delux, Philosophy, Tony & Tina and Tarte. Every customer making a purchase of $35 or more received a pewter compact mirror. At Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salons, the company’s Web site helped contributed to double-digit increases for gift certificate sales, said Kelly Weber, senior vice president of marketing.
“My hero continues to be our Web site. This year it really kicked in and we ran a 40 percent increase over last year,” she noted.

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