The 2021 Personal Care Products Council Summit focused on beauty bouncing back after a year hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The event, which took place from May 11 to 13 online, included an array of executives talking about the various levels of recovery, from bolstering sales to reintroducing workforces to the office.
For the event’s first session, William P. Lauder, executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., sat down with Jenny B. Fine, WWD and Beauty Inc’s executive editor, beauty.
“One of my key takeaways for the year is the resilience of everybody as individuals to adapt to a meaningfully changed environment,” Lauder said. “For many of us, working in the Zoom environment, we were only marginally less productive than working in person.”
Transparency — from advocacy to sustainability — is also top of mind for Lauder, as consumers become ever more knowledgable about what’s in the products they use and how they are manufactured. “What we do in beauty is surprise and delight the consumer by offering her product that she didn’t know she wanted until she sees that she can’t do without it,” Lauder said. “In order to attract what we need, which are Generation Z and Millennials, we also have to be great citizens, and stand for something that our employees can be proud of.”
Lauder also tackled the acceleration of e-commerce, noting that the shift is expected to be a permanent one for beauty. When it comes to Amazon as a key outlet for prestige beauty, though, the jury is still out. “Their efforts are very nascent, and it would be unfair to criticize without having seen a more fulsome effort over a sustained period of time,” Lauder said. “Amazon has been quite innovative and revolutionary in a number of ways, and at the same time, this type of shopping has not enhanced the experience.”
But the ever-increasing democratization of distribution, as with Ulta Beauty’s partnership with Target and the Sephora-Kohl’s deal — those reflect permanent changes to the landscape. “The notion of how we stimulate the consumer has changed,” he said. “We’ve seen that online shopping has replaced two-day trips to shop from a more remote location. What are we going to do to serve that consumer? […] It is going to be a hybridized lump, most of our retail trade is oversized and the amount of square footage per unit. They can reduce the size of the unit because I don’t believe they need to hold as much inventory. The hybrid model is having inventory for merchandise the consumer wishes to buy right away, such as beauty, and having less of an inventory in other areas,” he continued.
As the Estée Lauder Cos., founded by Lauder’s grandmother Estée, turns 75 this year, the executive also spoke about what brands need for longevity. “You’ve got to have a brand and a product that is relevant to your consumer, and secondly, the consumer’s got to perceive that what you offer them is desirable enough for them to spend their disposable income on it,” Lauder said. “Lastly, that experience has got to be worth it for them so that they’re willing to come back again.”
Other speakers include influencer and founder Camila Coelho, Imagine cofounder Paul Polman, Procter & Gamble global beauty chief communications officer Kelly Vanasse, and PCPC president and chief executive officer Lezlee Westine.
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