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War paint: fashion brands enter the competitive make-up market

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As a slew of fashion brands launch into the world of own-brand beauty, Drapers looks into their motivations, and how the move looks set to further lure the hearts – and purses – of Generation Z.

At the beginning of September this year, a gaggle of Generation Z influencers, dripping in glitter, cheeks shimmering with highlighter, skin polished to perfection and lips every shade of the rainbow gathered in London’s Covent Garden – clamouring over lotions, potions and powders with undisguised glee and giddy excitement. The reason for this gathering of the capital’s Insta-elite? The launch of ecommerce giant Asos’s own-brand make-up collection.

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2017 07 04 george l3 017 1 2mb

Asos Make-Up

Asos is not alone in this move – Boohoo, Missguided, SkinnyDip, Pull&Bear and Millie Mackintosh are among the young, overwhelmingly digital, fashion businesses to have launched their own make up and beauty ranges recently. High street players such as Topshop, New Look and Primark already have successful make-up lines, while H&M re-launched a reinvigorated beauty offer last year. The momentum for own-brand beauty is strong, and with good reason.

French cosmetics giant L’Oréal estimated the global market – skincare, haircare, make-up, fragrance and hygiene products – grew 4% in 2016, and was worth around €205bn (£180bn) that year. Online sales soared by more than 20%, and make-up sales reached record growth levels, up 8.4% on the previous year.

As the impact of social media and fast fashion are trickling over to the beauty world, and the dominance of influencers is spiralling ever upwards, savvy retailers are taking note, and seeking to secure a slice of the beauty pie. Launching into beauty allows fashion to tap into a lucrative and growing market, the addition of a beauty line allows them to further refine and strengthen their brand identity.

Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at research company Mintel, explains: “Fashion retailers are increasingly moving into new categories in a bid to leverage trust and consumer loyalty. The addition of a new category adds value to the offer of companies such as Asos and Boohoo.”

Drapers has previously reported on how the “lipstick index” – where lipstick sales rise in tough economic times as shoppers look for more affordable ways to treat themselves – has led department stores to refocus their shops and revamp beauty halls. Now the online players are making their entrance into the market.

Many of the retailers Drapers spoke to described the move to beauty as a logical next step in the strengthening of their offer, and said the creation of a consistent brand identity was a core part of the decision to launch. Moreover, for many companies, an existing reputation provides a strong starting point from which to win over consumers who are spoiled for choice in the beauty arena.

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7929501 skinnydip lets get tropical packaging cmyk hi res

SkinnyDip beauty

“We felt this was a natural progression for the brand and a category that will really resonate with our customer base,” says Lewis Blitz, director of SkinnyDip, which recently launched an eight-piece beauty collection, sold in Boots and on the brand’s own website. “The DNA of the brand runs through every product we create and our beauty and bath range is no exception.”

With its vibrant, holographic packaging, quirky details such as flamingo sponges and Gen Z-friendly price tags, starting at £8.50 for a bath soak, the collection is a cleverly positioned, on-brand offer.

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Slg milly m 23082017 shot 5 0578 resize

Millie Mackintosh make-up

“As a brand I felt it was important to have correlation and a strong DNA between the products,” agrees Millie Mackintosh of her eponymous fashion brand. “Through the design and creative process I was mindful that the aesthetic of the fashion line flowed into the beauty line.” Mackintosh’s fashion line is stocked by Asos, and her beauty collection launched in September, exclusive to Boots.

“The clever brands are establishing a very strong personality that consumers can align with,” comments Lisa Payne, beauty editor at trend forecaster Stylus. She highlights the Asos Make-Up campaign as one where a retailer used its existing image to carve out a strong identity with a new kind of make-up consumer: “These brands are rooted in experimentation, which is resonating strongly with consumers who see colour cosmetics as paint for play rather than cover-up.”

Asos launched its own line – Asos Make-Up – in September, a 46-piece collection featuring lipsticks, contouring palettes, eyeshadows, highlighters and bronzers. Prices range from £5 to £12. Alongside this, it also stocks 100 third- party brands under its Face + Body category.

“We believe the category is all about having fun and encouraging people to be who they want to be,” explains Alex Scolding, head of buying for Asos Face & Body. “We want to challenge historical conventions and use our influence to help our customers – no matter who they are – to feel comfortable trying things and presenting themselves in whichever way they see fit.”

Asos recently relaunched with a focus on encouraging consumers to “play” with their make-up.

“It is about expressing individuality and making it your own, but also not being tied to one “look”: playing, not perfection,” explains Scolding.

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Asos beauty 1 1 1

Asos Make-Up

This approach chimes with the emergence of a new kind of beauty consumer – spurred by the fast fashion, social media generation, customers are trend-hungry and want not just fast fashion but fast- beauty – something brands such as Boohoo and Asos are well placed to provide. Research from Mintel shows that 43% of 16-to-24-year-olds choose brands based on which are the first to offer fashionable products.

“The pureplays’ fast fashion business model with lots of frequently updated products is well suited to this,” explains Sender. “An extended range of products also means that they can turn themselves into a one-stop shop.”

Like Asos, the Boohoo beauty offer is geared towards experimentation, thanks to its low price points, ranging from £4 to £19, while Missguided’s offer ranges from £6 for nail polish to £40 for a nine-piece set of beauty and make-up items. Brands can launch into the space safe in the knowledge that their customers crave fast, trend-led fashion and beauty.

“Catwalk beauty looks are instantly copied and developed on social media, and self-taught YouTube and Instagram make-up gurus are changing the beauty landscape day by day,” adds Payne. “Beauty becomes less about saving up for that one, pricey palette, and more about adding a few, inexpensive colour pots to your shopping basket to try.”

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7929498 skinnydip soak it up packaging cmyk hi res


“Price here is important,” Payne continues. A 12-colour eyeshadow palette from SkinnyDip costs £12.50, whereas a four-colour eyeshadow quad from popular premium brand Tom Ford is priced at £66. “If you’ve got the ability to easily browse through a range of well-displayed lipsticks or pigment pots online, and they retail for only £4, there’s little to stop you adding one or two to your fashion order.”

The influence of social media is not limited to “I want it now” young shoppers who demand the latest items in the shortest possible time. Celebrities and bloggers can use their fame as a launchpad for their own cosmetics lines, or leverage it in support of brands they work with. Kylie Jenner’s beauty brand, which predominantly sells “lip kits” for $29 (£21.60), has recorded estimated revenues of more than $400m (£298.8m) in just 18 months. Projections estimate the business could reach $1bn (£750m) turnover by 2022. Pop star Rihanna launched her “Fenty Beauty” collection in September. Social media reaction was ecstatic several products sold out at Harvey Nichols, the brand’s UK stockist. The beauty industry is at the forefront of public and business minds, and retailers are taking note.

The beauty vlogosphere is enormous, and YouTube celebrities are followed avidly by millions of young fans. British vlogger Zoella has more than 12 million subscribers, and has now launched her own beauty line, as have fellow vloggers Tanya Burr (3.7 million) and Fleur de Force (1.4 million), all of which are top sellers at stores such as Boots and Superdrug. The influencers’ reach extends across platforms such as Instagram, where beauty gurus including Huda Kattan (21.6 million followers) and Jaclyn Hill (4.6 million) hold huge sway over their followers as they review and demonstrate items.

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2017 07 04 mouna l1 078 smaller

Asos Make-Up

“We know from research that our customers aren’t just consulting the beauty counter. They’re going online, watching tutorials and listening to influencers,” says Scolding of the huge trend for beauty videos and tutorials online, particularly on Youtube. She explains that working with influencers with large or engaged followings helps Asos showcase its products, so customers know exactly what they are purchasing online.

This is also something Skinnydip is seeking to leverage – simultaneously promoting its product and overcoming the barrier of selling cosmetics online, when people are used to testing colours and shades on beauty counters or on the high street.

“We work with a great network of influencers who we know will give genuine reviews, feedback and impressions of the product to our designers and their fans,” comments Blitz. “Hopefully this will give customers a clear idea of what the products look like and will be ultimately be reflected in the online sales.”

Retailers are testing innovative technologies to engage with their customers and further overcome any pre-purchase hesitancy. On its app, Asos has been trialling augmented reality, which allows customers to virtually test out make-up. L’Oréal and Sephora have both tested this functionality, and the Charlotte Tilbury “Magic Mirror” is in store technology to virtually try out make-up looks before buying. Innovation in the online beauty sector is rapid, and any barriers to purchase on this front could well disappear in the very near future.

For retailers and brands of any size, the addition of a beauty line offers opportunities for growth and has the potential to boost customer loyalty. As the market soars, beauty could be the ideal way for young fashion brands to harness the notoriously fickle purses of the fast fashion consumer of the future.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Great news for consumers. More choice and supply. Inevitably leading to more discounts.

    Worsening margins for established sellers. May the battles commence.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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