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CEW's October 2012 "Beauty Retail Evolution: Connecting With Today’s Consumers" event featured (from left) Chance Wales, director, category leader, U.S. health and beauty, Amazon.com; Shannon Curtin, divisional vice president and general merchandising manager, beauty and personal care, Walgreens; and Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst, The NPD Group.
Gaining a competitive edge in today’s retail market poses a unique set of challenges, and the panel assembled at the Cosmetic Executive Women's (CEW) Women & Men in Beauty Series event, held October 25, 2012, at New York’s Harmonie Club, tackled the questions surrounding those challenges with strategic insights. The presentation, titled "Beauty Retail Evolution: Connecting With Today’s Consumers," featured speakers Shannon Curtin, divisional vice president and general merchandising manager, beauty and personal care, Walgreens; Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst, The NPD Group; and Chance Wales, director, category leader, U.S. health and beauty, Amazon.com.
The panelists were welcomed by Carlotta Jacobson, CEW president, who introduced the presentation, noting that attendees would leave “smarter, more well informed, and with actionable ideas” as takeaways from the discussion. Jacobson also said, “Consumers today are so inundated with so many brand messages that they are experiencing information overload. These three industry leaders know firsthand how to connect successfully with consumers in our modern competitive marketplace.” She thanked the evening’s sponsors (including Shape, Givaudan, Mark., 24 Seven Inc., HauteLook, Eucerin, Nivea, Pantene, Beauty Inc, WWD, Kaplow Communications and Indelible) for their participation as well, and introduced Jill Scalamandre, CEW chairwoman and moderator of the discussion.
Connecting with consumers through the influential realms of digital technology and social media, as well as with innovative brick-and-mortar approaches, must first and foremost align with consumer shopping habits. This was the premise upon which the three panelists approached the evening’s discussion.
Amazon's Wales brought his perspective to the discussion with an overview of the vast online retailing website, noting that as a $48 billion global company, Amazon's sales are significant and customer service is essential. “In terms of reach, Amazon has 180 million active customers, and innovating on behalf of the customer is what Amazon is all about.” He also added, “Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, makes sure that the customer is top of mind.”
Wales continued, “Health and beauty is a growing segment of the business, and Amazon.com customers account for 74% of customers who buy beauty products.” He also noted that Amazon.com wants to provide an outlet for consumers to discover and research harder-to-find brands and products.
Walgreens' Curtin said, “Walgreens is a $70 billion company, and we touch about six million people every day. We’ve had a 111-year journey, grew up in the U.S. and have now become a global company.” She added, “We’re slated to be a $130 billion company in 2016 and are planning to become best in beauty retail and are utilizing a range of entities together to do that.” She highlighted Walgreens partnerships with Boots.com, Duane Reade and DuaneReade.com, Beauty.com, Drugstore.com, its core Walgreens and Walgreens.com, and DiscoverBeautyWithin.com.
The NPD Group's Grant addressed the retail trends question with a look at what has been and will continue to be successful as businesses emerge from the recession. “Retail trends really depend on the channel. As we come out of the recession we’ve seen a strong performance in prestige, with 11% growth in 2011, and a 6–8% growth in the first half of 2012. This category in beauty has grown by a billion dollars since the recession. It is a robust business in prestige,” she said. Mass has also seen growth in 2011 and 2012, but at a slower rate. Grant further noted, however, “There are fundamental differences between prestige and mass, and we’re seeing those in direct to consumer sales, which have risen by 26%. The online space is seeing above 10% growth, particularly in the prestige area.” There is also significant growth in small niche makeup and skin care brands, including color innovation, lip hybrids, BB creams and brightening serums.
Curtin noted the popularity of particular categories, including the growth of the nail category as well as the popularity of BB creams. She also noted increased performance and growth in areas utilizing beauty advisors at Walgreens, as well as online, saying that the largest growth for Walgreens has been in categories where there is an educational component. She added that Walgreens believes consumers should be able to shop across all platforms as they desire. As Amazon.com currently aligns with brand pages including BeautyBar.com and Soap.com, Wales said, “We’re seeing good strength in mass as well as prestige, and as we add more prestige we’ll be able to spin that category more.”
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