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A Happy Marriage

By: Lisa Doyle
Posted: July 13, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Retailers’ knowledge of their customers is the unmatched asset that they bring to the retailer/brand partnership.

Whatever channel products are sold through, both the brand and the retailer need to support branding and retailing efforts in order for products to sell in any environment.

Before the partnership between a beauty brand and a retailer is established, it’s a little like dating. Each side is checking the other one out, trying to decide if it could be a good fit and lead to a relationship in the future. And, if a match is to be made, there has to be similar personalities, philosophies and goals coming into play. It also has to be accepted that both partners in the match might be in a couple of other relationships, or might call it off with you after just a few dates. Sounds like a tall order, right? It is. However, once a brand and a retailer do decide to tie the proverbial knot, there are many ways to keep their relationship in the honeymoon stage for many years to come.

Made for Each Other

Much like dating, a brand and a retailer need to learn about each other and examine the long-term potential before officially taking the plunge into a relationship. According to Maureen Kelly, founder and CEO of Tarte Cosmetics, “We evaluate our retail strategy quarterly, and when new opportunities arise, we review internally to decide if we can manage it and if it’s an appropriate fit for the brand.”

It’s equally important on the retailer side. Ian Ginsberg, owner of New York-based apothecary C.O. Bigelow, believes that being in tune with your target consumers’ tastes and preferences is essential to determining a brand’s potential in his store. “I’ve learned a lot about what my clients like and don’t like, what problems they have and want to solve, and how they feel about products, textures, etc.,” he says. “So when [brands] come to me with products, I can see if it’s something that has legs for us or not. I know my customer pretty well and that is the key.” Likewise, Italian luxe retailer La Rinascente uses a similar methodology. “Our brand mix comprises both the market leaders and smaller brands that are in target with the consumers of each particular retail location,” says Simone De Stefanis, head of La Rinascente’s cosmetics department.