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The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution

By: Ada Polla
Posted: February 29, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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For his part, Olsen discussed the importance of sampling for online channels. He noted how the sensorial aspect of beauty—in skin care in particular—is so important yet is still challenging to convey online. Olsen also highlighted the increasing importance of consumer recommendations, seen in the rise of Facebook communities and YouTube videos as sources of product information. Ten years ago, if a product was showcased in Vogue, it would sell. Today, while the power of the media continues to grow, recommendations from other consumers, which can be instantly disseminated online, are increasingly and exponentially powerful.

Finally, Scandone represented a new channel: the flash sale sites. Vente Privee in France is credited as launching this concept of online sales that last 24–48 hours, offering merchandise at deep discounts that range from 15–80% off. Just a few years ago, flash sale was not a word, but today, companies such as Gilt, HauteLook, Rue La La and Ideeli are changing the distribution landscape, not only in fashion (where designs change every season) but in beauty (where consumers can go to find products that are discontinued or that physical stores no longer carry) and beyond.

A Look Ahead?

In planning for June’s HBA 2012, I am intrigued by a number of new beauty retailing developments.

For one, what is the future of travel retail, including developments such as Utique? “Autoshops,” as founder and CEO Mara Segal calls them (while many others think of them as beauty vending machines) are located in key metropolitan airports, premium malls and stylish hotels. Meanwhile, is a beauty retailer dedicated to promoting products that follow the 3-1-1 TSA/FAA liquid regulations.

Also, what happens when a magazine and a boutique have a baby? Possibly NewBeauty at Fred Segal. In this 4,300-square foot beauty boutique, which officially opened on Oct. 1, 2011, the magazine comes to life. The space, gutted and redesigned, is a reflection of NewBeauty publisher Sandow Media's offices, and its selection of products (11,000 SKUs from 200+ brands) are showcased with editorial content to help the consumer decide what she needs. And is sampling becoming its own distribution channel? With the success of BirchBox, and its multitude of copycats (both in the U.S. and Europe), curated sampling is quickly becoming big business.

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