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Beau Nelson

In September, Accessories Editor-in-Chief Lauren Parker hosted a panel to enlighten retailers on the opportunities in beauty and apothecary and share how they can dip a toe (or dive) into the market. Parker sat down with celebrity makeup artist and curator of the new BEAUTY @ COTERIE Beau Nelson (whose client roster boasts names like Kate Bosworth, Kirsten Stewart and Eva Mendes) and LeeAnn Sauter, founder and CEO of boutique resort retailers Maris Collective.

If you weren’t already convinced that beauty offers some big opportunities, Parker led with some statistics:

    •    Macy’s bought beauty chain Blue Mercury for $201 million last year. Though Macy’s is closing 100 doors, the retailer is adding 50 freestanding Blue Mercury stores within existing stores.
    •    JCPenney plans to have Sephora within 650 of its stores by year’s end.
    •    According to The NPD Group, sales of indie makeup brands skyrocketed by 46% in 2016 alone.
    •    Revolving theme retailer STORY is currently running BeautySTORY, featuring over 200 indie beauty brands and lots of fun in-store activations.

But if department store comparisons sound daunting, Nelson stressed that the barrier to entry in the market is very low. A small boutique can buy into one brand with 12 lipsticks, for example, to add at its cash wrap, as long as the store puts TLC into selling it.  “Small brands are nimble enough that they can curate down to a small selection,” he confirms. “As long as you’re taking the care to draw attention to that selection. Beauty doesn’t always sell itself, but if you have a bunch of tester units, for example, it says, ‘Come play with me.'”

Small stores, he says, have the unique advantage of personal relationships with their customers, something that can be particularly leveraged in health and beauty. “Boutiques have relationships with people and to recommend a product really means something,” he notes. “It’s that insider moment. That opportunity is so important to selling beauty.”

First, retailers must take care to think about who their customer is and what they want. For example, Nelson says a fancy compact may not sell among a more “boho” consumer base. But a brand like Prismologie (a body care line that incorporates crystals) would be a fit. Nelson cautions to consider customer base and price range over trends.

The end goal? As with apparel and accessories, the beauty component enhances a store’s ability to sell an entire lifestyle. “[Customers] want to be excited about things, they want to be friends with you,” Sauter adds. “Get into the things you believe in and really make it a lifestyle. If you can create a vision people can believe in, you’re going to do really well.”

Another way to complete that lifestyle, the duo suggests, is with a signature scent. Take a candle you love and burn it every day. Or, work with a brand to create an exclusive scent only available in your store. “The brands here are nimble enough to deliver that with a reasonable order,” Nelson adds.

Parker told a story about loving a scent at the Paramount Hotel in New York. When she inquired, they said they piped it into the lobby as a signature scent, but no, there was no candle available for purchase. “Wrong answer,” answers Nelson. “Missed opportunity. The Santal scent that everyone is wearing now got its beginnings from a candle at the Gramercy Park Hotel. That is smart marketing.”

Another topic discussed was one of beauty that crosses over and the growing market of unisex candles and unisex scents. “Our stores cater to both men and women,” notes Sauter, adding, “so this is a natural item for us. That said, there’s no reason why stores can’t use these items to appeal to both sexes.”


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