Compared to fashion, the beauty industry has a very low profile in the UK.
Despite turning over £17bn annually and employing over 1 million, British beauty has traditionally been regarded as frivolous and unimportant.
Together with other leading experts from the world of beauty, Millie is launching British Beauty Lobby (BBL), a forum to represent the voices, opinions and needs of our diverse industry at government level.
It all started last year when Millie was asked to attend a fashion round table hosted by government to address the effect of the referendum on the fashion industry. Attended by many leading names in fashion, it has since become a formal gathering with the British Fashion Council (BFC) heavily involved.
Giving British Industry the Voice it Needs
Millie was inspired to create a similar platform for the beauty industry and gathered some leaders to come to Westminster to meet the Culture Minister’s advisor. “This was an eye-opening experience as it became abundantly clear that while, art, music and fashion regularly communicate with government, the beauty industry has no voice,” she explains.
Yet, the British beauty industry is where internationals trial new concepts, where there is a lot of innovation and is exporting some great Brit brands, such as Charlotte Tilbury. Hair and make-up are also categories where there is huge British talent, internationally recognised.
Millie looked into the reasons why beauty isn’t more highly regarded. “We are an industry that is seen to be female dominated. I hate to say it, but I think that is partly why we have such a low profile,” she reasons. “Ironically men sit at the top jobs, but when an industry is so female dominated, we are seen as frivolous and pretty.” Unlike the fashion industry, which has spent years reshaping its image.
She adds: “We almost take ourselves too seriously. If we have suffered from being seen to be merely fun and frivolous, let’s prove fun and frivolous can create serious revenue for the economy and jobs.”
Millie has since met with the Culture Minister’s team again and so far it appears that government is delighted to work with the group. However, Millie has come to the conclusion that there is a distinct lack of collaboration in the beauty industry. “We have so many organisations focused on a small part of the business.”
So in order to make any impact, a conciliatory approach is needed. Although there are groups representing different areas of beauty, there is no one consolidated group covering everything from hair and cosmetics to spa, salons, services, retail, media, manufacturing, tech and logistics, etc.
Which is how the idea for British Beauty Lobby came about.
Millie and colleagues set about creating a manifesto and website for the British Beauty Lobby with the intention of being a direct conduit to relevant government departments.
Here are just some of the issues that could benefit from beauty having a voice:
- Investment into R&D in the UK to grow manufacturing.
- Some compensation for manufacturers and brands that are losing on imports because of weak sterling post Brexit.
- Clear and fair legislation for products/brands.
- Better tech support to grow online business in beauty without the heavy discounting.
- Reasonable rents on the high street so we don’t end up with only charity shops, allowing our services to grow.
- Licensing in plastic surgery -not everyone should be allowed to wield a syringe.
- Better recruitment into creative businesses e.g. hairdressing is suffering from a lack of recruitment and there are not enough school leavers being given insight into the beauty industry.
Kate Shapland’s Involvement in BBL
Having worked in print and digital as a journalist, in retail and product development, Kate Shapland, wanted to become involved in the BBL. “I firmly believe that all of these sectors badly need a voice to influence a myriad of issues such as payment terms, minimum orders and employment rights. As a champion of small and independent brands, I’d particularly like to see more support and recognition for these ventures – the lifeblood of our business – so that they can confidently thrive and collaborate.”
An In-Depth Report into British Beauty
Following a recent in-depth report prepared by Oxford Economics for the British Fashion Council, the BBL group thought something similar was needed for the beauty industry to ensure their facts and figures were accurate. What is needed is a mutually agreed definition of the sector in terms of which types of activities should form part of the beauty industry. The research is supplemented with bespoke data research and consumer surveys.
BBL’s future goals
As the BBL takes shape, Millie envisages it be an open forum for anyone in the beauty industry to have their say, from the girls standing at the check out in Superdrug, to the hairdresser assisting Sam McKnight at the Chanel shows.
Millie wants BBL to be: “A place for ideas, small or large to be shared. A community that can drive policy for everyone in beauty.”
The BBL website is expected to be fully operational from mid September. In the meantime, it intends to grow an industry related database via the “I want to join” section on the website.