An Insider’s View of Premium Beauty: Sue Fabian, General Manager, umbrellabrand

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During the run up to publication of this year’s Premium Market Report 2014, I’ll be interviewing a number of senior beauty industry executives to find out their views on the state of the premium beauty market.

Over the next 6-8 weeks, I will share some of their comments, starting with Sue Fabian, General Manager of umbrellabrand.

Sue has a wealth of experience in beauty on both sides of the fence, with General Manager positions at Calvin Klein Cosmetics and Shiseido UK as well as senior retail positions at Jenners of Edinburgh, TK Maxx and Neal’s Year Remedies.

Currently, she is working with umbrellabrand to help bring beauty brands to market, with innovations in design, packaging, strategic marketing and sales.What better way to kick off our “An Insider’s View…” series.

Christmas in Beauty 2013...from the customer’s point of view

“This was a ‘just wait Christmas’, i.e. just wait and the shops will be full of bargains and go early into sale. And they did. The gift sets were worth buying if you were looking for perfume, as the body products worked out to be pretty much free.

There were lovely small gifts in make-up right across the price range and stocking fillers from the likes of Liz Earle and Origins.

“I did more shopping on-line than ever before, with my friends in Australia and Italy receiving beauty gifts from me via Feel Unique as I was able to take advantage of their free worldwide shipping policy.

“My worst nightmare was Selfridges online that completely lost my daughter’s online purchases and the order had to be cancelled. Selfridges only reacted with some help and compensation when she wrote to Paul Kelly. THEN, she got an instant answer and a resolution.

“I will buy even more online next year, as the offers are often better than in-store and you can have them wrapped and delivered directly to the recipient.”

…from the retailer’s point of view

“Tough trading, and a slow start. There was little trading up and gift sets offered by the various houses were slow and not very exciting.

“Online sales were double that of last year, but of course you don’t have the opportunity to get that second sale that you have in the department. This may well be the challenge going forward. Along with how do we attract customers back into the stores?

“We have longer trading hours then ever before, and more ‘theatre’, but customers are taking the fireside option.

“The houses need to offer better gifting options ONLY available in store, to help bring people in off the street, and we need to offer OUTSTANDING customer service!”

…from the store director’s point of view

“Retailers, suppliers and store directors need to sit and discuss the opportunities that exist within the retail environment that do NOT exist online because we have to get customers back into stores.

“Suppliers also need to look at what goes into their sets for gifting, as the assortment needs to be more visually impactful.

“Stores provide the backdrop for Christmas, but we can only buy what the companies actually offer. If we go into sale early, this is to get the customer’s pound in our tills before the store next door cashes in.

“Customers are looking for good customer service, value for money or added extras, such as great gift with purchase.

“Customers are savvy and at Christmas, brand loyalty disappears. It’s all about: ‘what is the best gift can I get for my £25.00?’

“No House can rest on their laurels- even Jo Malone customers will start to demand a different coloured Christmas Ribbon!”