Can Brands from Outside the Sector Succeed in Beauty?

“Gaps in the beauty market are hard to come by”, Miles Dunkley, Managing Director, SLG Beauty, told me at Wednesday's launch of the fashion brand Superdry’s beauty line.

Opportunities for new brand launches are limited as most beauty categories are very saturated, he believes.

Yet, his company, SLG, designers and manufacturers of beauty and lifestyle products, appears to have found that elusive gap and filled it successfully. Turnover has doubled since 2008, the start of the recession, to reach £14m in 2012. “The recession led a lot companies to work out how to be cheaper. Instead, SLG looked to add value by investing more in product development terms. It was a risk that paid off,” he insists.

SLG’s growth has come from translating fashion stories into beauty with the launch of brands including Top Shop, Next, animal, and now Superdry.

“A lot of our staff come from fashion brands, such as Abercrombie, Superdry and Tommy Hilfiger, who understand the trends and can translate them into beauty,” explains Miles. “It was attention to detail, such as using a fashion textile in a bag or ensuring that the hang-tag on the bag has the same values as the fashion brand.

”When Superdry’s Brand and Design Director, James Holder, approached SLG to develop a nail polish line, the team looked at current Superdry T-shirt shades and bottled them. The huge success of the range led them to spot a great opportunity for a broader beauty line. The new Superdry range sits below Urban Decay and Stila, but above mass brands, such as Bourjois. “We’re tapping into the 15-25 demographic who live their lives online. Digital marketing will be an important way in how we interface with them.

”What advice can Miles give to budding brands, keen to get a share of the thriving beauty markets?

“I get approached by so many companies and individuals, including make-up artists, who want to launch their own brand. More often than not, what they have is a pipe dream that has no chance of succeeding.”

So Miles advises:

  • Do your homework and really research the space you’re going into

  • Understand the competitive forces at play

  • Marry this up with your own knowledge

  • Take an analytical approach to your brand proposition: eg what will it take to be successful; can we exist in this space?

  • Leave emotion out of it: be pragmatic about your chances

  • Consider taking a brand in an adjacent market and bringing it into beauty

  • Licensing is a good option: it’s easier if you already have the brand equity than building a brand from scratch

  • Give it time: it took SLG and Superdry 18 months of intensive work to get every touch-point right

Hearing Miles enthuse about the launch of Superdry cosmetics and new brand development, makes me feel optimistic for the future of our beauty industry. Fashion brands are only just scratching the surface.

You can find out more about the work SLG undertakes here