How to Get British Skincare to Rank in the Top Ten


Maleka Dattu is Founder of MERUMAYA, the first British integrative premium skincare line, which launched barely a year ago and is already an important player in John Lewis. Maleka has enjoyed a long career in American and French multinationals, including Estée Lauder Companies and Lancome, before branching out with her own British brand.

I caught up with Maleka this week, just after her inspiring presentation at the Beauty Trends Conference in London. Here, she argues that the time has come for the beauty industry to take British brands seriously, which she believes can go from “Trend to Top Ten”.

Making the case for British Beauty Brands

Carol Bagnald, Regional Commercial Director HSBC and Caroline Neville President CEW UK, orchestrated a meeting at the House of Commons recently, in which Lord Digby Jones spoke glowingly of the contribution that Beauty makes to the British economy.  He recognised the Lipstick Factor... £17billion, 1 million jobs and many at entry level for the young (with training) and exports growing at 5%. Not fluff and frippery!

Having recently created and launched MERUMAYA Integrative Effective Skincare®, which is Made in Britain, these statistics made me feel proud.  Starting Up in a recession, I was determined to support as many British businesses as I could and make my contribution to our economy.  What goes around comes around...

There is a strong and proud, history of British creativity;  the Mini Cooper, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, formula 1, cars; football, cricket, rugby all created here. Innocent Smoothies, Mr Kipling, Chicken Tikka Masala (you know that is not actually Indian food, right?) and Marmite on the food front. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cold Play, Kate Bush and The Sex Pistols on the music front.  Barbara Hulanicki, Mary Quant, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney on the fashion front.  And Beauty is just as remarkable.

As I began my research for speaking at the Beauty Trends and Innovations Conference I was so impressed with the huge number of brands created by Brits – the slide with their logos was jam packed and still I have not managed to include them all (pardon me if yours is omitted).

Creativity, innovation and sheer courage to pursue the dream is alive and kicking. I am honoured to be following in the footsteps of these entrepreneurial leaders, who have put themselves ‘out there’ in the pursuit of their dreams.Having taken the leap from employment to entrepreneur, left a Fifth Avenue Office overlooking Central Park, I know only too well the joys, moments of terror, the many lessons you thought you’d learnt already and the risk of possible ruin, that are faced.

As I looked at this abundance of brands, it was clear to me that we Brits ‘do’ trends and since the Olympics, Jubilee, royal wedding and royal baby, BRITISH is trending stronger than ever. Even Bloomingdales had a British Theme in August.

One little niggle though.... it occurs to me that trends come and go – and when they go, dreams, hopes, finances, futures, are dashed too. We need British Trends, to develop sticky-ness. So why, when I look at the Premium Skincare ranking reports from Euromonitor, don’t I see any British Premium Skincare Brands in the Top Ten?  The top four brands own over 54% of BRITISH sales: two American and two French brands.  The rest are a mixture of brands from those two nations.  That’s right, all of the top ten are American or French.

I had some thoughts of my own and set about getting the views of various industry ‘insiders’, leaders and influencers across all sectors.  Many said any combination of the following;

  • Money to keep manufacturing and create newness is a challenge for start ups

  • Lack of investment/Acquisitions

  • Marketing budgets of the Corporates

  • History and heritage of brands from the dominant markets

  • Risk averse culture in Britain

Further, I suspect that perhaps British brands are not contributing their numbers.  After all, I would have thought Elemis and Liz Earle would have made the Top Ten.  That said; let’s work with the officially distributed numbers I have for now.

I have worked in American and French Corporates, been exposed to their cultures and there are behaviours that are instrumental in this strength and it comes from the attitude of their people.  I researched the traits and characteristics of the three nations in question and without doubt, we can learn.

After all, success sometimes comes from emulating the successful.French – Nationalistic, Proud, Believe that French is best. In French pharmacies and retail distribution, French brands are up front and centre; the magazines give a large proportion of their editorial to French brands. Result, in France the French Brands rank highest; it is a matter of collective national pride and the ‘influencers’ in that market guide their population to buy French. Of all French beauty sales, 43% come from French brands.

The American attitude is driven by the American Dream. Anyone can do anything.  Qualities that help are:

  • Personal ambition

  • Entrepreneurial endeavour

  • Competitiveness

  • Risk taking

  • Unwavering support of entrepreneurs

  • Inspiration and celebration of those that have a ‘rags to riches’ story.

The American beauty brands strive for bigger, better, faster, stronger and dominate in their nation with 34% of American beauty sales coming from American Brands.In Britain, only 8% of beauty sales come from British Brands.

So, the silver lining is that we have a great opportunity in that gap.

  1. We have a lot of British Brands

  2. They are collectively making some impact, as the Top Ten brands have declining or static share with the exception of Murad

  3. A brand only needs a 1% share of this £450million skincare sector to make it into the Top Ten which is within the realms of possibility at £4.5million. In fact 3 or 4 brands could reach that in the near future.

So what is it going to take to have some British Brands in the British Premium Skincare Top Ten?

My Father used to say, ‘you cannot clap with one hand; it takes two to make noise’.

Teamwork.  A collective decision and commitment to action will make that happen. Each of us leveraging our own expertise, influence and resource, behind supporting ‘our own’, not exclusively, but first and foremost.

There is no room for a ‘why should I help you to be successful’ attitude.

The success of a British Brand is everyone’s success and it is an economic success contributing to our country’s struggle to stay out of recession; we simply cannot leave that to politicians alone.

Our children need to have great examples and role models of what they can achieve, to compete in upcoming decades, with India and China.Survival of the fittest is an elimination process and we cannot afford to be eliminated; we must compete.

Remembering, that a revolution begins with an ideal, followed by the mobilisation of the population, to act. That means all of us considering spending our money on British Brands, where possible (not exclusively) and:

  • Government supporting British Start Ups more overtly and in more cost effective ways

  • Brands continuing to innovate, challenge, provide excellent products, newness and stories.

  • Banks Lending and providing business expertise

  • Editors and Journalists giving more editorial space to British Brands

  • Bloggers, who often have an instant global reach, posting more about British Brands

  • British retailers, giving more Zone 1 Space to BRITISH Brands and a platform of prominence in events and marketing initiatives. Retailers looking for differentiation might consider showcasing British Brands up front and centre. The core brands will still take a ton of money if they are three feet back.

  • British Investors being less risk averse and less dragons-den like

  • British Manufacturers lowering MOQs

  • More ‘social communication’ support of British Brands will then follow and ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ will spread the word.

Social communication can accelerate the trend

We really CAN go from Trend to Top Ten in our own country and we can do it faster than those that have gone before because of our social communication advantage....those top four brands started as a trend once upon a time.  Let’s join forces, let’s collaborate, let’s be positive, let’s own a bigger share of our own market, let’s export more ‘British’ to other markets.  Let’s be ‘finishers’ as well as ‘starters’.

As the Dalai Lama says ‘if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito’.

You can view Maleka's presentation from the Beauty Trends Conference here.