The Future of Beauty: What I Discovered at this Week's Beauty Symposium

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This year’s Beauty Symposium, hosted by Stirling Murray, focused on the future of beauty with a selection of thought-provoking and sometimes surprising insights from an eclectic range of speakers.

A key take-out from the day’s discussions was how so many beauty brands, including multi-nationals, are stuck in old ways and lack the vision to move the concept of beauty forward to meeting modern consumer needs.

Geoff Waring, creative director of Good Housekeeping, maintained: “Marketing often has a spreadsheet mentality and uses this to create brands. It means we see the same airbrushed ads that lack all personality.”

The message that came through strongly was that niche brands, who have the freedom to express themselves and be flexible and innovative, are the ones that are pushing the boundaries of what we know.Here’s a round-up of the issues discussed that I think are most likely to impact on the premium beauty industry going forward.

It’s Not Just about the Product, but What Else a Brand can Deliver

Jamila Askarova, founder of premium skincare brand Gazelli, has set out to redefine the relationship between the customer and their skin by introducing tools to nurture both wellness and beauty. She hopes to achieve this through the launch of Gazelli House London: not a spa, but a three tiered centre of activity, providing an extensive range of services designed to enrich every aspect of wellbeing, from skincare and massage to nutrition and mindfulness.

Gazelli House is a genuinely holistic approach to skincare that aims to connect people in a stimulating space, where they can also learn and be inspired.

Jamila maintains: “Everything is interconnected – it’s not just about skin. Gazelli House is a flexible model that will adapt to changing consumer needs.”Sian Sutherland, founder of Mama Mio, and Mio, which debuted last year, has also set out to discover what women really want from beauty and came up with the concept “fit skin.”

“The days of superficial beauty are gone. People are living longer, want to live their lives well, be active and fit in body, skin and mind. We want to educate consumers about the importance of skin, which is the body’s largest organ. It doesn’t stop at the neck – the body needs the same care and attention as the face.”

Her five touchstones for the beauty industry are as follows

1. Be positive and distinctive:

“The biggest benefit a brand can deliver is on giving consumers confidence.”

2. Stay ahead of current thinking:

“Anti-ageing is a physical impossibility. We need more positive language”

3. Find her lifestyle:

“The beauty industry is backward on that.”

4. Think like a woman not a brand:

“So few brands think intuitively like women do.”

5. Be where women are:

“Not mass, but cool and trusted credibility builders, such as Space NK, online boutiques, fitness distribution.”

M&A Activity is Back in the Frame

The day before the conference, Baylor Klein, specialists in corporate finance that focuses on the beauty world, completed the Unilever deal which led to the multinational acquiring REN, its first premium skincare brand.

Tim Leach, managing director, Baylor Klein, revealed that, in 2014, there were 60 deals in the beauty sector, five of which were in the UK. It represented a step up in M&A activity for many of the multinationals, including Estée Lauder, which acquired GlamglowLe Labo, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and Rodin Olio Lusso, all in quick succession at the end of last year.

“We analysed the 60 deals and found there’s a premium to be paid for high growth potential. Compared to other sectors, cosmetics is very lucrative, but it can also be tricky to sell.”

He identified the areas of greatest interest:“

“Skincare is at the top of everyone’s list and can attract 20-25 interested parties. The emerging ASEAN and ATAM markets are attracting a lot of interest, where there are family owned brands keen to sell to conglomerate groups.”

He warns: “Buyers are becoming more selective. A lot of brands go to market and are not sold e.g. Strivectin and Too Faced are two examples. But if you have great assets you can still achieve a great price.”

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