Last week I had the pleasure of attending Enterprise Nation’s Beauty Exchange event in London. This excellent event invited over 100 beauty brands to attend talks by retail beauty buyers, other business owners, online entrepreneurs and journalists. I was truly impressed by the great quality of the speakers, the presentations and the content. If you have the opportunity to visit one of these events in the future, I strongly recommend purchasing a ticket!
We were treated to presentations by beauty buyers from Marks & Spencer, Boots UK and Selfridges – all three of which are major stores here in the UK (and beyond). They also have extensive beauty departments where they sell many different brands, ranging from the big multinational players to relatively small businesses.
What do beauty buyers expect to see?
The message from the beauty buyers was pretty clear when it comes to small artisan brands – they will consider stocking smaller brands but they do have some expectations in return. You need to have your eyes wide open when you enter into an agreement with a large chain as this is a major commitment for your brand. On the other hand, a chain like this can make your business and its skincare range soar to new heights, so it is certainly worth considering.
10 Tips to Attract Retail Beauty Buyers
During all of the presentations by the big department stores, I wrote down the top 10 tips on how to attract retail beauty buyers. These top tips came across strongly from all three of the large retail chains.
1. Buyers are looking for innovation – you have to be selling something that people want to buy. That can be innovation in packaging, in ingredients, in application, in technology, etc. They want you to add value to their customers.
2. Buyers want to see a buzz around your product. They want to see major brand engagement with your followers and people. Many buyers will look you up on social media and check websites such as Google Trends and Compete.com to see what people think of your products.
3. If you are new on the market, that’s OK. Many beauty buyers will be open to showcasing new brands, but you really need to wow them. Certain retailers such as Boots UK will be on the lookout for unknown brands to feature in their #BeautyFinds campaign where you’ll get featured in stores around the country.
4. Know your niche and your target retailer’s niche too. If you have niched down your brand to target just one particular skin type or demographic, that’s obviously a great way of building up a loyal following and a successful online brand. But, do be aware that the larger high-street chains are likely to need you to appeal to a broader range of skin types as clearly you need to be generic enough to appeal to more than just one slice of their demographic.
5. You may need to be able to fill more than one shelf with your products. Many skincare entrepreneurs start with a capsule range of a handful products (which is a sensible step to take if you want to keep your costs down in the beginning). However, to be stocked on the displays of a large department store such as Selfridges, you will generally need more products in your range and you’ll most likely need to be able to fill more than one shelf.
6. You need to be on trend. Make sure you keep up to date with what’s trending in other parts of the world. Certain stores in the UK will be closely watching trends from southeast Asia for instance. Personalisation of beauty products is another popular niche at the moment, which large stores are watching with great interest. You need to know what’s happening in the world of beauty and you need to know what consumers are spending their money on. Research the trends and try to visit some live events and trade fairs to see what’s happening in the beauty world, and not just the naturals’ sector. See our round-up of In-Cosmetics Global for some ideas (2019).
7. Being a natural brand isn’t enough. A few years ago, it was enough being a natural or natural, organic brand to stand out as different in a market dominated by synthetic-chemical-based beauty products. However, today you won’t grab a retail buyer’s attention if you just shout about being a natural beauty brand. You will need to find a niche within the naturals’ sector and hone your messaging, branding and marketing to explain why you are innovative and to attract a very specific target customer.
8. If you’re approaching a beauty buyer, keep it simple. Some stores (such as Selfridges) receive 20 parcels of samples every single day. So when you send a package to them, include samples, a one-pager of information (keep it concise and don’t send too much info, they’re already overwhelmed with info), explain why you target their customers and take the time to follow up afterwards.
9. There will likely be marketing costs for you. All of these big retailers will want you to contribute in some way if you want to be sold in their stores. Some stores will be more supportive to smaller brands than others, but be prepared to be asked to contribute to marketing in some form. Big department stores love retail theatre and you’ll need to be able to contribute to that somehow with your brand if you’re going to be stocked on their shelves.
10. Do your homework. When pitching to a large store, show knowledge & passion, stand out, know your brand inside out and be marketing savvy. Retailers will expect you to have visited their stores, spoken to their in-shop beauty advisors (if they have them), spoken to their customers and done your homework. You need to show them why your brand fits so well in their store and why their customers will love your products.
Listen to our Green Beauty Conversations podcast episode: How to pitch your beauty products to retailers
Use these 10 tips to guide your decision on whether you wish to be stocked by large retail stores and to help you determine how to best approach their beauty buyers. And if you decide to go down the retail route, we wish you the best of luck and hope to see your brand on some shelves near us soon!
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Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Chartered Environmentalist and the CEO of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.