Through Online-Only, House Parties and Peer-to-Peer Platforms, Forward-Thinking Beauty Brands Are Skipping Traditional Retail Altogether
After first launching on QVC and garnering $3 million in three hours – this was the very beginning of the “doctor brand” wave – Lange’s peel got quickly scooped up by Sephora. “No one really wanted to be in Sephora at first, including the big brands, because they didn’t really know what it was,” Lange recalls. “So we were the number one skincare item for 26 months when Sephora first opened in the U.S. That was from about 2002 to 2004.”
What followed was basically a decade of trying to make it work, profit-wise, in Sephora and a handful of Saks doors and other department and specialty stores. “In cosmetics, you always have to pay for counter space and personnel. I use to say: ‘Ellen Lange gets exactly one half-foot of counter and a part-time person.’”
And that was on top of all the charge-backs for minor transgressions like not putting an invoice in the “lead carton” of a five-carton shipment.
Even though the writing has been on the wall for quite some time, not a whole lot has changed in Traditional Retail-Ville. “Most brands that are in Sephora – if they’re smaller indies – they’re doing it for the PR,” says Lange. “You aren’t really making money. You need to be in a lot of stores, or to be part of a group like L’Oréal or Lauder, to make a profit. That way, if the group is taking a return on one brand, they can spread it out across the whole corporation. The numbers grow among the corporation, not necessarily among the individual brands.”
Long story short: Lange is back, she’s only selling on her own website, and she literally can’t keep her famous peel in stock. “Early on, with QVC, I tried to reach out to my customer directly. So with the relaunch, we’re going fully direct. I know that’s the way I need to do it, by bypassing the retailer. And now is the right time.”
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