Hard as nails: how competition in the beauty industry is fiercer than ever

April 24, 2017

With spring in full swing, the days are getting longer and the sun is making a more regular appearance in our skies. Whilst many of us will use this time to spring clean our houses, others might want to use it to spring clean their make-up collection instead.

Traditionally, the beauty sector has been dominated by the likes of Estée Lauder, L’Oréal and Clinique. With a loyal audience in tow, these long-standing brands have carved a place for themselves as not only standalone beauty names, but also part of the bigger picture of the retail industry.

Nevertheless, in recent years, the market has been shaken up by a number of disruptive brands seeking to drive a wedge between you and your trusted Clarins make up bag. The likes of Benefit and KIKO, to name but a few, have turned heads with their cheaper prices and innovative shop fit outs which appeal to a new generation of beauty bloggers and teenage make up aficionados. With more consumers using Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat to document their daily cosmetic routines, brands are having to become even more savvy to increase awareness and tap into a whole new audience.

The notion of simply popping into your local John Lewis or House of Fraser to purchase your new mascara is fast disappearing, as new brands throw caution to the wind and set about high street domination. Italian brand KIKO is one example. Born 20 years ago in Milan, its low-cost products are available at over a dozen London stores.

Setting itself apart from the others, KIKO appeals to the time-rich, cash-poor Generation Z for whom brand loyalty is a thing of the past. With its simple fit-out, low price-point and strong variety of products, it has become an instant hit in the UK, snapping up square footage at an impressive rate. Model’s Own is another example of this. With a hugely successful string of pop up stands dotted around UK shopping centres, the brand has a loyal network of followers who have more time to try out new things. Now everyone has the opportunity to be a beauty editor and endorse their favourite products.

At the higher end of the spectrum, the likes of MAC and Nars and newcomer Charlotte Tilbury have also enjoyed enormous levels of success. Charlotte Tilbury has maintained the exclusive approach, only opening in a handful of locations so as to attract a certain type of clientele.

MAC, with several standalone stores across London and other regional capitals, has proved a popular choice with young professionals and yummy mummies. Despite MAC’s higher-end product, its customers aren’t necessarily big spenders across the board. They might only purchase one item from there, whilst going to a cheaper alternative for other items – which brings us on to high street fashion retailers who have also caught onto this mix ‘n’ match approach.

Fashion-favourites Topshop, Primark and H&M, all of which are popular amongst a younger generation, have their own in-store beauty concessions, supplementing their established clothing offer. Similar to those at the lower end of the market, the products are not expensive and are of similar quality to their more expensive cousins. Even M&S has its successful collaboration with Rosie Huntington-Whitely.

Yet what next? Although some of the long-established brands have tried to get in on the action by launching their own “new” brands – think Estée Lauder and Smashbox, L’Oréal and Urban Decay – will they be able to keep up with the new kids on the block who have the ability to shift and adapt with their followers? Only time will tell.

Technology will become an increasingly important mechanism, whether that be for make-up itself (think foundation matching devices and digital mirrors) or through digital marketing and omnipresent social media channels. Interactivity, which is miles ahead compared to its retailer counterpart, will still be vital as brands use it to create an immersive experience.

Alongside this, third-party brand endorsement will remain a vital aspect of success as brands continue to use bloggers, celebrities and Instagram personalities as advocates. With the retail sector gathering speed, we can expecting another exciting decade in the industry as more and more brands seek to shake the foundations.

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