Last year saw an unprecedented wave of private label beauty and personal care brands hit the market including Dollar General’s Believe Beauty, Carmindy Beauty for QVC and Target’s own Goodfellow & Co grooming. With growing attention on exclusive or made-for-retailer lines, beauty brand incubators — once satisfied to stay behind the scenes — were primed for their moment in the spotlight and were seen as instant revenue generators. Bain Capital Private Equity took a majority stake in Maesa in March 2019, and Luxury Brand Partners, which created Oribe, R+Co and IGK, received a $50 million minority investment from Bookend Capital Partners in January.
L.A.-based brand incubator SOS Beauty, which debuted in 2017, specializes in beauty brand development, management, supply chain and production like its counterparts, but has been quieter. However, is it behind many of the buzziest brand launches including Summer Fridays, Ouai, Patrick Ta Beauty and Shani Darden Skincare. In 2019, it saw 500% sales growth, said SOS Beauty founder Dustin Cash. Most recently, SOS Beauty launched Indian-inspired hair-care line Fable & Mane in late March with Sephora, and it plans to launch Jupiter Hair in May.
“We’ve definitely had to switch strategies and be flexible,” said Cash of the current coronavirus climate “Omnichannel has been a huge focus for brands, but we’ve been sensitive to the market and more prudent with our spending.” In 2020, SOS Beauty expects to see sales grow by 275% year-over-year.
Case in point: While Fable & Mane is a Sephora exclusive, Sephora stores remain closed and product is only available online, which eliminates associate support and physical displays. Cash said the brand has pressed pause on large-scale sampling initiatives, as well as influencer marketing and content that speaks to social events like date night, in favor of self care.
“We’ve intentionally been a bit more quiet than normal on social media and in marketing to let Sephora lead the dance here, but digital and brand building is more important than ever,” said Cash.
SOS Beauty emphasizes a prestige positioning, and as beauty retailers and department stores in that space are now closed, a more diversified channel strategy that features food and drug stores would be helpful.
Maesa, responsible for Believe Beauty, Taraji P. Henson’s TPH hair care line with Target and Mindy McKnight’s hair line for Walmart, has been able to withstand Sephora closures because of its diverse sales channels. Beach House Group also came out swinging in 2019 with multiple brands centered on Gen Z, like Moon oral care, Millie Bobby Brown’s Florence by Mills and Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern Beauty. While those lines started as Ulta exclusives, internationally Boots was the retailer of choice. Plenty of other players like Batallure Beauty, responsible for Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose and Jill Martin’ Potion 54, has QVC in its repertoire, which remains on air, while HipDot that spearheads Kesha’s Kesha Rose Beauty focuses on digital.
Jupiter Hair is moving forward in May as only DTC. As is the case with Fable & Mane, the brand also has focused content plans around wellness and hair health. Part of this drive and desire for digital and organic growth is because SOS Beauty president Charlene Valledor is seeing “trust win” in the case of Shani Darden Skincare on social media and Sephora.com.
“Shani launched with Sephora on March 17, right when this was all happening, and we’re seeing better numbers than we imagined,” said Valledor without revealing sales figures. “We think it is because she has a socially engaged audience, and people are turning to her as the expert for their skin care when they don’t know what they should be doing at home.”
SOS Beauty was planning on taking equity positions in some of its beauty brands in 2020, but for now, those plans are under review.
“Investors are definitely spooked and are being more reactionary when it comes to cash management or risk, but creatives are being creative,” said Valledor. “We have three new projects that are in the early stages of development that came to us in the last two-and-a-half to three weeks, and one has a retailer component. Our fall plans are pushing ahead as normal. By then we think people will be craving new beauty.”