DTC-first beauty brand Mented is taking the plunge into large-scale wholesale distribution with HSN on January 15.
Since launching in 2017, Mented, a makeup line for women of color, has been compared to Glossier for its focus on one-on-one connections with customers. Aside from partnerships with Beautycon’s retail-focused event, Pop, and Macy’s, Mented has steered clear of traditional brick-and-mortar stores and other third-party retail distribution.
“How many new brand stories do we get in color cosmetics these days, where you can say, ‘Wow, that is a need and [the brand] has a unique point of view that no one has ever heard of?'” said Rob Robillard, vp of integrated beauty at Qurate Retail Group, which owns HSN, QVC and Zulily.
Mented will first debut on-air with HSN (which has 4.5 million annual shoppers) because of its largely penetrated African-American and multi-cultural audience, as well as on HSN’s Facebook Live, said Robillard. HSN was not able to provide percentages of its non-white customers, but Robillard said in terms of age, HSN follows QVC in that it is largely women age 45 and older. Ninety-one percent of HSN’s customers are repeat shoppers and buy an average of 17 items per year. Mented will be available for online purchase on both HSN.com and QVC.com.
“We debated HSN versus QVC a lot, and we want to set up Mented for the most success we could. We over-index with African-American and multi-cultural women on HSN, but we do think Mented has the potential to be one of the very few brands that could eventually be on-air on both platforms,” said Robillard.
Thanks to Fenty Beauty’s partnership with Sephora in the U.S., brands and retailers have alike sought to make themselves more accessible to women of color. Though Ulta responded to Fenty with digital upstarts like UOMA Beauty and Juvia’s Place in the last year, QVC and HSN did not rush to fill that void, at first. This ultimately gives Mented a significant head-start with the HSN audience.
“In traditional retail, maybe you have heard of the brand and done some research online, but you are staring at a shelf trying to figure it out yourself. When you are on a sales floor, you may not know what a brand stands for,” said KJ Miller, Mented Cosmetics co-founder, who explained that HSN will not only lend an air of credibility to Mented, but it will also give the beauty brand ample time to explain that it’s for and by women of color and also clean and vegan.
Mented had meetings with QVC and HSN nearly three years ago when the company only sold lip products, but its debut with HSN came about through Qurate Retail Group’s The Big Find contest that kicked off last summer and was meant to discover the next “it” brands in beauty, fashion, accessories and jewelry. Applicants first submitted a video entry of their brand story — Miller said a DTC customer told the founders about the program and urged them to apply — before asked to do in-person pitch presentations with Qurate’s merchandising teams. Thirty-four beauty brands were found via the The Big Find. Eighteen will launch on HSN, and 16 will live on QVC. The company is still in the process of announcing the contest’s winners and was unable to provide how many total applications it received.
That Mented is also focused on everyday makeup versus trendy products somewhat protects Qurate from the year-long slowdown within color cosmetics. It also aligns the digital beauty brand with Qurate’s development of its private-label arm of the business with Carmindy Beauty that sought to fill a space with makeup essentials. Miller expects Mented to grow 300% in 2020 and will use HSN as a test for larger-scale retail partnerships throughout the year.
“A lot of women are not looking for the next sparkly trend in beauty or thinking about blue mascara,” said Miller. “Our customer is a professional woman looking for an everyday routine. She’s on HSN, and we want to be on there with her.”