Reflecting on the year in beauty

Laura Fontana
Beauty Director
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Brands with a purpose. Beauty from the inside out. CBD. Strategic Partnerships. As the mass retail industry looks back and reflects on 2019, these are just some of the themes and trends that come to my mind, and stood out to me as those that made an impact this year within the beauty and personal care category. 

Let’s take a quick look at how each stacked up.

First, there is no doubt that consumers are not as brand loyal as they once were. With the evolution of digital influences in their everyday lives, shoppers want to have a deeper connection with a brand and are not shy trying a new alternative if they feel the brand they buy does not support the same types of causes they do or have a purpose to live by. Purpose-driven brands look to their customers as more than just consumers of their product, but as stakeholders who invest their time and money into a mission. More than ever, suppliers must ask themselves how their brand ranks in terms of their emotional connection with the stakeholder.

Beauty from the inside out is a growing issue, too. Walmart was extremely successful with its partnership with Bobby Brown on the Evolution 18 line. Pharmavite, Nature’s Bounty and Olly, along with newcomers Brandable and its Grow Girl line, Harmony Proteins and Reserveage all have emerged this year with products touting to help improve skin health and provide stronger hair and nails, as well as feature keratin boosting and collagen-infused properties. These products are not going away anytime soon as healthy lifestyles are no longer a fad, but a way of life.

As the industry looks back on 2019 and its emerging trends, CBD-infused merchandise is one that is at the forefront. New players rapidly entered the marketplace over the last year, joining other more established brands and creating a boatload of excitement in the mass retail space. Skin care, hair care, external analgesics, supplements, candy, snacks and pet food are just some of the categories that have been inundated with CBD products.  

Yet, where will this category be headed in 2020? Many retailers, including Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Kroger, Giant Eagle and Southeastern Grocers, took on the CBD challenge this year. Others, including such regional players as H-E-B and such national chains as Costco, remain cautious, waiting for more guidance from the Food and Drug Administration before they decide to make the leap into the category. Will 2020 be the year that CBD takes off at retail? Which brands will be able to survive, and how will federal regulations impact the distribution channels?

Acquisitions and strategic partnerships continued play out on the beauty stage in 2019. Coty took a $600 million, 51% stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty enterprise, consisting of both Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin. It is being marked as one of Coty’s key milestones in its ongoing transition. Earlier this fall, Shiseido acquired privately owned Drunk Elephant for more than $800 million. This prestige brand was founded by a stay-at-home mom of four looking for products that were natural and safe for her skin. I think you will see many more acquisitions like this moving forward as brands like Drunk Elephant and direct-to-consumer brands are more nimble and can move faster, than the large powerhouse giants that traditionally have made up the beauty marketplace, and are thus faster to respond to consumers wants and needs.

Lots of activities in the past 12 months, and the promise for more action in the year ahead. Get ready for an exciting new year. 

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