Getting Beauty Brands Into Retail, with Lillian Gusto

The beauty industry is a lucrative market valued at over £12 billion in the UK. With thousands of new products and brands being launched every year, it’s an extremely competitive sector. Countless brands are constantly trying to capture the attention of retail buyers and asking themselves: “What do I need to do to get my products listed by retailers?

In order to get your product into stores, there are some key things to understand as a brand when it comes to retail, whether that be e-commerce or traditional retail.

We spoke to Lili Gusto, Director of Word of Mouth Communications, an award-winning PR communications agency, based in London, to learn key insights into the process of getting listed as a beauty brand and what it takes to get noticed by retailers. With a strong background in publishing and experience in beauty retail, Lili has successfully represented a number of niche beauty brands globally, especially skincare and wellness brands. She provides a bespoke approach to align services to the needs of the brand and business objectives.

Could you share some of your experiences working with a specific beauty brand that stick out to you from your career thus far?

"For me, for a brand to ‘stick out’ from the rest- one word comes to mind about the brand or product: Innovation. Brands I have worked with and where innovation comes to mind are: Skin689, The Perfect V, Melanie Mills Hollywood, and Alleyoop. One of the most significant brands I have worked in the business, and my career in PR, that tops being an innovation, is My. Haircare. There is nothing quite like working with this brand, as the product checks all the boxes for buyers, and press!

The brand and its ranges covers all key performance indicators (KPIs) such as being, first and foremost, an innovation, 100% sustainable, in both ingredients and packaging, following through with brand promises such as being vegan- and being certified by respected world leaders such as PETA, bring consumers positive results for their hair, & being marketed at the right price point. The brand owners are also professional hairdressers, and experts in their category or remit, and hence, all this in combination has brought the brand to have won numerous ‘gold’ industry awards for their product and brand, and press features in any top consumer & trade publication you can name in the world.

My. Haircare sticks outs for me from the rest, because it is one of the most ‘justifiable’ brands I have worked with thus far, not to mention the incredible synergy and energy I have with them as a client! (Oh, and keeping my hair colour fresh all the time too!)" 

What can you tell us about your overall experience launching a beauty brand into the beauty market?

"There are many feelings and experiences that come to mind when launching a beauty product/brand into any beauty market. One is that you definitely have to have patience, and always persevere. You always know that you’ve had that a-ha moment for a brand when it starts to get recognized by achieving features in the press with top editors, getting new retail accounts, and winning industry voted awards. A launch of a brand is never about just the first ‘splash’ it makes on the industry’s scene, but what makes it memorable and a true player in the market."

What are some of the most typical challenges brands face when trying to enter retail? Are there any that are specific to the beauty sector?

"One of the most typical challenges a brand faces when trying to enter retail the first time is figuring out or identifying the right retailers for them. Bigger is not better, instead, one should ask is it right for me and my brand? The reason why I say this is because if you’re a small niche brand or company, and try to do business with a giant retailer, you will find it difficult or not possible, as you may not be able to meet their MOQs or be able to fulfil their orders within their time frames. To this effect, you might not have the stock availability which presents challenges."

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What are some budget considerations brands should keep in mind during this process?

"As a general rule, for any business, there should be the rule of 3. There should be 3 sets of funding- one for the production of product (and whereby money made is set aside again to reproduce the product/continue production), one for the promotion of the product (this includes marketing activities and PR), and one for logistics and any other emergencies required for the other two areas mentioned beforehand."

What role does PR & Comms play in the process of entering retail and the beauty sector as a whole?

"The PR/Communications and marketing play a key role in entering retail, as it is leverage for the brand with retailers. Global buyers consider how well the brand is received or does, with customers or potential customers, via social media channels- and how engaged people are with the product and the content. They pay attention to experts, in the press, such as top editors, who have tried and tested thousands of products, to point out why a brand is unique, or why it’s hot now."

Do you have any key tips you like to give beauty brands?

"Always know your competition/competitor in the market; and know what you can offer that they don’t. What has your brand achieved or can achieve that they can’t? Look into marketing opportunities and PR opportunities or collaborations that make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Find a PR that truly understands and is interested in your brand/product- as this makes a key difference."

What would you say beauty buyers usually expect from brands in order to consider listing them?

"Beauty buyers look at price point- so you must consider does the retailer you are trying to sell to, sell mass, prestige, or mastige? If you sell mass and they sell prestige they are not the right buyer to talk to or the right retailer to be listed with.

They also look at the exposure your brand has had and whether your brand or product is a key trend of the year/season, whether it is an innovation, and where or who else you are currently doing business with. If you’re doing business with their competitor for example, it may sway them to definitely do business with you or not.

Have presentation decks ready to show them your product, press, award wins, social media channels and numbers, or best comments or press clippings to justify to the buyer why they should invest in your brand.

Also, do your research on the retailers, and how they do business. For example, if the retailer is into doing social media, what channel? If it’s Tik Tok, you have to be sure you have a Tik Tok channel and significant content and following, so that they would consider you and your brand." 

Visit Word of Mouth Communications to learn more about Lillian and their previous and current work with beauty brands. 

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