Vanity makes the world go round

With the rise of social media and endorsements of all kinds from influencers and celebrities, beauty products are no longer peripherals

by LYDIA NATHAN/ pic credit: www.pamper.my

THANKS to the ever increasing level of vanity around the globe, the beauty industry is now one of the fastest-growing and most protable businesses.

Now, especially with the rise of social media and endorsements of all kinds from influencers and celebrities, beauty products are no longer peripherals.

The industry’s growth does not seem to be affected by any crisis faced by many countries or societies.

In the middle of 2012, Sarah Hill, Christopher Rodeheffer, Vladas Griskevicius, Kristina Durante and Andrew White conducted a study on the phenomenon.

Four of them came up with a simple conclusion: Economic recessions do not actually affect the cosmetic industry.

Dubbing it the “lipstick effect”, the research revealed that cosmetic manufacturers, in reality, did not have to put much fight to stay afloat, unlike the majority of non-essential industries that got struck hard during troubling times.

Although seemingly superficial, this seemed to indicate that cosmetics and toiletries have remained a priority when luxury goods are not.

Today, Sephora has 21 stores across Malaysia, with more than 100 brands across all ranges with some exclusive brands available as well

Sephora Malaysia

In Malaysia particularly, beauty conglomerate Sephora has seen its sales and expansion plans on the uptick since it first launched in 2011 with the first flagship store in Bukit Bintang.

Today, Sephora has 21 stores across Malaysia, with more than 100 brands across all ranges with some exclusive brands available as well.

Sephora MD for South-East Asia Alia Gogi said the group has also seen strong double-digit growth in Malaysia, which is well ahead of the market.

“One of the areas that show good traction is skincare, which has grown faster than the company’s growth. Skincare has been the driving force in the country, and Malaysia is on par with the rest of the South-East Asian countries,” she told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

Gogi said this category has been on the rise, mainly due to the mix of credible brands and newly-found indie skincare.

“It is an amazing mix of both, and is growing rapidly together. They are not taking anything away from each other. We’ve seen similar trends across South-East Asia as well and double-digit growth is also experienced in Singapore,” she said.

She added that 2019 was a good year for the company with strong momentum in nations like Thailand, Indonesia, India and Australia — mainly Sephora’s direct market.

According to Gogi, Sephora has never wanted to position itself as a “female only” brand, since the world of beauty has been catering to men as well, for the longest time.

“Our consumers have naturally trended towards the younger ones, but having said that, we try not to limit ourselves to one age group.

“However, we have seen an increase in the under 30s who now want to experience a more premium beauty offering. It’s different from the past, so that is where Sephora will naturally aim,” Gogi said.

The rise of social media and technology has also certainly been an enabler to the seamless method of shopping online, which also translates to a digitally savvy younger crowd.

“Our ability to have an omnichannel allows us to grasp a stronger tall touchpoint whether it is via the mobile app, website or in-store. All these aspects have helped us speak to the younger crowd in a good way,” Gogi said.

Drunk Elephant skincare set at Sephora Malaysia. Gogi says one of the areas that show good traction is skincare, which has grown faster than the company’s growth – pic credit: www.sephora.my

Identifying Trends and Products

Being able to predict the next trend in the industry is vital and a priority for most companies, including Sephora.

Gogi said Sephora has been fortunate because it has been able to identify trends before any event takes place, particularly due to its resonance and presence in the US.

“Being global, one of the benefits we have is we learn from each other in the region. Covering 34 countries, this places us on a huge educational ground.”

Additionally, the US has led the trendsetting phenomenon for years, giving Sephora an advantage on knowing what’s happening before it does.

Gogi said currently, the major trends that make an impact are skincare, make-up and hair care.

“Right now in skincare, there is a momentum, really, around multiple steps. In the past, consumers might do one or two steps daily to maintain skin, but now there is real thought and effort into enhancing those steps. The Korean beauty industry really helps educate people,” she said.

She added that Sephora’s team began identifying these trends, focusing on regimes for the last three or four years, which have begun to take off.

Make-up has been one of the biggest categories for the company, and Sephora has aimed to take a huge authority in that area by the number of its products and variety of brands.

“Our strength is in the assortment of products we have. For instance, the Sephora foundation caters to such a hugely diverse market and has remained a big opportunity across the region.

“One final area to watch out for is hair care. That segment is really going through a premiumisation and will see disruptive growth. It’s definitely an exciting time for hair care as it sees an elevation from mass to premium,” Gogi said.

Bobby Brown Cosmetics products. Make-up has been one of the biggest categories for the company, and Sephora aims to take a huge authority in that area – pic credit: Bobby Brown Instagram 

Expansion Plans

Gogi said the Malaysian edition is expected to see very limited expansion this year, since the company will look more towards elevating its existing networks.

She said with the launch of its largest by-far footprint store in the world at Fahrenheit88, the team sees huge opportunities there.

“The goal is to ensure the latest store has the highest standards for customer experience, while bringing the other existing stores into the same level. That will remain a major focus for us right now.

“The e-commerce business locally is very strong and we will continue to drive that in a very disruptive way,” Gogi said. Meanwhile, other regions across South- East Asia will see varying degrees of expansion.

“Markets like Thailand, Indonesia and India may have one or two expansion plans set up, but we are still looking for opportunities there. Asia is definitely one of the strongest markets globally, but considering the population it covers, we’ve only scratched the surface.”

With the launch of its largest by-far footprint store in the world at Fahrenheit88, Sephora sees huge opportunities there – pic credit: Wikipedia

Sephora Fahrenheit88

The newly launched Sephora Fahrenheit88, covering an area of more than 17,000 sq ft, is currently the company’s largest store by footprint in the world.

It will not only house the retail store, but also be home to the first Sephora University in Malaysia.

Gogi said the iconic concept of the new store will cater to younger customers and is an elevation of branding and marketing of its name.

“The retail store will have over 100 brands of make-up, hair care, skincare and fragrances. We finally launched eight new brands with two of the most coveted ones, Drunk Elephant and Tatcha, which will be a first for Malaysia,” she said.

The other brands include Bobbi Brown, La Mer, SK-II, Sulwhasoo, Aerin and Maison Margiela.

She added that the new brands will be rolled out slowly to Sephora’s other stores in phases.

Meanwhile, Gogi said Sephora University is in many markets already, and it is time for Malaysia to have one to call its own.

“So, we have created this iconic place because really, it is critical for cast members to learn and to have the ability to understand beauty trends and artistry which is continuously shifting and changing.

“We will have our own training experts who will come in to train, as well as experts from different brands, so members are receiving both brand-level and category-level experience,” Gogi said.

She said leadership and management is also something cast members will gain insight on, since Malaysia tends to have a higher number of customers.

“It is important for cast members to have knowledge and experience in all these areas. We are very passionate about continuing to build this community as a whole in Malaysia.”