How Beauty Brands Think The Delta Variant Will Impact Business—And What They’re Doing As A Result

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs and executives, we ask 19 of them: How do you think the Delta variant could affect your business and the beauty business more generally for the remainder of this year? What strategies in particular are you pursuing given the uncertainty it’s causing? 

Tiffini Gatlin CEO, Latched and Hooked

For me specifically, what has kept me up is how the Delta variant has an effect on our shipping logistics and access to the fiber we use to create our products. Shipping costs have increased by more than 10 times the normal rate and that's more on the container shipping side—air freight is a whole other animal. This may be an issue for the next couple of years.

We are considering finding direct and non-direct competitors, and asking if they would consider splitting the freight cost with us. We have several forwarding partners on hand to help us find the best rates including our manufacturer. We are shipping part of our inventory via air and the remaining via sea to break up the cost, and we are planning our inventory further out. We are already planning inventory for December/January. Gone are the days for us waiting until the last minute to order inventory and/or supplies from our overseas manufacturers.

Sweta Doshi Founder, Bubbsi

As we move back into the school year and fall/winter seasons, I suspect the variant will affect beauty in much the same way as it did last year, but to a much lesser extent. I imagine that categories like personal care, skincare and haircare will continue to thrive as consumers still need those items even if they are socializing less, but categories like cosmetics might be softer than this summer.

Our business saw tremendous growth last year due to the growth in online shopping overall, and especially as families were experiencing extreme dry skin from being home more and from washing hands so frequently. We weren't able to capitalize fully on that demand due to inventory shortages and supply chain delays, but we've built a much stronger inventory position for the remainder of this year. We also plan on using the learnings around messaging to speak to that same mindset this year.

Regis Haberkorn President and Co-Founder, Priori Skincare

At Priori, we see a very minimal impact from the Delta variant as we have developed an omnichannel strategy in the U.S. and we sell in 28 countries. This helps us mitigate any risk, whether it is regional or channel-related. We sell to dermatologists (as doctors they do not close), med spas, spas as well as pure-player websites, a curated number of prestige retail stores like Nordstrom and our own e-commerce, again making us less subject to any impact from the variant.

Additionally, our recent launch of the most exciting green technology ever used in skincare named R-Spinasome complex, which will roll out across multiple channels starting in September, demonstrates a distribution strategy for the beauty industry as a whole. Extracted from USDA organic spinach leaves, this very powerful antioxidant provides clinically proven visible results like never before. It is a luxury line of three products, and the luxury market has proven to be much more resilient to any form of recession. The combination of all of this makes us very confident for the rest of the year, and initial results are proving us right.

Audra Robinson Founder, Rocky Robinson

I am most concerned about the supply chain. We are already seeing delays in availability of ingredients as well as increase in some components/manufacturing costs.

Regina Merson Founder, Reina Rebelde

It’s hard to predict because, unlike 2020, the policies around working from home, lockdowns and mask wearing will likely vary from city to city with this go-round. I think we’ve also adapted to the disruption to our pre-pandemic lives, and I do think it’s possible many people have returned to wearing makeup daily and will continue to do so regardless of whether we are locked down again.

Even though vaccinations got under way this spring and restrictions eased. We never got out of the pandemic pivot mindset. I believe we are going to be in some version of this new normal for several years to come, and I think the best course still is to stay flexible and nimble while not letting it derail your overall vision for product development.

Andrew Glass Co-Founder, Wakse

We think one of the main concerns at the top of everyone's mind is the possibility of store closures happening again and if that will happen close to holiday season. As a brand with a brick-and-mortar store, we are concerned about this. On the other hand, we are extremely lucky in the fact that our online business increases significantly during a time such as store closures due to the nature of our product: a DIY solution to hair removal. We are continuing to strengthen our direct-to-consumer business and our online presence with our retail partners as a way to level out any possible loss if store closures happen again.

Carlos Barreto Founder and CEO, Cleverman

Even though much of our business is online, I do believe that the Delta variant will have a limited effect on our business overall. The pandemic has actually been helping to accelerate some of the e-commerce and digital trends we've had so far as a brand. We’re still maintaining some of the same protocols that we had last year during the height of the pandemic, and I think that we are also a bit more prepared in the case of uncertainty and the possible restrictions that it could bring from a business perspective.

Alisa Metzger Founder, INNBeauty Project

The onset of the Delta variant has again put a damper on our hope that we can move past COVID and all of its impact on life, especially social life. Masks and other safety precautions are back on to ensure the safety and wellbeing of society at large. For the beauty category, we saw a major shift from makeup towards skincare to deal with maskne and irritation that wearing a mask can cause. People ditched the foundation and lipstick for serums and exfoliators, and were focused on skin health versus aesthetics.

INNBeauty Project is proud to be both effective, clean and filled with beneficial active ingredients that help visibly improve a variety of skin concerns. Our efficacy and focus on concerns centering around texture, uneven tone, blemishes and pores has helped us thrive during the past year given those concerns are what consumers are shopping for.

With the onset of COVID, we saw a huge change in the way we communicate and socialize. Working from home became the new normal not the exception and Zoom happy hour took over the post work drinks. Lots of businesses suffered and had to shut their doors and many lost their source of income. Affordability is a pillar of our brand and is even more crucial now that we see discretionary spend decreasing, especially amongst the younger consumers. It's even more important to us to create effective formulas that stand up to the best of the best yet cost a fraction of the price.

Elizabeth Egan Co-Founder, Dally

Because we know so little about the Delta variant, it will reintroduce uncertainty to consumers where we had started to regain a bit of our “normal” lives. When people are uncertain, they are more likely to play it safe and stay close to home. That means potentially turning down wedding invitations or out-of-town events, delaying their return to office and associated wardrobe and beauty refreshes.

I suspect that means we'll continue to see the trend of consumers investing in skincare over makeup and investing in things for their home, and we'll see them making purchases that make themselves feel good when the news every day has the opposite effect.

When people feel uncertain, they turn to trusted resources for advice, so we're continuing to lean into PR and influencers to spread the word about Dally. And we're focused on digital rather than in-person activations for the rest of the year.

P. Daniel Ward Founder, FormRX Skincare

The coronavirus continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Without question, it has affected the beauty business—in some ways positively and in other ways negatively. The hardest part has been the uncertainty. Not knowing how this disease will affect our businesses and not knowing how it will affect us on a personal level has been difficult.

One thing that we have noticed is that all of the uncertainty has provided many with an opportunity to prioritize the things that are most important to them. One of those elements that people have been able to do is to focus more on self-care. We have tried to provide resources and availability for our clients and patients to allow them to be able to pursue these goals more readily. From a skincare standpoint, we have focused on the fact that many people are thinking more about ways that they can take care of their skin. We have increased our educational efforts to provide more resources to our patients and clients so that they are more knowledgeable about what they need.

In addition to educating our clients, we have also made a strong push to educate our team members. We have instituted a program to provide better educational opportunities for our staff in terms of technical training that they need to better do their jobs, but have also instituted a leadership training program and a wellness education program that has been great for improving our culture by providing support for the team members during this tough time. As difficult as this time has been, we have loved the opportunity to improve the ways that we serve our clients and our team members.

Israel Cancél Co-Founder, Just Beauty CBD

Given the past 1-plus years we've all been through, we were really hoping to not have to think about this, but here we are. As for our business, it will likely cause more people to shop online which, as a new DTC e-commerce brand, may actually benefit us. Unfortunately, in-person trade shows will probably activate as virtual shows, which can be a hindrance because customers usually like to see, feel and smell new skincare products. The beauty business will need to continue innovating both in-store and online to overcome the challenges of less foot traffic they will likely experience.  They're going to have to step up! Pun intended.

Besides lots of meditation and increasing our personal intake of CBD (seriously!) to calm ourselves, as an independent brand, we plan to push digital hard, which includes social media, influencers, PR, advertising and affiliate marketing. We plan to stay hyper-focused on our end goal, which means we will relentlessly continue generating awareness around our consciously clean new brand, Just Beauty CBD, and won't stop until we've made everyone’s skin happy.

Julissa Prado Founder and CEO, Rizos Curls

First and foremost, we hope for the well-being of our customers. Not just in the U.S., but around the world. Last year, we had a COVID relief initiative to help people disproportionately affected by the pandemic and, in 2021, it is certainly top of mind the well-being of our customers as well as what we as a brand, can do to help.

It is hard to tell what the Delta variant could mean for my business and that of the beauty industry, but, if it mirrors 2020, it could mean severe supply chain issues, fluctuations in sales and uncertainty among customers about the state of the world and economy. Thankfully, it does feel like the world has somewhat evolved quickly to work through chaos.

I think the biggest takeaway I’ve learned from the past year and a half is to have incredible agility as well as to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Rizos Curls has luckily made some great strides with launches. We launched our new Light Hold Gel and launched the brand into Ulta stores, all in the midst of a pandemic. It was certainly difficult with challenges that could not have been foreseen, but we remained incredibly close and transparent with our customers and gave them a behind-the-scenes of what was happening in the business. That personal relationship with our customers really helped foster a closeness as well as a feeling that we are in this together.

We built a business on strong events, activations and in-person interaction opportunities with our customers. In fact, in February 2020, we hosted a Rizos Curls Small Business Summit with over 200 attendees and expected to have a series of events throughout the year.  Little did we know, the entire world would turn to digital in just one month. Now, all of our efforts are placed on social media, digital and new technologies for building the brand and interacting with our customers. A big part of our strategy will continue to be on the digital front, growing our social media presence, standing out in terms of creative content, amplifying email marketing, SEO, really harnessing our digital analytics, web optimizations and facilitating the customer experience as much as possible.

Julie Chon Founder, Knours

The fear is very real and hardship is probably imminent, but brands need to find ways to connect with their consumers beyond just selling a product. They have to show that they're there with them, even through a global pandemic. There's a saying in Korean that loosely translates to, "It's not the strongest who endures, rather, it's the one who endures that's the strongest."

We have seen many, many small brands and shops close their doors as a result of financial hardship amidst the pandemic. It's heartbreaking to see and Knours is definitely not in the clear either. However, we are persistent in our mission of being a movement and a community, and not just a DTC brand selling products. The main thing we tell ourselves is to go at our own pace and keep doing what we feel is right, regardless of what's going on in the world. This is the only way we can endure.

Polly Roderick Global Brand Manager, Inika Organic

Beauty retail sales were well-positioned for growth before the pandemic. However, it has caused immediate disruption to the retail landscape as well as consumer beauty routines due to a dramatic change in lifestyle. Firstly, due to worldwide lockdowns, many beauty outlets have closed their doors and sadly may never reopen.

The global market, however, has been consistently resilient. Not all segments are suffering. In fact, some seem poised to benefit from the newly emerging habits and concerns. The industry’s biggest category—skincare—is growing as consumers alter their beauty needs to prioritize wellness and self-care.

The cosmetics category, on the other hand, has seen some steep declines as consumers have fewer reasons for wearing makeup. Some makeup segments are finding a way to thrive in the new norm. For example, mascaras are in a growth phase driven by the fact eyes are visible while wearing face masks, and nail products are the same due to at-home routines that have been adopted out of necessity as salons have been forced to close their doors.

A recent report by Mintel found that what’s in a beauty product is super important to 40% of shoppers, showcasing that nontoxic, gentle and natural beauty trends are here to stay. COVID has accelerated the demand for brands to be authentic and transparent regarding ingredients and sustainability as a result of consumers having increased concerns around health and well-being not only for themselves, but also for the planet.

Lastly and most notably, COVID has accelerated the transition to e-commerce. Sales have dramatically shifted to digital trying to recover the revenue lost at store level. We focus on making the online experience entertaining and engaging, which can aid discovery and encourage unplanned purchases even during a period of limited spending.

Fiona Scrymgeour CMO, Inika Organic

Beauty is more important than ever, but it is not superficial. Beauty is merging with mental health. Beauty is merging with self-care. Beauty is about feeling good in the moment for you.

Connections are becoming even more important than ever, but not to show off who I am, rather to share and support and celebrate little successes. Brands that can enable this are sought after.

I think it is also about being authentic. So, content is key for our brand to be relevant, accessible and supportive. It is less commercial and more about being real!

Lisa Brill Founder, Qēt Botanicals

There are mixed messages being shared, and there are numerous people dealing with a change in routines, jobs, locations and even school schedules. This can trickle down and affect self-care routines as well as daily health and wellness. Men and women have become more conscientious about personal hygiene and self-care, and there is a heightened awareness in using safe ingredients in products. This is a boost for a brand like ours in the industry.

We develop, formulate, ship and retail our proprietary treatments from our locations, and the majority of our business has always been online. Online ordering in general is thriving, and we'll continue shipping fresh products from our studios directly to our customer's door steps.

Our strategy? We know that skincare is sensitive and intimate, and we take pride in our open communications with our customers. We continue to focus on providing safe treatments, personalized customer care, quick shipping, and we’re always happy to offer a helping hand to anyone needing advice on keeping out the harmful ingredients and welcoming in the clean and natural. No matter if there is a pandemic or not, we all need to be educated and aware of the ingredients we're feeding our skin and body on a day-to-day basis.

Jann Parish Co-Founder, GLU Girls Like You 

GLU Girls Like You is a gen Z-targeted brand, with its focus being on the health and wellness of girls as they grow up. The Delta variant is the newest twist in our story. Therefore, we’ve focused our supply chain on domestic partners to control product, shipping and border issues, which allows us to focus on the most important component of the brand, our girl.

Now more than ever, due in part to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, growing up is hard. We’re giving girls the tools to manage it well, providing in her language tips for taking care of herself from leading mental health and medical professionals. We then stay true to our intent with our clean, vegan skin and nail care. If we can take away some of the unknown during this crazy time for her with a good message and great product, then we’re doing our job.

Jon Shanahan Co-Founder, Stryx

One of the tailwinds in our business has been men spending more time at home looking at themselves on Zoom, prioritizing self-care, and trying new products in their routines like Stryx. Trying new products in the comfort of home and taking them back into the world was a major trend we saw this year. Everyone wants to look confident from the comfort of home or spending time with those you haven't been able to see in the last 18 months.

Last year, we created a lot of content around helping men look and feel their best while staying at home, which was very popular on YouTube and TikTok. While color cosmetics such as lipstick, blush and palettes waned in the pandemic, skincare products and basics soared. We saw this in our sales as well, growing triple digits in 2020 and 30%-plus each month in 2021. Education is what has been lacking in the men's category—showing how quick and easy they can be applied has been a major growth driver for us.

We'll continue to make these products more accessible through simple kits and retail distribution with our CVS partnership and other essential retailers going forward. Men want to look their best no matter what. It's exciting to see more men embrace cosmetics to instantly feel more confident.

Psyche Terry Founder and CEO, Urban Hydration

The Delta variant has indeed been a cause for concern for all businesses, and especially beauty businesses like ours that depend on foot traffic inside of retail stores. Urban Hydration’s business is focused on healthy skincare from head to toe. Our superstar ingredient during COVID-19 was aloe vera leaf. We recognized that, in addition to moisturizing all skin tones and type, aloe vera has an ultra-protectant cleansing property that is amazing for helping to keep hands, body and hair clean. Over the next few months, we are launching aloe vera leaf in haircare and in a flavored bath and body line, both of which can be paired with our Aloe Vera Leaf hand sanitizers and hand washes.

I think customers will continue to prioritize cleaning agents as they cautiously navigate this new normal of back to work and back to school. They will need businesses to continue to provide offerings that are responsive to what’s happening in our environment. For customers that are price sensitive due to loss of jobs, it’s important that Urban Hydration keeps its prices as affordable as possible. And, with cities potentially going into lockdown again, it’s important that Urban Hydration remains as accessible and available as possible with a growing presence in drugstores and grocery stores across the nation.

She'Neil Spence Co-Founder and CEO, Base Butter

I believe the Delta variant will continue to affect the speed and efficiency of our supply chains, especially as we near the holiday season. Our team is doing some intense scenario planning with our operations and customer experience team based on the events last holiday with our shipping carriers.

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